Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SK 589 790
Also Known as:
Archaeology & History
Once to be seen in the ancient landscape immediately northwest of Worksop Priory by the old Mill Pond, this sacred well has sadly been built over, but memory of it is still retained in Priorswell street-name and, previously, the Priorwell Brewery. Not much has been written about it, but thankfully the historian John Holland (1826) gave us a short account, saying:
“There is a spring, now enclosed, called the “Priorwell,” and a meadow, of four acres, denominated from the same; and from which, it might be presumed, that the canons would draw their supplies of water, was it not for the convenient proximity of the river, which they must have had to ford for that purpose. It was “formerly”, says Parkyns, in his Monastic and Baronial Remains, “celebrated for miraculous cures; but since monastic deceptions have unveiled themselves, votaries no longer offer, and consequently cures are no longer performed.” This may have been the case: more recently the well has been resorted to by persons having sore eyes, in the cure of which, it is said to be efficacious, and has probably the common virtue of fresh cool spring-water.”
Holland, John, The History, Antiquities and Description of the Town and Parish of Worksop, J. Blackwell: Sheffield 1826.
Parkyns, George I., Monastic and Baronial Remains – volume 1, Longmans Hurst: London 1816.
In Calverton, take Renals Way off the main street and follow it around until you reach the end and a copse. Take the left hand path. When the footbridge is reached the spring head is encountered.
Archaeology & History
Also known as the Keen Well, fortunately it still survives. It arises between some sandstone blocks forming a small cave where a strong spring flows and fills a small pool with some rough stones around it. The pool does not appear very deep although is it overgrown in parts. A footbridge crosses over the springhead, meaning that one has to peer under it to see the spring. The area surrounding Renals Way and Dark Lane is ear-marked for development and I hope that this spring can survive this stage of its history.
Bob Morrell (1988) in his Holy Wells of Nottinghamshire notes a site (although he does not name it), which was attended by pilgrims near and far, and had the tradition that ‘kings’ after hunting in Sherwood Forest would visit it ‘to quaff the nectar’.
In the well chamber it looks a natural spring
Close view of the spring head
Morrell (1988) fails to state whether it still existed, but the site in question would appear to be the Keen Well. It’s name being possibly derived from King’s Well. According to Mr. Peck of the local history museum, this was supposed to have used by ‘Old Saxon Kings’ to bathe their eyes as a protection against failing sight. One of the medieval kings and his attendants are also reputed to have stopped here whilst travelling to the North.
R.W. Morrell (1988) Nottinghamshire Holy Wells
R.B. Parish (2008) Holy wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire
First mentioned in Pipe Rolls and referred to by the founder of Wallingwells Benedictine Priory (founded around 1150 CE) as ‘juxta fonts et rivum fontium’, the site Wallingwell or originally Waldon-by-the-Wells, may be significant. The name refers to ‘bubbling wells’, but whether these wells were dedicated appears to be unknown, although it does seem likely. Indeed, an anonymous article from the Worksop Guardian dated 1929 on the Wallingwell Estate, shows the well arising under a rough stone work arch beside the site of a lake. Close by, appears to be a grotto of a similar construction. The article states that the grotto was built 250 years (from 1929 this suggests a date of 1679 which appears a little too early for this folly, a date in the 18th century being more likely). This was done by Thomas White using stone from petrified springs in Derbyshire. No reference is made of the well, but one assumes that it was built at the same time, but whether White was constructing a folly around an existing traditional site again is unknown.
Baker (2000) refers to the castle folly but fails to reference these sites suggesting that it had vanished. However, grotto and well still exist in the overgrown and forlorn garden to the back of the house. The grotto is well-preserved, although signs of ruination are evident and the urn within has gone.
