Chalybeate Well, Blockley, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 166 350

Archaeology & History

This is one of several iron-bearing wells (chalybeates) that used exist in and around the village.  Mentioned briefly in Alfred Soden’s (1875) history of the parish, he told that,

“years ago, there were several chalybeate springs here, very strongly impregnated.  One of these was at the lower end of Westmacott’s Lane: of this spring there is now no visible trace, it having been built over.”

Although Mr Soden said nothing about the healing properties of this well, due to the mineral composition of chalybeates they always tend to be good fortifiers or pick-me-ups, being good for the blood.  And in this case, as the waters were “very strongly impregnated” they would have possessed some considerable local renown.

References:

  1. Soden, Alfred J., The History of Blockley, J.W. Parbury: Coventry 1875.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Blind Well, Blockley, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 163 347

Archaeology & History

It would seem that there’s no longer any trace of a healing well of some renown that once existed on the south side of Blockley village.  It is mentioned briefly in Alfred Soden’s (1875) history of the parish, where he wrote:

“At the back of what is called “Bath Orchard,” now belonging to Mr. John Herbert, there was a well called “Blind Well;” the medicinal properties of the water being considered to be remedial in cases of weak eyesight.  The writer has been informed that persons would come from a considerable distance to fetch water from this well for the purpose of bathing the eyes.”

References:

  1. Soden, Alfred J., The History of Blockley, J.W. Parbury: Coventry 1875.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wood Well, Batley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2369 2422

Archaeology & History

Wood Well on 1854 map

In days of olde, before folk had taps to turn to get water, they’d have to go to the nearby wells and streams.  Many of these places were never written about, even to the point where no place-names were recorded, simply because the writers and surveyors either didn’t talk to the right people, or the right people didn’t talk to the surveyors!  In many cases, the latter is all too true.  Such is the case with this long forgotten healing well, whose memory is only preserved through the pen of a local man who, in the 19th century, was fortunate to have been able to write…

We know that old wells were mainly the province of women in most cultures through history; and Isaac Binns (1882) intimated this in his brief notes about the Wood Well.  There’s nowt much to tell to be honest, but its location and lore need to be preserved.

Lamenting the loss of trees, Mr Binns told of the Wood Well’s proximity to Carper Wood: shown on the first OS-maps, but long since destroyed by the ignorance of modernity.  In his day, the water from here was fresh “clear water.”  This alone was good, but something extra in the water gave it that added healing ingredient.  It was used medicinally,

“good yet, the old women say, for sore eyes.”

But not long after he wrote those very words, the Wood Well was destroyed…

References:

  1. Binns, Isaac, From Village to Town: Random Reminiscences of Batley, F.H. Purchas: Batley 1882.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Sore Eye Well, Eldwick, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1286 4007

Also Known as:

  1. Loadpit Well

Archaeology & History

Sore Eye Well on 1852 map

Descriptions of this site are few and far between, despite it having a meaningful name.  First recorded on the 1852 OS-map, in the folklore of our ancestors this was a well that local people frequented to wash their face and it was said that the waters would take away the ills of those suffering poor eyesight or other ocular problems.  Rags were left hanging over an old rowan tree as offerings to the spirit of the water, in return for curing the afflicted eyes.

When I first came looking for this as a boy, I was frustrated to encounter the water authority’s metal cover ruining the site completely, leaving nothing of the old well as it once was.  Around the metal-cover was evidence of a small rock enclave that would have defined the spring as it emerged from the earth—although it was barely noticeable.  The remnants of a small path just to the right of the main footpath that reaches up the hillside is apparent, leading to the well.  Below it were the remains of a large, water-worn flat rock, with other stones set to its sides, where the water used to flow and be collected, but today everything’s dried up and there’s little evidence of it ever being here.

References:

  1. Shepherd, V., Historic Wells in and Around Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1994.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Eyebright Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2986 3331

Archaeology & History

First mentioned in the 1715 magnum opus of Ralph Thoresby, this old healing well has long since fallen victim to the careless Industrialists.  In his day, the well was there for all to use, saying:

“Eye-bright Well on a declining Ground, near the Monk-Pits, discovers its Virtues in the Name, being, long-ago, esteemed a Sovereign Remedy against Sore-Eyes.”

This note was subsequently copied in in Hope’s (1893) classic survey, with no additional comment.  In all probability, the name of the well derived from the presence of the herb Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) which, as is well known, is the best herb for ailments of the eye.  The water from the well, in combination with the herb that grew around it, no doubt increased its ocular healing abilities.

By the middle of the 19th century, the rise of Leeds city brought an end to its ancient flow and its location was eventually forgotten.  In Bonser’s (1979) survey of Leeds’ wells, he told how,

“the position of this well can be accurately determined: it was situated on sloping ground between Wellington Street and Aire Street, as clearly indicated on the 1847 (1850) OS 5ft to 1 mile (map).”

