Long since gone, it’s existence was recorded by, amongst others, the Kendal historian Cornelius Nicholson. (1861) He described it in relation to one of the town crosses, that was removed due to it being “an obstruction in the street.” The maypole too, he said,
“was another incumbrance, but indispensable, according to the custom of our forefathers. It stood in Kirkland, opposite the house of the late Thomas Reveley, Esq., and was suffered to remain till within eighty years ago. In the time of our good Queen Katherine, who may fairly be supposed to have partaken of the amusements, countenanced by her royal consort, the original festivity of maying and morris-dancing would be here celebrated, by the annual ceremony of “maying” when, immediately after sunrise, on the 1st of May, processions, entering the town at various inlets, streamed through the streets, with music of horns and flutes; boys with their May-gads (willow-wands twined with cowslips), and girls with their “brats” full of flowers — young and old alike joining in merry laughter, and song, and the customary chorus, “We have brought the summer home.” When the above-named ceremonies became less fashionable, the May Pole was made the rendezvous of all the milkmaids in the neighbourhood, who came and paraded round it on Easter Mondays. On other occasions of rejoicing, afterwards, such for instance, as terminating an apprenticeship, and the like, it became customary for young men to go and dance around it.”
The author then told that this annual village ceremony was still being performed at the beginning of the 19th century, “in the assemblage of young people in the Vicar’s Fields, on Easter Tuesday. After spending the afternoon there, they returned in procession through the streets, threading grandy needles.”
Nicholson, Cornelius, The Annals of Kendal, Whitaker & Co.: London 1861.
The historian William Addison (1951), in his history on the subject, told how “the spas began as holy wells”; and although no direct accounts are left of early dedications here, the remnants of Mayday traditions tell us there were more archaic goings-on before the waters were taken by the aristocrats. Once it had been designated as a spa, the waters were covered and a typical Spa House constructed over them. From hereon, for more than a century, the waters were accessible only to those with money who wished their ailments to be treated.
Between the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, the Horley Green Spa was a very prominent ingredient in the history of Calderdale. A chalybeate or iron-bearing spring, its waters were directed into a large underground cistern covered by metal. Thomas Garnett (1790) was the first to write about it, telling us:
“The Horley Green water is quite pellucid—sparkles when poured out of one glass into another—and has a sharp, aluminous, styptic taste, not unlike ink. The taste is not unpleasant when the water is taken from the springhead and drank immediately.”
He went on to espouse the waters to be good in healing bone and rheumatic diseases, giving many first-hand accounts from people in Yorkshire and beyond who used the waters here with apparent success, including one case of curing diabetes! Its reputation was later reinforced in a book by William Alexander (1840), who told us how,
“I unhesitatingly affirm that the Horley Green Spa possesses a very strong claim to be regarded as a powerful tonic and chalybeate.”
By the time those words were written, it had already gained a considerable reputation and many were those who’d received treatment.
A years after Alexander, the roving doctor A.B. Granville (1841) visited Horley Green—who described it as “a renowned steel-water Spa”. But at the same time he reported how its popularity had started to decline. But, via one Mr West, he did leave us with a greater chemical analysis of the Horley Green waters in an attempt, once more, to certify and prove its curative properties. Their results found the waters to possess, in varying quantities, lime, magnesia, silica, iron oxide, sulphur and silica—all of which further attributed the science of its medicinal actions. A number of case histories of the people cured here can be found in the works of Granville, Garnett and Alexander.
The well-house that stood here eventually fell into disuse. When it was eventually restored as someone’s home in the the late 20th century, the disused spring was found beneath the foundations, filled with stones.
Horley Green’s spa well came about as a result of local people visiting the site around Beltane, probably for centuries before the aristocrats and early pharmacists took their hand to the place. But once the spa became renowned, people could only gather here “on the first Sundays in the month of May,” with Sunday being that legendary ‘day of the lord’ crap, to which the people would abide to save them from prosecution. It is obvious though that it had been used as a place of magick thanks to the snippets of lore which have found their way into local history books. We read how, at 6am, people gathered here, to such an extent that the roads were completely crowded. Those who arrived first were given bags of nuts: an archaic traditional motif found at many pre-christian wells in Britain. Occultists and ritual magickians amongst you will note the time when folk frequented the well, at 6am: the time when many nature-spirits are invoked for full effects. We find this time echoed in the ritual gatherings at Lady or St. Anne’s Well in Morley, just a few miles to the east.
Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
Alderson, Frederick, The Inland Resorts and Spas of Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1973.
Originally called the ‘Manor Lea Well’ because it could be found on the far west of the land belonging to the Manor House, the name later became corrupted to ‘Mannerly’ by local folk. It was one of the four prime water supplies for this part of the old village, but it had other important social and festive rites attached that undoubtedly went back centuries. H.A. Cadman (1930) told that:
“On Palm Sundays it was the custom for boys to take bottles containing Spanish juice, treacle, and any other sweet thing they could, for the purpose of having them filled with the water from the well. The boys then exchanged bottles with each other and each sampled the others. It was said that no better water existed for this purpose.”
This particular ritual was integral to virtually every Spa Well from Wakefield through to the source of the River Calder.
A Mr G.W. Parker said that the well was to be found at the “extreme Western side” of Manor Lea and was “still in existence” when Cadman wrote about it in 1930, “behind Company Mill” not far from the Moravian Burial Ground. Do any local historians know if the well is still there, or has it since been destroyed?
Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NS 667 653
Archaeology & History
Information on this long forgotten holy well that once flowed a few miles east of Glasgow city centre, beneath what is now Wellhouse estate, is all but lost. Local history works of the area tell us little (though there must surely be something somewhere?) and even the place-name surveyor of this area—Peter Drummond (2014)—could find nothing. Noted by the Ordnance Survey lads in 1858, when they came to re-survey the area again in 1899 its waters had, it seems, been covered and carried into the ‘Well house’ less about 50 yards to the southwest (another ‘Wellhouse’ found 150 yards further west is the site that gives the estate its present name). From thereon, this wellhouse and St. Mark’s Well fell into the forgotten pages of history and, sadly it seems, even its oral tradition has died…
The origin and nature of the ‘well house’ isn’t too troublesome, as Drummond (2014) explains:
“The name Wellhouse exists in several places in Scotland, and could indicate a ‘house beside wells’, or a protective ‘house over wells’; the early record here suggests the former, since the first Glasgow Water Company’s Act was obtained in 1806, many years later.”
However, the reasons behind the dedication to St. Mark at this probably heathen arena in times gone by, seems to be quite a mystery. Perhaps the folklore of the saint concerned may be of some help.
Customs practiced on St. Mark’s Eve and St. Mark’s Day (April 24-5) are replete with animistic elements throughout and are certainly not christian! Six months after the old New Year, we find rituals once more allowing, not for the passing of, but the emergence of the dead: bringing the spirits into the Spring and Summer. Divination rites were practiced with Cannabis sativa no less! Prophecy and wise-women were advisors to the young. Walking backwards around wells were known at some St. Mark’s wells; whilst others without his name—but on this saint’s day—were leapt across, symbolizing the crossing of danger and darkness in the ritual calendar. All around this period of time, up to and including Beltane, the end of the dark cold year has passed, and these plentiful rites are prequels to the lighter days, warm spring, summer and good autumn: all vital rites for the people in their myths of the eternal return…
St. Mark’s Well at Glasgow meanwhile, seems to have lost its old tales… Surely not?
Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.