Pickel Well, Birstall, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2180 2633

Archaeology & History

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

Seemingly built over in recent years, the Pickel Well was one of the main water supplies to the people of Gomersal and Birstall in earlier times.  Getting its name, probably, from the northern dialect word pikel or pickel, meaning “very heavy rain” (Joseph Wright [1903] associates it with the expression “raining cats and dogs”), this may be a description of the heavy flow of water which helped feed the large man-made ponds either side of the road.

The Monk Ings Field in which it was found, derives its name from the monks from Nostell Priory who lived here, centuries ago.  They would, no doubt, have drunk the water from this well.

Folklore

A very curious legend relates to this place. H.A.  Cadman (1930) told,

“that whenever a birth was expected in Great Gomersal, a pad-foot came out at night from the Monk Ing fields and shouted out, ‘Thee first or me first!’  This was said to be a warning to people not to go out.”

Padfoots were phantom black dogs, stories of which occur all over northern England and beyond.  They were ostensibly interpreted as omens of doom and bringers of Death.  This example at Gomersal is peculiar in that it is equated with birth, as well as giving warnings for local people to stay indoors, as is more usual.

Incidences of black dogs at wells are not uncommon. In West Yorkshire alone we find them haunting the waters at Low Moor, Idle, Thorp Arch, Eccleshill, Heaton and others.  Their nature is quite complex, but ostensibly derives from animistic cyclical notions of death and rebirth—hence their emergence sometimes from wells; and in this instance, presaging a local birth.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Zalmoxis – The Vanishing God, University of Chicago Press 1972.
  3. Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 4, Henry Frowde: London 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.732911, -1.671027 Pickel Well

Moor Lane Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2071 2677

Archaeology & History

Moor Lane Well on 1847 OS-map

Moor Lane Well on 1847 OS-map

Not far from the old maypole, the Moor Lane Well was the innocuous-sounding site where legend told that a phantom horse was once seen running up and down the lane—said by old locals to be a “very ancient highway”.  It was also a place where we find an intriguing tale of local disrepute, that brought humiliation to the culprit from the entire village.

There used to be a custom called ‘Riding the Stang’ which persisted in Yorkshire until the end of the 19th century. Thought to be of Scandinavian origin, it involved the culprit being hoisted onto a platform, held up by poles, then carried around the village where the person lived in a most ignominious procession. It was invariably described as being a public punishment and humiliation for faults made by one’s wife. Anyway, in the early 1840s, said H.A. Cadman (1930),

“there were two families who lived at Brecks Farm.  I will not of course divulge their true names, so will describe one of them as the Jones family and the other as the Smith family.  Jones’ wife accused Smith’s wife of having polluted the drinking water and the Smith family left the farm and removed to the top of Moor Lane.  The Jones family wishing to make the most of the affair resolved that Mrs Smith’s effigy should ride the stang.  A long pole was obtained and the effigy was affixed to the centre.  Two men then took hold, one at each end, and walked up Moor Lane, folowed by a huge concourse of people.  The procession stopped opposite Mrs Smith’s house and repeated the nominee.  My informant, a dear old lady, would not tell me the whole of the verse, but it commenced thus:

“It’s neither your fault nor my fault that I ride this stang.”

“After all the verses had been repeated, the stang was taken round Gomersal, when ultimately the effigy was burned with the usual solemnities.

“The other instance of riding the stang occurred also in thge early ‘forties and I believe this was the last occasion of the stang being ridden.  On this occasion a man…was in the habit of beating his wife harder than his neighbours thoughts proper with the result that he had to be punished. Now Jim was a most religious man, but the same rites had to be observed as in the other instance,

“It was for Jim Vasey that religious man
He paid her, he paid her indeed and
If Jim doesn’t alter his manners
We will take his skin “…….” to the tanners.
And if the tanner doesn’t tan it well,
We’ll send it to…”

“One must regret that the old custom of riding the stang has died out, as it must have had its good points.”

