Legendary Trees (lost): OS Grid Reference – NN 693 242
A fascinating story of this forgotten site is detailed in Alex Porteous’ (1912) history book on this tiny parish at the eastern end of Loch Earn. It’s a peculiar tale—and unless the story was little more than the local people ripping the piss out of the patronising incomers, its nature remains a mystery. Porteous wrote:
“What were known as the Goose Oaks grew by the loch-side about two or three hundred yards west from the hotel. The story is told of a celebrated goose which attained to the great age of 160 years and finally gave up this life in 1818. It is solemnly averred by Mr (John) Brown that the history of this goose was well authenticated and that the families and individuals who successively were owners of the goose were highly respectable, and that its history was preserved entire for the period back to 1658, while he naively adds—”How long it was in being prior to that date is uncertain.” The goose was buried at the spot indicated, and the oaks trees, two in number, of which only one remains now, planted over its grave; but the story, as regards the age, must be looked upon as apocryphal.”
One wonders what on Earth Sir James Frazer might have made of this tale!
The name of this site alone insisted that I bring it to people’s attention! If it was a healing well relating to its name, I wonder what it was used for! It’s described just once in the New Statistical Account (1845) for Lanarkshire, where Pete Brown said briefly:
“On the south side of the road from Auchinloch to Glasgow, there is still the Cockplay Well, over which many proprietors and feuars have a servitude.”
Two roads came out of the village at the time of the NSA notes: one to the immediate west and the other to the south. None of the maps cite the place-name ‘Cockplay’, but two ‘wells’ occur on the outgoing western road. One is in the village itself, behind some cottages; this is not likely to be the site in question, as the description would surely have stated that the well was in the village. However, “on the south side of the road” one mile west of the village, roughly halfway between Wallace’s Well and Cardyke there is a ‘Well’ shown on the early OS-maps. This has to be the most likely contender.
The etymology may revolve around variants on the word old english word cocc, which in this instance is likely to be ‘bird/s’ or a cock, as a in the male domestic fowl; effectively making it the ‘well where the birds played.’ More help and information on it would be good.
From Bradford city centre go up Bolton Road (crossing the big A650 dual carriageway) until, a couple of hundred yards further you meet with, at an angle, Wapping Road on the right. Where these roads meet, note a small footpath going down into the trees on the Bolton Road side. Go down here till it bends to the right at the bottom. Walk along here for less than 100 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the small stone-lined well above the path on your right.
Archaeology & History
The Spink Well was highlighted on the 1832 boundary commission report map of Bradford; then listed in the 1850 Tithe Awards; and of course featured on the earliest Ordnance Survey map a few years later. In 1788, below the spring itself, a Spinkwell House was built which advertised health-giving cold baths and used the waters from this well to supply people with its health-giving virtues. This Spink Well house also had a most curious history: the gravestones of those who died in the plague of 1645 were built into the walls of the well-house here! They were uncovered during the construction of Peel Park in the 19th century, a short distance away. Then, for a long time thereafter, the waters and the stonework surrounding this well fell into disrepair—especially when the Industrialists appeared in what was, at the time, the world’s centre for such people.
The name ‘Spink Well’ is the most common of all the wells named after animals in West Yorkshire (and elsewhere in Yorkshire for that matter), with ten examples of them that I’ve come across locally. The word ‘spink’ is the local dialect word for the finch. A veritable profusion of them scatter our region, although not much folklore is known about this little bird. The various types (gold finch, bull finch, etc) are all said to be birds of good fortune and one of its calls is said to tell of the coming of rain.
This particular Spink Well is very close to Bradford city centre and although now only a trickle of muddy water fills the trough into which it once ran freely, at least it’s still here! Many other sites close to the city centre were destroyed without care by the ignorant Industrialists. The well was evidently a place of some importance in ages past, as the 1852 OS-map shows eight spots hereby named after the place! The local historian Roger Storrs (1888) wrote that—along with the Holy Well Ash Well a short distance from here—these sites “were long ago famous wells.” No specific medicinal properties have been remembered for this place.
Folklore tells that a huge boar—which gave its name to the Boar Well just 100 yards along the same path from here—also drank the waters here at Spink Well.
Storrs, Roger, ‘Legends and Traditions of Wells,’ in J.H. Turner’s Yorkshire Folklore Journal, 1888.
Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.