St. Helen’s Wells, Whittle-le-Woods, Lancashire

Holy Wells:  OS Grid Reference – SD 5856 2242

Getting Here

St Helen's Well on 1848 map
St Helen’s Well on 1848 map

Destroyed when the M6 motorway was built – but if you’re a really fanatic and wanna see the setting, simply get to the bridge that crosses the M61 north of the town, leading to Birchin Lane and Denham Lane. (To be honest though, if I lived nearby, I’d have to make 100% certain, and have a look in the trees between the west-side of the M6 and the trees at the end of the Wells Close Fold cul-de-sac, just in case its waters are there. If you find anything, let us know!)

Archaeology & History

St. Helen's Well (after Taylor 1906)
St Helen’s Well (Taylor 1906)

Highlighted on the very first OS-map of the region in 1848, this was one of many examples of a site dedicated to an important pre-christian deity which was eventually morphed into the character of Saint Helen.   Several sites nearby were all named after the saint, including the quarries, a cottage, house and the wells themselves.

When Henry Taylor (1906) came here, he wrote the following about this once important site:

“This celebrated well is situated in a wild, rugged and hilly part of the hundred, in the south of the parish of Brindle… The water, brilliantly clear and sparkling, bubbles up through white sand at the bottom of a stone-lined pit, about seven feet square and four feet deep.  On the southerly side of this pit, a few feet from it, is another similar stone-lined pit of about the same size.  An old inhabitant tells me that formerly both pits — now nearly empty — were filled to the brim; and this was clearly the case, as an open stone channel is in situ, provided to carry the overflow water from the southernmost pit, the water dropping from it down into the valley.  These structures are clearly of considerable antiquity, but the stones are somewhat displaced through neglect.  The water now comes underground, through a pipe, into a farmyard about one hundred yards south of the well in a splendid crystal stream.  Drinking water appears to be scarce in this district, for we met carts full of barrels which were apparently being taken to the neighbouring villages for sale from this spring.”

Folklore

Local folk visited here and dropped crooked pins into the well in the hope of wishes and future blessings one report saying such practices were done by local catholics!

References:

  1. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St Helen's Well

loading map - please wait...

St Helen\'s Well 53.696590, -2.629163 St Helen\'s Well