Local people could, of course, simply bring it back again!  The Moor Lane Well was one of the main water supplies for the old villagers in bygone times, but seems to have disappeared under the modern houses.  There is, however, a small narrow band of trees where the old waters once ran, amidst which it might still be found—if luck is on our side…

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.736910, -1.687520 Moor Lane Well

Mannerly Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2107 2515

Also Known as:

  1. Manor Lea Well

Archaeology & History

The site is one of the 2 wells on the 1847 OS-map

The site is one of the 2 wells on the 1847 OS-map

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?

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mannerly Well

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Mannerly Well 53.722335, -1.682172 Mannerly Well

Gomersal Maypole, West Yorkshire

Maypole (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2068 2672

Archaeology & History

As in countless villages and towns across the British Isles, Gomersal also once had its maypole near or at the village centre.  We don’t know when the first maypole was erected in the village and many local sites were openly destroyed by rampant christian puritans and similar idiots.  It stood not far from the Moor Lane Well and was described by the regional historian H.A. Cadman (1930), who told:

“The Maypole was at the top of Moor Lane and one can imagine the welkin echoing to the very old song:

‘Come lasses and lads take leave of your dads
And away to the maypole hie.
For every fair has a sweetheart there
And the fiddlers standing by.
For Willy shall dance with Jane
And Johnny has got his Joan.
To trip it, trip it, trip it, trip it,
Trip it up and down.’

Yet as with maypoles up and down the land, testosterone-fuelled Springtime fall-outs happened.  Mr Cadman told:

“Very often May Day gatherings ended up with fights.  Great jealousy always existed between the inhabitants of Great Gomersal, Little Gomersal and Spen.  There is a tradition which has been handed down that the last Maypole in this district stood on Liversedge Green.  This Maypole was demolished in a fight by the Gomersalians and there is a similar tradition about the Maypole on Cleckheaton Green, so as Mr Frank Peel says, “It is evident that ancient inhabitants of Gomersal were more pugnacious than their neighbours.”  I have no evidence when the Gomersal Maypole ceased to exist, but there is abundant evidence to prove that there was one in Gomersal, the proof being that the vane is now in Batley Museum.  It is in the form of a fish.”

If anyone has any further information on this important relic, or its history, please let us know.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gomersal maypole

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Gomersal maypole 53.736462, -1.687978 Gomersal maypole

Doidy Poidy Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 209 260?

Archaeology & History

This bizarre-sounding well owed its name—if we are to accept H.A. Cadman’s (1930) version of history—to the local land-owner,

“Joseph Mortimer and it was so-called because Mortimer’s christian name was Doidy Poidy.”

But this seems unlikely.  The term ‘doidy’ is a local dialect word, seemingly found only in West Yorkshire, meaning ‘an overdressed person, especially female,’ (Haigh 1928), with doidy-poidy being rhyming slang for the same thing.  The english dialect magus, Joseph Wright (1900), proclaimed the same derivative, “a badly dressed woman, a dowdy.”  So it may have been that this title was endowed upon Mortimer’s wife.

Cadman told that the Doidy Poidy Well was one of the “chief wells” of Gomersal, implying that its waters were good and strong.  Its existence on what was known as “the old feasting grounds” may have played a part in the “public rejoicings which last for days… The feast was on the Monday on or before Lady Day.” (March 25th, around spring equinox)  However, Cadman assures us that the celebrations were started “when the Gomersal Cloth Hall was opened,” telling us that “this feast or fair is not therefore an ecclesiastical one.”

The exact whereabouts of the Doidy Poidy Well remains a mystery (the map-link, above, shows an approximation from the middle of Gomersal).

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
  2. Haigh, W.E., A New Glossary on the Dialect of the Huddersfield District, Oxford University Press 1928.
  3. Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 2, Henry Frowde: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Doidy Poidy Well

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Doidy Poidy Well 53.729982, -1.684691 Doidy Poidy Well