Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 180 452
Archaeology & History
The Well Meadow in the middle of Blairgowrie was once the place where the 5th century Apostle of the Southern Picts, or St Ninian, baptised local folk into the so-called “new faith”. It’s long since gone. The local historian John MacDonald (1899) told that it was located opposite the buildings on the north-side of the square, adding:
“St Ninian, one of the earliest Christian Celtic missionaries, on his tour through Scotland, pitched his camp where the Wellmeadow now is, and quenched his thirst at an old well or spring which ever afterwards bore the name of “St Ninian’s Well,” until it was covered in and the water led into the town drains.”
This old water supply had no direct ‘holy’ nature, despite its proximity to the cathedral, the old market cross and St Clement’s Well some fifty yards away! Most odd. A much more mundane story lies behind this long lost water source. The Dundee historian William Kidd (1901) told us,
“When the public wells were erected, about the year 1749, to supply the town with water from the Lady-well reservoir at foot of Hilltown, one was placed on the High Street, on the east side of the Cross, and was called the Cross Well.”
It didn’t have too long a life either—much like the old Market Cross, for,
“In the year 1777 that quaint structure was demolished. The platform and octagonal tower were carted away as rubbish, the least decayed stones being selected to be used in other buildings. The stone shaft, also, was preserved, and placed beside the Old Steeple. With the demolition of the Cross, the Cross Well was cleared away from the High Street, but, as water was an essential to the people, the well was re-erected behind the Town House in St. Clement’s Lane. In that situation it remained for nearly one hundred years, when, being rendered unnecessary by the introduction of the Lintrathen water supply, it was also demolished, along with the old buildings in the Vault and St. Clement’s Lane, to make room for the additions to the Town House.”
Colville, A., Dundee Delineated, A. Colville: Dundee 1822.
Located next to the old stocks by the main roundabout right in the middle of the town is this tall market cross, nearly ten feet high and well known to the local people. It has been described by several local historians, although its recognition as a “market cross” is slightly contentious as it seems there are no written records to indicate that a market ever existed here. The great Baildon historian, W. Paley Baildon (1912) was unable to find any info about such a market, commenting simply that “most villages…had crosses in medieval times, many of which still exist; so that the presence of a cross at Baildon is (not necessarily) evidence of a market.”
His description of its form is as valid then as it is to this day:
“The cross, as we see it to-day, is not an interesting object. The square platform of two stages, with its well worn stones, looks as though it might be medieval, and part of the original work. In the centre of this is a large square block of stone, from which rises a tall cylindrical shaft.
The base is square, with chamfered corners, and a plain roll moulding at the upper edge; the cap is a plain square block, without any attempt at ornament.”
One of Bradford’s industrial historians, William Cudworth (1876) thought that the present cross replaced an earlier one, and that this one was erected by a member of the wealthy Butler family a few centuries ago. Mr Baildon wasn’t quite as sure as Mr Cudworth. Nevertheless they both agreed that this edifice replaced an earlier one. Baildon said:
“My own view is that there was probably a cross here in medieval times; that it was destroyed, either after the Reformation (as so many were), or by the Puritan soldiery during the Civil War; that the steps and perhaps the base remained; and that in the eighteenth century, when the Butlers were one of the leading families in the place, one of them may have erected a new shaft on the old site.”
In much earlier days it was said to have been surrounded by a grove of trees and a brook ran by its side. Villagers would gather here as it was “a favourite gossiping resort.” At the beginning of the 20th century, an old gas light surmounted this old relic.
Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons – volume 1, St. Catherine’s Press: Adelphi 1912.
Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
la Page, John, The Story of Baildon, William Byles: Bradford 1951.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SK 589 790
Also Known as:
Archaeology & History
Once to be seen in the ancient landscape immediately northwest of Worksop Priory by the old Mill Pond, this sacred well has sadly been built over, but memory of it is still retained in Priorswell street-name and, previously, the Priorwell Brewery. Not much has been written about it, but thankfully the historian John Holland (1826) gave us a short account, saying:
“There is a spring, now enclosed, called the “Priorwell,” and a meadow, of four acres, denominated from the same; and from which, it might be presumed, that the canons would draw their supplies of water, was it not for the convenient proximity of the river, which they must have had to ford for that purpose. It was “formerly”, says Parkyns, in his Monastic and Baronial Remains, “celebrated for miraculous cures; but since monastic deceptions have unveiled themselves, votaries no longer offer, and consequently cures are no longer performed.” This may have been the case: more recently the well has been resorted to by persons having sore eyes, in the cure of which, it is said to be efficacious, and has probably the common virtue of fresh cool spring-water.”
Holland, John, The History, Antiquities and Description of the Town and Parish of Worksop, J. Blackwell: Sheffield 1826.
Parkyns, George I., Monastic and Baronial Remains – volume 1, Longmans Hurst: London 1816.
In the ancient tiny hamlet of Botriphnie, local historian J.F.S. Gordon (1880) told us that:
“About 40 years ago, a Cross of rude picked stone, in low relief, and about 5½ feet high, by about 3 feet broad, stood within the Kirkyard of Botriphnie. Unfortunately, about the time indicated, the Stone was broken up by a Blacksmith, who used it as a Hearth for his Smiddy! This had probably been the ancient Cross of St Fumack’s Fair of Botriphnie.”
This little-known saint has a feast day of May 3, when curious ceremonies were performed in and around his holy well, found just outside the churchyard to the northeast. Little is known about Fumac, but he was said to have been the first Christian missionary in this part of Scotland.
Gordon, J.F.S., The Book of the Chronicles of Keith, Grange, Ruthven, Cairney and Botriphnie, Robert Forrester: Glasgow 1880.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – TA 026 223
Archaeology & History
This curiously-named, lost holy well was to be found somewhere between the old terrace at West Field and the old road of West Acridge, but even when Henry Ball (1856) wrote about it, the site had passed into history. He told that,
“In the old enclosures to the west of the town was a spring of clear water called St. Trunnion’s well, and in a field in the West Acridge a very old thorn tree called St, Trunnion’s tree, which was standing in 1736; but who St. Trunnion was is not known…”
The close proximity of the tree with the well is highly likely. Throughout the British Isles there are many relationships where sacred trees and wells of the same name are next to each other and we have little reason to doubt this was the case here. However, unless local historians can uncover some old field-name maps, the exact location of the site seems to have been lost. It was named as St Tronians in 1665; with his sacred tree mentioned in early enclosure awards dated 1681 and 1697 respectively.
The enigmatic saint ‘Trunnion’ is thought to derive, not from some old hermit or heathen holy dood, but from the corruption of an early word: “a perversion of Trin-union or Tri-union, used as an asservation or oath”; although another option cited by Cameron (1991) is that it derives from “trinune, trin-une, referring to the Trinity”—which would explain the sanctification of the waters.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – TA 032 222
Archaeology & History
Not far from the middle of this small town there lived, many centuries ago, a sacred spring of water dedicated to St. Catharine. Described in local field-names from 1697 (as St. Catherin’s Well), all trace of it has long since vanished. Indeed, even when Henry Ball (1856) wrote about it, local knowledge of it had already fallen into obscurity. He could merely tell us that,
“At the end of Newport, in what was called “the Colony,” was St. Catharine’s Well, and the road from thence to Finkle lane was named Catharine street.”
St Catharine’s festival date—known as Cattern Day in some parts of England—is November 25.
Highlighted on the 1858 OS-map, two-thirds the way up the High Street, this long forgotten sacred well was described by the Ordnance Survey lads in their Name Book (1856) as “an excellent spring”—and no doubt an ever-flowing one, even in the greatest of droughts. But it had already been destroyed when they came here. It was mentioned in passing by William Chambers’ (1856), who described it as a “public fountain” dedicated to old Mungo, a.k.a. St Kentigern. But its position in the High Street wasn’t where it originally emerged. Local tradition told it was once on the slopes of Venlaw immediately north of the town, possibly making it into the folklore category of “Wells that Move”—usually because the spirit of the place has been offended.
But in truth, little is known about its mythic history. Its origin seems, as with so many ancient sites, entangled in what Dr Gunn (1908) in his definitive work on the history of Peebles church explained, the heathen “superstitious regard for fountains”, pre-dating the christian dedications. St Mungo himself, said Gunn,
“is remembered in Peebles to-day by his holy well upon the slopes of Venlaw, hallowed by its use in the Sacrament of Baptism.”
It’s profane history tells simply that, in 1728, its waters were piped into the trough on High Street for public use. It became damaged sometime in the early 19th century, but some remains of the stonework were found when roadworks were done here in 1845. It would be good if we could recover further information about this important holy well.
Chambers, William, A History of Peeblesshire, W. & R. Chambers: Edinburgh 1864.
Long since gone, there are very few references to this once sacred site, which seemed to comprise of three sacred wells next to each other, each with its own formal dedication. This would have made it one fuck of an important place in early- and pre-christian times. But even when Thomas Colby (1837) and his mates surveyed the area, it seems like it was on its last legs. He told that:
“As connected with the ancient history of Derry the sacred springs, called St. Columb’s Wells, claim some notice in this place. They are, or rather were, three in number — for one has been dried up, or diverted from its original locality — and are situated near the Roman Catholic chapel, outside the wall. It appears from the Irish annals that each of these wells had its peculiar name, one being called Tobar Adamnam, another Tobar Martain, and the third Tobar Colum — but the two former names are now quite forgotten, and the springs are popularly called St. Columb’s Wells. They are regarded with much superstitious veneration by the Roman Catholic peasantry, but no celebration of St. Columb’s festival is now held at them.”
The wells were found very close to St. Columba’s bullaun stone, which possessed its own healing abilities. The two sites had symbiotic ceremonial relationships with each other, doubtless performed in bygone centuries on St. Columba’s old festival date of June 9.
Colby, Thomas, Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry, HMG: Dublin 1837.
Doherty, William, Derry Columbkille, Brown & Nolan: Dublin 1899.
A mile south of Kislingbury village, just by the roadside is the old Hill Farm. In times gone by—as the early OS-maps show—a trackway led from here, westwards, for just a few hundred yards, until it reached the old farm of Hollowell Hill, all trace of which has long since gone. The farm owed its name to the existence of a holy well mentioned briefly in 14th century records in the Cartulary of St. Andrews, Northampton, where it was described as Halywellhille, or the Holy Well on a hill. All trace of it seems to have been lost. A ‘Spring’ that is shown on the 1885 map, a few hundred yards south of the old farm, seems to be the closest contender, but it seems more likely that the well was adjacent to, or beneath the farm-building.
Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Northamptonshire, Cambridge University Press 1975.