Location of Eyebright Well on 1852 map

However, in the much earlier survey of Leeds, Edward Parsons (1834) told us that this well was a hundred yards to the south, “near the line of the new road to the iron bridge across the Aire at the Monk Pits.”  And although it isn’t named, it should be noted that immediately across the River Aire, where Parsons stated, the 1852 OS-maps showed the “Site of an Ancient Well.”  This is very likely to be where it was.  Parson’s also echoed the local lore of the time, telling us that the Well was “a sovereign remedy for soreness of the eyes.”

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 16, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  5. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Bride’s Well, Ballintemple, Wicklow

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – T 17340 77380

Archaeology & History

The earliest OS-map of this area shows this well a hundred yards or so northwest of an old church and just a few yards east of the stream that is now in woodland; but unlike today, when the early survey was done there were no trees, enabling a clear view of the waters.  When Myles Ronan (1927) wrote of the place, he told that it was still visible.  The site was added to the Grogan & Kilfeather (1997) county inventory where they suggested it’s probable relationship with the legendary St Brigid.  This seems highly probable.  Does anyone know if the Well is still there?

References:

  1. Grogan, Eion & Kilfeather, Annaba, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Stationery Office: Dublin 1997.
  2. Ronan, Myles V., “The Ancient Churches of the Deanery of Arklow”, in Journal Royal Society Antiquaries, Ireland, December 1927.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Falls of Monzie (6), Crieff, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 88740 26366

Getting Here

The rock in the landscape

A couple of miles east of Crieff, take the A822 road from the Gilmerton junction towards the Sma’ Glen.  After literally 1¾ miles (2.8km)—just 100 yards before the track up to Connachan Farm—you’ll reach a dirt-track on your left that leads into the hills.  Go on here and after an easy walk of 400 yards or so, you’ll reach a conspicuous large boulder just by the track-side, on your left.  It’s impossible to miss!

Archaeology & History

Immediately adjacent to the Falls of Monzie (7) carving, this petroglyph was located by Paul Hornby on a recent visit to the Falls of Monzie cluster.

The 3 cups numerated

More than halfway up its south-sloping face are two very distinct cup-marks, some two inches across and up to half-inch deep: one near the western-edge and the other closer to the middle of the rock face.  You can’t really miss them.  They seem to be accompanied by a third about 2 feet further across to the right on its more eastern side.  In formation, the three of them form a small raised arc.  With the naked eye they’re very easy to make out, but were difficult to photograph due to the daylight and angle of the stone; hence in the photo here, I’ve numerated them.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lochan Hakel (02), Tongue, Sutherland

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NC 56995 52656

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 5375
  2. Lochan Hacoin
  3. Ribigill carving

Getting Here

Carving on the 1878 map

Whether you take the A836 or A838 into Tongue (through truly beautiful wilderness), make sure you go into the village itself—and then keep going, south, along the tiny country road.  Nearly 2½ miles along, note the small loch of Lochan na Cuilce on your right.  A few hundred yards past this, on the other side of the road (barely visible at first) is Lochan Hakel.  Walk around to the south-side of the loch until you find the Lochan Hakel 1 carving.  Then look up at the rock right above you.  That’s the one!

Archaeology & History

In James Simpson’s (1867) primary work on British petroglyphs, he mentions this site as being in the lands of “Ribigill, near Tongue”, although it is a little further to the south.  A certain “Mr Mitchell” had come across it in one of his many rambles in the hills.  Simpson told that he had:

“discovered cups and circles upon a large stone, about nine feet square, apparently lying in its original position, close to the edge of a loch, which contains the remains of an old castle… The surface of the stone shows eighteen or twenty round cup excavations, about an inch deep.  There is a ring of ‘hollow around each cup.'”

Although there aren’t rings around every cup, a great number of clear and impressive rings exist around many of them and are, thankfully, still reasonably visible amidst the mass of lichens.

Around the same time as Mr Simpson’s description, James Horsburgh (1868) wrote about the carving, telling us:

The rock and its island
Some of the cup-and-rings

“On the edge of the precipitous bank of the loch, and exactly opposite the island, there is a large boulder with a flat top, and on this there are a number of cups and rings… This stone is not generally known. Old Ross, the gamekeeper at Tongue, first told me of it, and he and I scraped off the moss and exposed the whole. He thought it was for playing some game. On the left of the stone, on a bit separated by a crack, there is a sort of a figure which appears to have been formed by cutting away the stone around it and leaving it in relief, and also some artificial cutting on the right, a sort of circular groove.”

A better description of the carving came near the beginning of the 20th century, when the Scottish Royal Commission (1911) lads included the site in their inventory.  They told:

From the rock, looking N
The carving from above

“At the S end of Lochan Hacoin, to the SE of the islet on the top of the bank, is a large earth-fast boulder, on the flat upper surface of which are a number of cup and ring marks placed irregularly over it.  The total number of undoubted markings is thirty-four, of which those surrounded by a ring number eleven.  No cup with a double ring round it is observable.  The best defined cup-mark measures 3″ across by 1¼” deep, and the enclosing ring is 7″ in diameter.  Eight of the markings are well defined; the others less noticeable.  At the S end there is a boss or projection, roughly rectangular, measuring 12″ x 6″.  A sketch of this stone, made about the year 1866 by Mr James Horsburgh, is preserved in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.”

Does anyone know if this drawing still exists?

Folklore

In Horsburgh’s essay on the prehistoric remains of the area, he said how local people told that the cup-and-rings “were made by the high heels of a fairy who lived in the castle” on the island of Grianan about 40-50 yards away.

References:

  1. Close-Brooks, Joanna, Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands, HMSO: Edinburgh 1995.
  2. Horsburgh, James, “Notes of Cromlechs, Duns, Hut-circles, Chambered Cairns and other Remains, in the County of Sutherland,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 7, 1868.
  3. o’ Reilly, Kevin, What to See Around the Kyle of Tongue, privately printed 1980.
  4. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments & Constructions of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Sutherland., HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.
  5. Simpson, J.Y., “On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 6, 1866.
  6. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.

Acknowledgments:  Huge thanks to Sarah MacLean for guiding me to this carving, and also for the kind use of her photos in this site profile.  Cheers Sarah!  And to Donna Murray again, for putting up with me whilst in the area!  Also – Huge thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Hilda’s Well, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 9006 1102

Archaeology & History

Virgin’s Pump, c.1890

This is one of at least five wells dedicated to St. Hilda in North Yorkshire that my old colleague Graeme Chappell has uncovered over his many years of research.  It’s sadly been destroyed, and accounts of it seem to be few and far between; but from the short description of it by Mr J.C. Atkinson (1894)—and helped out by its later title—we at least know where it once was.

In his account of the old roads in the village, Grape Lane was mentioned as far back as 1396, and close by, he wrote,

“is a spring called Seynt-Hild-keld, possibly where the so-called “Virgin pump” stands, or stood, not so very long since.”

This ‘ere “virgin pump” is shown in an old photo taken about 1890, just round the corner from Grape Lane where, today, is the car park on Church Street, opposite The Endeavour.

Folklore

St Hilda was a 7th century saint who was reputed to have founded Whitby Abbey.  Her festival date was November 17.

References:

  1. Atkinson, J.C., Memorials of Old Whitby, MacMillan: London 1894.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wallace’s Thorn, Dunfermline, Fife

Legendary Tree:  OS Grid Reference – NT 090 873

Archaeology & History 

This little-known tree, said to have been planted in memory of Sir William Wallace’s mother, is long gone.  The only notice I can find of it, is in the writings of Pete Chalmers (1844), who told us:

“There is a tradition that the mother of Sir William Wallace was buried in the old church-yard, on the spot where the present thorn-tree is growing, but how she came to die here history seems to be silent.  It is added that her son wished afterwards to erect a monument to her memory, but being in pursuit of, or flight from, his enemies, had not time to do so, and, as a substitute, planted a thorn-tree.”

Much of what constitutes “the old church-yard” has long been covered by the new cathedral and so the precise location of this old thorn tree will never be known, which is a pity, for as Chalmers told,

“This tree had reached an immense size, and was seemingly of great age about 60 years ago (c.1784), when it was blown down by a storm and replaced by a stem from the old tree, now advanced to a considerable height and magnitude—the only living and remaining memorial of the filial affection of the Scottish Patriot.”

Due to a lack of writings from the viewpoint of Wallace and the Scottish people, we are only left with fragments regarding the why’s and wherefores of Wallace and his mum being in Dunfermline.  Chalmers thought,

“Possibly the occasion of their being here is referred to in the following lines of the poet, an account of a pretended pilgrimage of Wallace and his mother to St Margaret’s shrine.”

He then cites a more assured account of Sir William being in the area, saying:

“It is recorded of this renowned person, that, on one occasion, in 1808, when he was surrounded by his enemies, he came from the fastnesses where he had taken refuge, to the Forest of Dunfermline, and by the mediation of his friends, proposed, on certain conditions, yiz., the assurance of safety in life, limbs, sad estate, to surrender himself.  These conditions were indignantly refused by the haughty and infuriated Edward (the Tosser), who cursed him, by the fiend, for a traitor, and even set a price on his head. On hearing this, the Patriot ” betook himself again to the wilds and mountains, and subsisted on plunder.”

References:

  1. Chalmers, Peter, Historical and Statistical Account of Dunfermline, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1844.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian