Bede’s Well, Hebburn, Jarrow, County Durham

Holy Well:  OS Grid-Reference – NZ 31987 64158

Getting Here

Bedes Well, Hebburn 1898

Bede’s Well on 1898 map

Gone down Adair Way and drive down as far as you can. Park and find the path back into the path this leads to the natural amphitheater down steps where the well is.

Archaeology & History

Surrounded by worn paving slabs in a small amphitheatre. It is reached by steps and surrounded by trees. The well is very dry, with broken stone work. Nearly lost under Victorian industrial growth, local people in the early 1900s became concerned with its plight and money was raised via an appeal in the Jarrow Guardian. Although some money was forthcoming, nothing appears to have happened until 1932 when it was enclosed in a railed enclosure with its name carved into the stone work either side of a gate way. When  Palmer’s shipyard slag heap was consolidated sadly spring was diverted leaving the well dry.

Bede's Well, Jarrow (6)St Bede has a long association with Jarrow but whether he knew of this well is unproved. The legend locally says that when living at St. Paul’s Monastery he would send the monks out to collect water from this well. However, it has been questioned why? Especially as the well is some distance away, a well was found enclosed in the site and in fact the river nearby would have been clean enough to drink. It is possible that the site derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon word baed meaning bathing place and as such perhaps the site was dug to provide a healing bath. Perhaps we shall never know, but what is clear is that the site is slowly disappearing into obscurity.

St. Bede's Well in 1908Folklore

The earliest reference to this site is Floyer in 1702 which notes that

“Nothing is more Common in this Country… for the preventing or curing of Rickets, than to send Children of a Year old and upwards, to St Bede’s… Well”

Bede's Well, Jarrow (2)

Brand (1789) says that:

“about a mile to the west of Jarrow there is a well, still called Bede’s Well, to which, as late as the year 1740, it was a prevailing custom to bring children troubled with any disease or infirmity; a crooked pin was put in, and the well laved dry between each dipping. My informant has seen twenty children brought together on a Sunday, to be dipped in this well; at which also, on Midsummer-eve, there was a great resort of neighbouring people, with bonfires, musick, &c”.

A report in the Sunderland Times quoted by Hope (1893) notes that:

“Still, when the well is occasionally cleared out, a number of crooked pins (a few years ago a pint) are always found among the mud. These have been thrown into the sacred fount for some purpose or other, either in the general way as charms for luck, or to promote and secure true love, or for the benefit of sick babies… In days when the ague was common in this country, the usual offering… was a bit of rag tied to the branch of an overhanging tree or bush”

A visitor reported an early morning journey to the well, where ‘he seated himself on a rail to enjoy the singing of the birds. Before long an Irishman came up, who had been walking very fast, and was panting for breath. He took a bottle out of his pocket, stooped down and filled it from the well, put it to his mouth, and took a copious draught. “A fine morning, sir”, said our friend. “Sure and it is”, replied the man, “and what a holy man St Bede must have been! You see, when I left Jarrow, I was as blind as a bat with the headache, but as soon as I had taken a drink just now, I was as well as ever I was in my life”. So he filled his bottle once more with the precious liquid, and walked away.

Bede's Well

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Bede\'s Well 54.971020, -1.501849 Bede\'s Well

Hastings Hill Cursus, Sunderland, Durham

Cursus: OS Grid Reference – NZ 3555 5381

Also known as:

  1. Hasting Hill

Archaeology & History

Aerial view of Hasting Hill cursus & enclosure remains
Aerial view of Hasting Hill cursus & enclosure remains

This site was discovered in the 1980s, following aerial surveying of the region.  The survey uncovered a number of previously unknown archaeological monuments in relative proximity to each other; the Hastings Hill cursus being just one.  There was also a causewayed enclosure and some round barrows some 700 yards south of Hastings Hill Farm. Although no distinctive remains of the earthworks can still be seen on the surface, limited excavation confirmed that significant remains survive beneath the ground. (in the aerial image here, note that the cursus in question aint the long thin crop-mark running to the top-left, but is the small, slightly rounded-end linear feature nearly touching the bottom-right of the oval enclosure)

A brief description of the remains on the Sunderland Council website gives the following information:

“Sections of the ditches of both the cursus and causewayed enclosure were excavated by the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham in 1980. The cursus is orientated north-south. At its northern terminus the cursus is 47m wide and is defined by a 1m wide, asymmetrical ‘V’ shaped ditch, which was 0.4m deep. The southern terminus has not been identified, but the cursus is at least 400m long. The causewayed enclosure lies 10m north west of the northern terminus of the cursus. It is an irregular oval, 92m by 65m, with its long axis orientated north-west, south-east defined by a 1m-2.2m wide ditch, which is 0.2m-0.3m deep. It has entrances in the north west and south east perimeter of the enclosure. One of the round barrows, which is 9m in diameter, is on the eastern perimeter of the enclosure. The other round barrow ditches are located just east of the cursus, 400m south of the causewayed enclosure. One of these has been measured at 20m-22m diameter. The cursus, causewayed enclosure and round barrows are interpreted as being of Neolithic date.”

References:

  1. Horne, P.D., MacLeod, P. & Oswald, A., ‘A Probable Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure in the North of England,’ in Antiquity Journal, March 2001.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Hastings Hill cursus

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Hastings Hill cursus 54.877943, -1.447618 Hastings Hill cursus