The internal brickwork
The overgrown well
St. Mary’s Well is the most ruined. The archway appears to have fallen or been knocked down but the channel or basin the spring flows into still exists. Observation underneath a flattened stone covering the channel show that the spring flows from a pipe further up and under a series of neat brick arches. It is clear that the well structure was never accessible as it abutts onto the Lake, but was designed to be seen from the other side of the Lake. This view now is difficult due to the considerable plant growth obscuring the sites. It is good to see that the well still exists and hopefully the garden could be restored.
Extracted from R. B. Parish (2009) Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Nottinghamshire
A stone’s throw from Ikea and found off the B600 main road. Travelling to Greasley from Watnall, take first turning on the left after Royal Oak Wood. Travel up Trough Road, past the woods where it is best to park, then walk up Trough Lane and the well can be found on the right hand side, opposite a house called The Springs.
Archaeology & History
I am of the opinion that the ‘holy’ element of this well is a romanticism of the 1800s, but there is a possible record in the ‘The Manor of Bevall in the County of Nottingham’ document, commissioned by the Honourable Dame Elizabeth Capell in 1653. Amongst the records it appears a number of times as:
‘Holy Well Furlong 2 lands bounded with John Richards west and William Hickton east’.
A 1724 Capps Survey of Watnall Cantelupe notes that Joseph Richards had some lands lying in a close called the Flatts or Holliwell, which understandably relates to ‘Holy Well’. There is also note of a Holwell Croft field name in the 1500s at Greasley, which again may describe this site or another and such suggests that it derives from O.E. hol, meaning ‘hollow’, a common misconception when identifying prospective holy wells. Jeremy Harte (2008) in his English Holy Wells suggests that those sites called ‘Holy Well’ are pre-Medieval in origin so perhaps this site is one of the most ancient in the county.
On my first visit to this site I was told by an elderly man that he was baptised there (or water used from it used for his baptism), before attempting inexplicably in trying to discourage me from finding it (due to his wariness of me I failed to discover the nature of his baptism or of what denomination). According to locals in the lane the plaque and present state of the well dates from the 1980s and was done in partnership with the local council.
The house opposite is called ‘The Springs’ was this name of the well before the ‘present’ name and so it is ‘modern’ holy well per se, although I think the 18th century survey is significant.
The well itself, is enclosed in a stone recess with a rusty iron gate with a dove affixed on it bearing the legend Holy Well. It is approached by a path walled along both sides which are adorned by a wide range of gnomes and garden ornaments..almost so you could be pixy led!
A plaque near the well’s entrance has a local piece of folklore recorded. This relates that a local boy who lived opposite was very ill and bedridden. A local priest called for water to be drawn for the boy from the well. This was done and the boy became well.
Interestingly it’s the only legend of this type—one which records a cure—in all the Nottinghamshire holy wells. It is a shame one cannot find a date or check its provenance, a fact supported by local history author Mr. John Lee. The use of priest is significant. Does the story may indicate the Catholic revival in holy wells in the 19th century? However, the only Catholic associations locally are that of Hilltop at Greasley for there was, and is, only a Methodist chapel in Watnall.
Extracted from Parish, R.B (2008) Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire
Follow the road around from Headon village to the Ladywell estate and on the left hand side is a small copse and footpath. It is near the junction of Greenspotts Lane and Lady Well Lane. Park carefully near here and walk down the small ravine to the well.
History & Archaeology
Only two dates can be confirmed of this site. One a reference in County records of mending a bridge to a ‘Ladyewell‘ in the nearby Markham parish, but this could easily be another site. A better date is that 1718 which is carved on its arch. It was used as a source of water until the 1930s. One of the most atmospheric and pleasantly situated sites, the spring is located in a small wooded dell and arises from the rock in a small alcove or cave. This is fronted by a red brick arch, and the water fills a trough set partly into the ground with a small overflow lip and a channel to fill it, presumably this was for animals. On the key stone of the arch are the initials ‘HW’ and a date which possibly reads 1718.
