Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NY 21479 48615
Also Known as:
- Haly Well
- Helly Well
A mile east of Waverbridge, turn down the track called Watergates Lonning. Before you reach the bottom, on the left side of the straight track is a spring of water. This is the old holy well.
Archaeology & History
Although much used in bygone times, very little of it can be seen nowadays. When John Musther (2015) wrote about it recently, he told that although it was
“Once known for its copious amount of remarkably pure and sweet water, it is now only a trickle by a tree.”
Nearly three hundred yards away across the fields northeast of this small spring of water, was once seen “a pretty large rock of granite, called St. Cuthbert’s Stone“, whose mythic history will have been intimately tied to the holy well.
In the second volume of William Hutchinson’s History of the County of Cumberland (1794), he tells that the St. Cuthbert’s Well,
“is a fine copious spring of remarkably pure and sweet water which…is called Helly-well, i.e. Haly or Holy Well. It formerly was the custom for the youth of all the neighbouring villages to assemble at this well early in the afternoon of the second Sunday in May, and there to join in a variety of rural sports. It was the village wake, and took place here, it is possible, when the keeping of wakes and fairs in the churchyard was discontinued. And it differed from the wakes of later times chiefly in this, that though it was a meeting entirely devoted to festivity and mirth, no strong drink of any kind was ever seen there, nor anything ever drunk but the beverage furnished by the Naiad of the place. A curate of the parish, about twenty years ago (c.1774), on the idea that it was a profanation of the Sabbath, saw fit to set his face against it; and having deservedly great influence in the parish, the meetings at Helly-well have ever since been discontinued.”
- Hutchinson, William, The History and Antiquities of the County of Cumberland, volume 2, F. Jollie: Carlisle 1794.
- Musther, John, Springs of Living Waters: The Holy Wells of North Cumbria, J.Musther: Keswick 2015.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian