St Ellen’s Well, Harrisend Fell, Scorton, Lancashire

Holy Well: OS Reference – SD 53683 50975

Also Known as:

  1. St Ellin’s Well

Getting Here

The Well on the 1846 Map

Approaching the site from the north, walk along the Lane Head track, and along the path south-eastwards, then turn right onto the main footpath until coming to the stream. Follow the stream up the fell to the large clump of reeds, then follow your ears until you locate the spring! Or you can approach it along the main footpath from the Oakenclough – Galgate road. The well and the path to it
are on access land.

Archaeology & History

Fortunately recorded by the Ordnance Survey on their 1846 6″ map Lancashire XL, the story of St Ellen’s Well was taken up sixty years later by local holy wells historian Henry Taylor (1906):

Listen for the spring in the reeds

“The site of this holy well is marked on the ordnance map at a lonely spot on Harris Fell, five hundred feet above the sea-level, four and a half miles in a north-easterly direction from the town of Garstang.

“Mr. A. King has kindly examined the site.  He writes, 4th August, 1902: “We had no difficulty in locating the spot…. There is no outward indication of the place being used for curative means, and there is no stonework at all. It is a beautifully cold spring which is at the side of ‘Bonny Pad’, a pathway leading across the moor from Harris End, and it was grown around with rushes….  All I can glean about it is that one of the oldest inhabitants, when asked if he knew of it, replied, ‘It will be th’ holy well, you mean.'”

The original dedication of this remote holy well was clearly to St. Helen, and its presence next to the Bonny Pad or path may indicate a pre-Christian dedication to a local cognate of the Celtic Elen Luyddog, Elen of the hosts or ways.  The Bonny Pad is shown but not not named on the 1846 map, and follows a broadly southwest to northeast direction from Harris End (again not named on the 1846 map) up to Grizedale Head on the southern edge of the Catshaw Vaccary.  It was perhaps an ancient route used by farmers to take their animals up onto the fell for the summer, and return them to the lowlands in the autumn.

Bubbling away at source

The western portion of Bonny Pad is not shown on the modern map and St Ellen’s Well is not marked, and both have it seems passed out of local memory.  An elderly farmer I encountered on my way up to the fell had never heard of the Well.

It is certainly worth the walk if only for the delightful sound of this powerfully flowing spring, the water is pure and cold, and it commands a fine view over the Lancashire plain to the coast.

References:

  1. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
  2. Wise, Caroline, “Elen of the Roads of Country and Town”, in Finding Elen – The Quest for Elen of the Ways, edited by Caroline Wise, Eala Press: London 2015.

© Paul T. Hornby, 2020

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.952785, -2.707269 St Ellen\'s Well

Bradshaw Cross, Long Lane, Nether Wyresdale, Lancashire.

Wayside cross: OS Reference – SD 52474 51414

Also Known as :

  1. Historic England Grade II Listed Building No. 1163927 

Getting Here

Cross shown on 1846 map

Follow Long Lane northwards from Scorton, over the crossroads at Crosshill Four Lane Ends, and the cross base will be found at the road edge immediately to the right of the driveway of ‘Sandalwood’ on the left hand side of the road.

Archaeology & History

Described in the Historic Buildings listing citation as:

“Cross base, probably mediaeval. A sandstone boulder, roughly rectangular, with rectangular socket.”

Cross base at the roadside
‘A sandstone boulder, roughly rectangular’

The base of one of the numerous mediaeval wayside crosses that once adorned this part of Lancashire. So what happened to the cross? It’s possible that it was wilfully destroyed in the early nineteenth century as we have a likely culprit in the person of the Reverend Richard ‘Cross Smasher’ Wilkinson (c.1791 – 1823), Curate of Whitechapel, who took it upon himself to destroy the symbol of his religion wheresoever he could find it.

Immediately to the north west of the Cross is Cross Hill.  The cross itself was probably a waymarker on the road over Harrisend Fell from Oakenclough, and Bradshaw may be the name of the locality, there being a Bradshaw Bridge just outside Street to the north west, while the 1846 6-inch OS map records a ‘Bradshaw Smithy’ on the same road.

Note: More has been recorded about Wilkinson in the profile of Stump Cross, near Goosnargh.

Reference:

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

© Paul T Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian, 2020

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.956620, -2.725759 Bradshaw Cross

Clach an Eolas, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NF 101 996?

Also Known as:

  1. Stone of Knowledge

Archaeology & History

This stone has very similar qualities to the one found upon Mullach-geal, ⅔ of a mile to the west, as a place where ritual magick was performed.  And, just like the Mullach-geal stone, we only have an approximate position of its whereabouts: “behind the village”, as Mr Sands (1878) said.  The same words were used by other St Kildan writers when it came to describing the whereabouts of Tobar Childe, so we must assume it to be reasonably close to the old well.

Folklore

Mr Sands seems to be the first person to write about it, telling us,

“At the back of the village is a stone, which does not differ in external appearance from the numerous stones scattered around, but which was supposed to possess magical properties.  It is called Clach an Eolas, or Stone of Knowledge.  If any one stood on it on the first day of the quarter, he became endowed with the second sight — could “look into the seeds of Time,” and foretell all that was to happen during the rest of the quarter.  Such an institution must have been of great value in Hirta, where news are so scanty.  To test its powers I stood on it on the first day of Spring (old style) in the present year, but must acknowledge that I saw nothing, except two or three women laden with peats, who were smiling at my credulity.”

Charles MacLean (1977) mentioned the stone a hundred years later, but seems to have just copied this earlier description.  Does anyone up there know its whereabouts?

References:

  1. MacLean, Charles, Island on the Edge of the World, Canongate: Edinburgh 1977.
  2. Sands, J., Out of the World; or Life in St. Kilda, Maclachlan & Stewart: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  57.815359, -8.570241 Clach an Eolas

Mullach-Geal Stone, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NF 092 996

Archaeology & History

This is a most intriguing site, whose exact location seems to have been forgotten.  It was first mentioned in Macaulay’s History of St Kilda (1764) as being one of four stone altars that the islanders used for worship.  Three of them were related to the early christian figure of St. Brendan, whose well and chapel remains are on the south-side of the island.  However, this fourth stone altar possessed a purely magickal and heathen function.  Macaulay initially gives the location as being “on top of a hill to the southwest” of St. Brendan’s chapel; but subsequently tells us it was upon “Mulach-geall” which is a mile NNW.  It was an important place to the people of Hirta and its exact position needs to be found and, hopefully, the altar still exists.

Folklore

Despite Macaulay’s conflicting directions of how to get here (a common feature of early writers), he wrote:

“I have already made mention of one St. Kilda altar, that in Brendans Chapel.  There are no less than four more in the island, of which three lie at considerable distances from the holy places.  There is one particularly on the top of a hill to the south-weft (sic), dedicated according to tradition to the God who presides over Seasons; The God of thunder, lightning, tempests and fair weather.  To avert the terrible judgments inflicted by this mighty Divinity, the ancient St. Kildians offered propitiatory sacrifices on this altar, sacrifices of different forts, much like the old Pagans, who offered a black sheep to Winter, or the Tempest, and a white one to the Spring…  The place where the people of this island, offered their victims to Taranis, is called Mulach-geall, that is to say, the White eminence or hill…”

More than a hundred years later, Seton (1878) made mention of it, but added no further details.

The invocation to Nature’s elements is something we find echoed at some sites further east, such as the Well of the North Wind on Iona and its compatriot Well of the South Wind.  At both these places, so-called ‘pagan’ rituals were used to both placate and invoke the gods and spirits of the wind.  This one on St Kilda possessed additional magickal prowess.  But where is it?  Have we lost it, or is it sleeping somewhere on the edge of Mullach-Geal…?

References:

  1. Macaulay, Kenneth, The History of St. Kilda; Containing a Description of This Remarkable Island; the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants; the Religious and Pagan Antiquities There Found, T. Becket: London 1764.
  2. Seton, Gordon, St. Kilda – Past and Present, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  57.814575, -8.585289 Mullach-geal Stone

Holy Well, Barking, Essex

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 4421 8484

Archaeology & History

Barely 200 yards to the immediate southeastern edge of the once gigantic hillfort of Uphall Camp, could once be found an old holy well, last recorded it would seem in 1456.  The site was located just yards to the south of the old boundary that separates the parishes of Ilford and Dagenham.  Its location was described in the Victoria County History:

“A mile south of Ilford Bridge the Roding is joined by Loxford Water, a stream rising near Hog Hill, in Dagenham, and known in its upper reaches as Seven Kings Water. In 1456 the lower part of the stream was called Halywellbrooke.”

We also have an account in the Barking Abbey Rental, which told us there was “land in Longland at Halywellbrooke”, as well as “pasture lying at the northern head of Luzias land…near Halywell and…at Loxfordbrigge.” (Harte 2008)  It has long since been destroyed.

References:

  1. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion Press: Marlborough 2008.
  2. Powell, W.R. (ed.), A Victoria County History of Essex – volume 5, OUP: London 1966.

LinksHoly Well, Barking on The Megalithic Portal

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.543895, 0.078145 Holy Well, Barking

St. Peter’s Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 308 336

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well locale in 1852

This is one of three wells that were dedicated to St Peter in the Leeds district.  The first of them, near the city centre, was described by the northern antiquarian Ralph Thoresby (1715) as being in St. Peter’s Square—which has now been completely built over, but was situated “at the bottom or west end of High Street,” (Bonser 1974) about 50 yards west of the modern Quarry Hill buildings.  It was well known in the area in early times with a good curative reputation due seemingly to its sulphur content.  Mr Thoresby told that us, it

“is intensely cold and very beneficial for such as are afflicted with rheumatic pains, or weakness, rickets, etc, for which reason it is much frequented by such, who might otherwise have recourse to St. Mungus or Mongah, as it is more truly writ. This Spring, according to St Anselms Canon, which forbad a credulous attributing any reverence, or opinion of holiness to fountains…must either have been of great antiquity, or have had the bishop’s authority.”

Local folk of course, would have long known the goodness of this water supply long before any crude bishop.  The well either possessed a very large stone trough or it had been fashioned and added to by locals, as Thoresby reported “trying the cold bathing of St Peter’s.”  He took his youngest child there, Richard, to help him overcome an osteopathic ailment.  In his diary entry for April 8, 1709, he wrote:

“Was late at church, and fetched out by a messuage from the bone-setter (Smith, of Ardsley), who positively affirms that one part of the kneebone of my dear child Richard, has slipped out of its proper place; he set it right and bound it up; the Lord give a blessing to all endeavours!  We had made use of several before, who all affirmed that no bone was wrong, but that his limp proceeded rather from some weakness, which we were the rather induced to believe, because warm weather, and bathing in St. Peter’s Well, had set him perfectly on his feet without the least halting, only this severe Winter has made him worse than ever.”

It later became at least one of the water supplies for Maude’s Spa close by.  As usual with health-giving waters at this period in the evolving cities, money was to be made from them and local folk had to find their supplies from other sources.  St Peter’s Sulphur Baths (as it was called) were built on top of it in the 19th century and, said Bonser “flourished until the early years of the (20th) century.”

Although I can find no notices of annual celebrations or folklore here, St. Peter’s Day is June 29 — perhaps a late summer solstice site, though perhaps not.

It would be good if Leeds city council would at least put historical plaques in and around the city to inform people of the location of the many healing and holy wells that were once an integral part of the regions early history.  Tourists of various interest groups (from christian to pagan and beyond) would love to know more about their old sacred sites and spend their money in the city.

References:

  1. Atkinson, D.H., Ralph Thoresby, the Topographer – volume 1, Walker & Laycock: Leeds 1885.
  2. Baines, Edward, The Leeds Guide, E.Baines: Leeds 1806.
  3. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in Publications Thoresby Society, 54:1, 1974.
  4. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 2008.
  5. NiBride, Feorag, The Wells and Springs of Leeds, Pagan Pratlle: Leeds 1994.
  6. Robinson, Percy, Relics of Old Leeds, P.Robinson: Leeds 1896.
  7. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  8. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  9. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.798411, -1.533119 St Peters Well

Tammie Blair’s Well, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 780 010

Archaeology & History

Which one is Tammie Blair’s Well?

It’s difficult to work out the exact position of this lost well, even from Alexander Barty’s (1944) description of the place.  There are several unnamed ‘Wells’ on the early OS-maps very close to where this one was said to be, but in the end I’m relying on (sort of) educated guesswork regarding its precise location.  Please forgive my ineptitude here…

That aside, it’s another water source that has long since gone and is only remembered thanks to Mr Barty’s excellent local history research in the first-half of the 20th century.  He told us:

“This well stood beside the path which leads from the Bridgend up the right bank of the Allan to the Haugh.  A drawer of water at one time had to go down about 15 steps to the well.  It may have been constructed after the making of the railway, as previously a little burn flowed from the Bridgend west of the railway down to the Allan, the lower part of which is still open next Willowbank House.  This well may therefore have been made by the Railway Company to supply dwellings in Bridgend.  It took its name from a man, Blair, who had charge of the railway gates there prior to the erection of the iron footbridge over the railway line.”

It may be the ‘Well’ marked lower-centre on the above 1863 OS-map above.  But I aint sure.

References:

  1. Barty, Alexander B., The History of Dunblane, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1944.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the staff at Dunblane Library for their help.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.186656, -3.966476 Tammie Blair\'s Well

St. Ninian’s Well, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 79690 93012

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 46210
  2. St. Ringan’s Well

Getting Here

St Ninian's Well, Stirling

St Ninian’s Well, Stirling

A short distance south out of Stirling town centre, along Port Street where it meets with Ninian’s Road, walk across at the traffic lights then turn immediately left down Wellgreen Road.  Barely 100 yards down (before you reach the roundabout), note the path on your right.  Walk along here and as it bends round into the car-park, look to your left and see the small ivy-covered building hiding away in below you, with an information plaque at its side.

Archaeology & History

“St Ninian’s” is a district unto itself on the south side of the ancient city of Stirling—and it has this holy well (and the demolished chapel that once stood by its side) to thank for this. James Johnston’s (1904) place-name study of the region showed that it had acquired its association with St Ninian as early as 1242 CE when it was described, “Ecclesia Sancti Niniani de Kirketoune.”  It was mentioned again in 1301 CE as the site of “Saint Rineyan”, or St Ringan, which was the other name given to this saint who spent much of his time at Whithorn, Galloway, where he “preached the gospel among the southern Picts.” (Attwater 1965)

The waters in the building

The waters in the building

The old well building

The old well building

At some later date, Ninian is thought to have ventured north and sanctified this already renowned water source which, in his day, would have been open and surrounded by ancient trees and an abundance of wild flowers and healing plants.  But today, typically, it is hiding almost secretly away, behind locked doors and not in view for the general public.  This needs to be changed!  Standing outside of the unkempt and overgrown building, you can faintly hear these ancient waters still flowing within their darkened enclave.

It has been described in a number of local history books down the years, but a lot of the old stories and traditions have sadly moved into forgotten memories… The first major description of the site was by J.R. Walker (1883) who wrote freshly about it soon after his visit—despite being “disappointed” with the architectural features of the building built over the well; which is hardly the right attitude as far as I’m concerned!  The waters, their natural environment, feeling and genius loci are the primary features to sacred wells—nottheir dissolution, nor the artifice of humans to contain and reduce the natural world at such a place!  But, this aside:  for the architects amongst you, here’s what Walker had to say about the well-house:

“Mr T.S.  Muir, in his Characteristics of Old Church Architecture, mentions it as “a large vaulted building with a chamber above it, which is supposed to have been a chapel.” From this notice I was led to think something of interest would be found in the chamber; but as will be seen by the drawing…it is utterly destitute of any feature worthy of particular notice.  On looking at the surroundings, however, which are all modern, and mostly new houses and streets in course of erection, I came to the conclusion that at no distant date the well was doomed, and that consequently I had better make a correct drawing of it.

“The lower chamber measures 16 feet by 11 feet 1 inch, and is covered with a vault running from end to end, measuring from floor to springing 2 feet 9 inches, and from floor to crown of arch 6 feet.  At the end where the spring rises there is a square recess 1 foot 9 inches high and 1 foot 7 inches wide and 17 inches deep; and at the other end two recesses, the largest measuring 2 feet 7 inches in height, 1 foot 4 inches wide and 1 foot 4 inches deep, the other 8 inches high, 8 inches wide, and 8 inches deep.  To what purpose these have been put I have formed no idea; they are on an average 12 inches from the floor to the sill.  The side walls are 2 feet 9 inches thick, and the end gable 3 feet; the other gable, between the well chamber and the adjacent building, being about 2 feet 3 inches.  The room above is the same size as the vaulted chamber below, and is divided by timber partitions to form a dwelling-house.  There is an ordinary fireplace and press in the gable; the press, however, does not go down to the floor, but is simply a recess or “aumbry,” such as we see in old Scotch houses.

“The roof seems to have been renewed at no distant date, although some of the timbers are, without doubt, home-grown.  The ground rises rapidly to the back, so that the entrance door to the house is level with the top of the vault; this door is simply splayed in the Scotch manner, with a square lintel over, and a relieving arch inside.  The door to the well chamber is also splayed, and in like manner the windows; the largest window has been altered, and a new projecting sill put in.

“At present the well is used for washing purposes, and must have been so for a considerable length of time, if we may judge from the table of rates affixed to the building; and a channel has been formed down one side and along the bottom end to carry away the water, the floor being paved with stones.  The vault inside is roughly dressed, very little labour seemingly having been bestowed upon it.

“In the New Statistical Account it is suggested that the chamber was used as a bath, and it also states that, “it is celebrated for its copiousness and its purity. It is a hardish water, but of low specific gravity, and much used for washing. It has been calculated that were all the waters proceeding from this spring forced into the pipes that supply the town, it would afford every individual not less than 14.03 gallons per twenty-four hours.  Its temperature is very cold and it exhibits muriate of lime and sulphate of lime. It is also much used for brewing.”

“Externally the building is roughly cast, or in Scottish phraseology, harled.”

A few years later when J.S. Fleming (1898) wrote an account of the place in his survey of local holy wells, he described a number of other historical elements not included in Walker’s (1883) account, telling:

“RINGAN” is stated to be the Scoto-Irish form of Saint Ninian’s name. He is alleged to have come from Ireland in the fifth century. St. Ringan’s Chapel was one of three attached to St. Ninians, the others being at Skeoch—dedicated to the Virgin Mary—and at Cambusbarron.  The remains of St. Ringan’s Chapel, a simple, barrel-vaulted chamber, 11 feet by 14 feet, built over the spring, are situated a few yards off Pitt Terrace, the upper walls having been built, in 1731, by order of the Stirling Town Council, and formed into a house for the convenience of the town’s washerwomen.  A niche in the north-east wall has evidently been made to hold the image of the Saint; while there has also been a piscina in the same wall. The flow of water is enormous, and enters the building from under the south-west gable, and after passing through the little chamber, flows out at the east wall.  In 1740, the Town Council, considering the large volume of water of some value, entertained the idea of having it conveyed into the town by means of pipes, and consulted an Edinburgh engineer with regard to the feasibility of the project.  Nothing resulted from their efforts, however.  The water of this spring is stated to be so cold in summer that people cannot stand in it for any length of time; while in winter, again, it is so warm that it rapidly thaws whatever is thrown into it.  Smoke rises from it at times, hanging over it like a vapour on a frosty morning.  These characteristics indicate that the waters must issue from a great depth in the ground.

“This Chapel was apparently held in high repute by King James IV., as in the Exchequer Rolls we find the following entries: — “1497, April 24. — Item to the King’s offerand in Saint Ringans Chapel, besid Strivelin, 14/.” ” Samen day to Schir Andro to get say a hental of messes of Saint Ringans, 20⋅/.”

The site was mentioned in the standard surveys of MacKinlay (1893) and Morris (1981), but with very little additional information other than to cite how the larger surrounding building that once stood next to the well,

“was used as a powder magazine by Prince Charles after the battle of Falkirk, was blown up, and only the tower remains.”

Folklore

Ninian's Well on 1832 map

Ninian’s Well on 1832 map

St. Ninian’s festival date is September 16, but I’ve been unable to find any information about any practices here for that date. However, in 1659, St Ninian’s Well was mentioned as a site used in what the deluded criminal courts of the period called “a case of witchcraft”, against one Bessie Stevenson.  The lady concerned told of performing quite normal herbal practices and similar animistic healing traditions, typical of those found universally in peasant cultures, but which the crazed church-goers saw as something completely different.  Bessie told that for people who were either sick or bewitched, she would wash their clothes in the running waters of St. Ninian’s Well, to wash away any disease and cure the said person.  It is likely that the waters here were commonly used for such rites, much as the christian priesthood still do at many ‘holy waters’ to this very day.  Indeed, of the sacred waters here, St. Ninian himself was said to “have endowed it with peculiar virtues.” (Roger 1853)

References:

  1. Attwater, Donald, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1965.
  2. Fleming, J.S., Old Nooks of Stirling, Delineated and Described, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1898.
  3. Johnston, James B., The Place-Names of Stirlingshire, R.S. Shearer 1904.
  4. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  5. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  6. Mould, D.D.C.P., Scotland of the Saints, Batsford: London 1952.
  7. Reid, John, The Place-Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, Falkirk Local History Society 2009.
  8. Roger, Charles,  A Week at Bridge of Allan, Adam & Charles Black: Edinburgh 1853.
  9. Ronald, James, Landmarks of Old Stirling, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1899.
  10. Simpson, W.D., St. Ninian and the Origins of the Christian Church in Scotland, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1940.
  11. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.114650, -3.936406 St Ninian\'s Well

Our Lady’s Well, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 7932 9454 

Also Known as:

  1. Whiskey Well
  2. Whusky Well

Archaeology & History

Fleming's 1898 drawing of Our Lady Well

Fleming’s 1898 drawing of Our Lady Well

Once found beneath the northern foot of Gowan Hill, below the old hillfort and close to Stirling’s famous castle, the Industrialists, as usual, built over and destroyed this piece of ancient heritage in the 20th century, leaving us only a few words and an old drawing to remember it by.  It was one of several holy wells in and around Stirling, most of which have fallen prey to the same scavengers in the march they call ‘progress.’

Thankfully the local writer J.S. Fleming’s (1898) talked about the well in his fine work, where he told:

“This Well is situated at the foot of the Gowan Hills, and adjacent to the skating pond, as shown in (the) sketch.  Though part of the waters of this Well have been abstracted, and led, by means of a pipe, to a neighbouring factory, it still gives off a considerable flow of water.  The local name, “Whusky Well” is supposed to be given this Well on account of the virtues of its waters for mixing with whisky, without any perceptible deterioration of the latter.  We can find no allusion to this Well in any of the Burgh Records, and Dr. Rogers gives no reason for its dedication to the Virgin Mary.  We do know, however, that “St. James’s Chapel of the Crag” was situated only 200 or 300 yards distant, and is referred to frequently as receiving alms from King James IV, especially on 26th July, 1496, of 14s.  We learn from a charter by Robert III to the Canon of Cambuskenneth Abbey, dated 10th March, 1402, that he grants “to God, and the blessed Virgin Mary, and to the said Canon,” this Chapel, or Hospital of St. James, at the end of the roadway of the Bridge of Stirling; and that King James II, on 24th June, 1456, grants the said Chapel, or Hospital, to the town of Stirling, ” to the praise and honour of God, the blessed Virgin Mary, his mother, and Saint James the Apostle.” May not this well have had connection with St. James’s chapel, an appanage of Cambuskenneth Abbey, dedicated to our Lady the Virgin, and thus give reason for its name, ” Our Lady Well? ” Saint James’s Chapel was held by Sir Robert Cristisoun, as part of his emoluments as master of the Grammar School, whose right was challenged in 1522; and in November, 1562, having become ruinous, the stones of the Chapel were directed by the Magistrates to be “brocht to the utility and profit of the common work,” — strengthening the town’s wall.  A northern boundary, in a charter of the Abbot of Aberbrothock, dated 1299, of lands in the burgh, is described as “the land of Saint Marie of Strivelin.” There is also “a Ladyrig,” but its situation is not indicated and, therefore, its connection with the Well is hypothetical.”

In early references of the site by Ordnance Survey in the 1860s and 1890s, it was only described and shown as the Whiskey Well.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Stirling and District, forthcoming
  2. Fleming, J.S., Old Nooks of Stirling, Delineated and Described, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1898.
  3. Roger, Charles, A Week at Bridge of Allan, Adam & Charles Black: Edinburgh 1853.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.128311, -3.943050 Our Lady\'s Well

Bishop’s Well, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 78126 01281

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24681

Archaeology & History

Bishop’s Well on 1899 map

This now-lost holy well was a place whose history was integrally tied to the adjacent and also destroyed Bishop’s Palace: a large ostentatious building that was already in ruins in 1579, just below Dunblane Cathedral. It was the water supply for the bishops who lived here; although exactly when it received its original dedication, and by whom, seems unknown.

The best description we have of it is in Alex Barty’s (1944) excellent history work on Dunblane, where he wrote:

“Perhaps the best-known well in Dunblane was the Bishop’s Well, in the Bishop’s Yard or Grassyard.  This well is now dry and the explanation is that it was fed by a strong stream from about Kirk Street which was incorporated into the town sewer when it was laid in Kirk Street.  There was a right-of-way, or at least a  privilege, held by some of the inhabitants to pass through the north end of the Manse ground out by a gate which still exists and down a path to the well.”

Mr Barty informed us that the line of the footpath was still visible in his day, but it has long since gone.  When Archie McKerrarcher (1992) wrote about the site, he described minor remains of it still extant, telling that “the Bishop’s Well can be seen marked by circular stonework in the grass”; but this has now also been destroyed.  One would think that the local christian community would at least have tried to preserve this ancient site.

References:

  1. Barty, Alexander B., The History of Dunblane, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1944.
  2. Dennison, E.P. & Coleman, R., Historic Dunblane: The Archaeological Implications of Development, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1997.
  3. McKerracher, Archie, The Street and Place-Names of Dunblane and District, Stirling District Libraries 1991.

Acknowledgements:  To Paul Hornby in his help seeking out this site; and to the staff at Dunblane Library.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.188506, -3.965497 Bishop\'s Well