I have found no traditions of healing or other folk belief. However, the site was one of the few Nottinghamshire well dressing sites. This began in 1981 and continued until 1991, and there was a one-off occurred in 2000 AD. It was done on the weekend of the churches Patronal festival—St. Peter’s—and was used to use to pay for the church repairs. The well dressing boards were of a Derbyshire tradition, as can be seen here to the right.
One of the most unusually sited of Nottinghamshire’s holy wells is St. John’s Well at Welham. It lies beneath a private kitchen floor in a house in Bonemill Lane in Welham, just off the Clarborough Road out of Retford.
Archaeology & History
The well itself is undoubtedly an ancient one. The Domesday Book refers to ‘Wellun’; this changed to ‘Wellum’ by 1166, and by the 16th century had become ‘Wellom’; but in Chapman and Andrews map of Nottinghamshire in 1775 was shown as ‘Welham’. None of these sources call it St John’s Well and it is not so named until 1710, either as a re-dedication once the Reformation zealouts had died down, or perhaps coined by John Hutchinson to give the bath a story to explain its healing waters. It is shown on Chapman’s map of Nottinghamshire (1774) as ‘Well House’. Piercy (1828) gives the greatest information and states that the hamlet of Welham was named after St. John’s Well whose waters contained magnesium and gypsum and was:
“good for rheumatics and scorbutic diseases. Its waters formed into a large bath, and remained entire during the early part of the 18th century, it was famous for many cures, but latterly it has lost much of its celebrity.John Hutchinson, Esq. erected a cottage adjoining, and enclosed the bath, to preserve it from injury. Cold baths like this were formerly regarded with superstitious reverence, being supposed to possess a sovereign remedy for agues such as rheumatism.”
By 1832 White’s Directory notes that it had lost much of its former celebrity. A Robert Walker was a bath keeper at the Well house and may well have been the last one as it appears the well soon fell into terminal decline and I can find nothing is noted of it until 1938. At this time it is noted that its water was still used to provide several cottages in the village. An article written in 1957 states the bathhouse disappeared stating the coming of the railway encouraged people to move away to find more effective spas around the 1830s. It goes on to note that the actual spring location was lost. This I thought was to be the situation, but local investigations not only showed the house to be still existence but the bath still remained! Records show that the estate, was bought by an Arthur Robert Garland of Welham Hall from the deceased estate of John Henry Hutchinson of Clarborough Hall acres117.3.16 along with Well House Cottage and garden for the sum of £3200 on in 1910. He then sold the cottage and garden to Fred Anderson on 1910 for £130. This was subsequently bought by the late Mr Eric Durham on 1955, later to be purchased by the current owner, Mr Whelan, in 1975.
The present house, although it had been added onto in the last century, has its core fabric as John Hutchinson built it. The large house being the well keeper’s abode with the side building, now a modern kitchen was the bath house. Arriving at the house, I was at first shown the site by Mr. Whelan the spring which filled the bath which was diverted to the side of the house, the spring itself arising close to the footpath behind the house. A man-hole cover in the drive way revealed that the spring flows at a fast rate, several gallons per minute. He notes that it had a very high mineral content, soaking through the gypsum in Clarborough hills. He stressed it is drinkable, in small quantities, due to its high magnesium and sulphate (like Andrews Liver Salts). It is quite chalky to taste flat but is very pleasant to drink if aerated. However he did not recommend long term drinking was probably not good for one’s health.
In the kitchen, a small trap door can be removed and beneath the remains of the bath is revealed. This appears to as Mee (1938) describes; a stone basin twelve feet square with a flight of steps entering the water. I scrambled down into this bath and found it presently to have two stone steps which enter the bath, although bricks built upon these suggest that there may have been more.
Remarkably the bath still remains enclosing an area fifteen feet by twelve feet, and despite the water being diverted, was full to over a two foot of water. The present kitchen is supported by four brick pillars but this does not appear to have damaged the fabric of the bath which is in fine condition, being made of good quality neat squared stonework. A pipe is found four feet high or so in the wall and a line around it made by the presence of water indicates that the water was of a considerable depth supporting the fact that it was large enough to be a hazard, explaining how Thomas Heald, Vicar of Babworth drowned in it on the 18th June 1759. Mr. Whelan informs me that although the house is not a listed building previous owners had sensibly preserved the bath. Around 30 years ago he was often showing local school children, but it appears now to forgotten. So there it remains a curious relic preserved in its most unusual place.
John Piercy (1828) notes:
“Here was, until lately, a feast, or fair, held annually on St. John’s day, to which the neighbouring villagers resorted to enjoy such rural sports or games as fancy might dictate.”
What is interesting about this account is the reference of games and a fair suggesting that if the well itself did not have such a dedication, the saint was celebrated in the locale. This may indicate that indeed the well was so dedicated or that Hutchinson chose this name because of the local fair. Without further information we shall never know.
It must be noted that due to its location, under a private kitchen, that the site is not readily viewable so please don’t turn up unannounced.
Mee, Arthur, Nottinghamshire, Hodder & Stoughton: London 1938.
Parish, R.B. (2010) Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire
To find Westhorpe, take the lane on the left as one leaves Southwell, and then the next left, Bath Lane. The cottage is the only house on this lane and the well arises on the edge of its private garden. Ask permission to view.
Archaeology and History
The earliest record of a religious institution here is in 1482, when a chapel was erected dedicated to the saint. Whether this was built to cater for those who sought the well is unclear, but it seems likely. Little is recorded of its mediaeval history. Of its post-Reformation history, Dickinson (1819) notes that a Mr. Burton of Norwood Park built a house and bath at the site in 1720. He appears to have used the saint as support for its properties as:
“Over the head of the fountain was a plate, on which some Latin verses were inscribed, much to the honour of the tutelary saint, and the reputation of the water.”
It is thought that the cottage and barn at the site may be the remains of this venture, although, I was informed by the occupant that the barn had mediaeval features. When Bob Morrell (1988) visited he was also told that a bath-like structure with steps down was located nearby, but an exact location was unknown, and the current occupiers were similarly unaware of it when I visited. This was probably a relic of Mr Burton’s exploitation. This appears to have been a brief period, for as Shilton (1818) notes, it
“…would have retained them to this day, had there been the due accompanyments (sic) for luxurious lounge, intrigue and scandal commodiously attached.”
St. Catherine’s Well itself is found between Bath Cottage and the barn. It arises in a brick-lined square structure capped with a broken slab. This sits on an older structure which has the appearance of calcareous rock; although any petrifying properties are not noted by previous authors. When first visited the well house was dry; however, a more recent visit in spring showed a considerable flow (despite a dry winter). It flowed from a clay pipe within the well house and leaves through a smaller pipe set into the calcified part and then down to the dumble below. In this dumble appear to be some dressed stone which may have been part of the original structure. Beside the well on the bank above is a small slate monument which records:
“A chapel dedicated to St. Catherine existed here in medieval times but it is thought to have fallen into disuse at the dissolution. A spring and well with reputed healing properties near the chapel was still patronised in the 1800s by those seeking relief from rheumatism. The present bath cottage was erected on the site of the chapel. D.J Hall Southwell.”
Not much but its waters were said to be a cure for rheumatism being particularly cold.
Dickinson, W. (1787), A History of the Antiquities of the Town and Church of Southwell, in the County of Nottingham. Nottingham.
Morrell, R. W. (1988), Nottinghamshire Holy Wells and Springs. Nottingham
Parish, R.B. (2010), Holy wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire. Nottingham
Rattue, James (1995), The Living Stream: Holy Wells in Historical Context, Boydell: Woodbridge.
Shilton, R. P. (1818), The History of Southwell in the county of Nottinghamshire. Nottingham.