St. Mark’s Well, Easterhouse, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 667 653

Archaeology & History

St Marks Well on 1864 map
St Marks Well on 1864 map

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?

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
  2. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  3. Drummond, Peter, An Analysis of Toponyms and Toponymic Patterns in Eight Parishes of the Upper Kelvin Basin, University of Glasgow 2014.
  4. Eliade, Mircea, The Myth of the Eternal Return, Arkana: London 1989.
  5. Greene, E.A., Saints and their Symbols, Sampson Low: London 1897.
  6. Hole, Christina, Saints in Folklore, M. Barrows: New York 1965.
  7. Wright, A.R., British Calendar Customs: England – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: London 1938.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.862711, -4.130681 St Mark\'s Well

Todds Well, Garthamlock, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 66826 66603

Also Known as:

  1. Back o’ Brae Well

Getting Here

Site location on 1864 map
Site location on 1864 map

Many ways to get here, via the M8 or the B806. Just get to the Glasgow Fort shopping centre on the northern edge of Easterhouse, above Provan Hall.  At the T-junction where the road from the Fort meets Auchinlea Road, note the sign saying ‘Todds Well’.  Walk along the winding path, keeping to the lower side, and as you swing round the small hill, keep your eyes peeled for the small burn emerging from the shrubs 10-20 yards off the track.  That’s the place.

Archaeology & History

Follow the track past the sign
Follow the track past the sign

Thankfully this site still exists and the waters—slow though they flow—are quite drinkable (us lot drank here anyway!).  It was illustrated on the early OS-map of the area as the ‘Back o’ Brae Well’—no doubt gaining its name from the surveyors who took the directions to the place as its title!  At the point where the spring water emerges from the Earth, very overgrown remains of low walling marks the opening well-head, and a number of larger stones mark the course of the tiny burn as you walk towards the track (though these could be more recent).

Getting ready for a drink!
Getting ready for a drink!
The slow-flowing water source
The slow-flowing water source

Thought to derive its name from the old word todd, meaning ‘fox’ (Grant 1973), a variant on the word may have meant that children’s games were played here (but without a confirmation of this in local folklore, we should urge caution).  As well as being used by local people, the water from Todds Well was one of the places used by them there ‘rich’ folk who lived at nearby Provan House.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 9, SNDA: Edinburgh 1973.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the other doods – Nina Harris, Paul Hornby and Frank Mercer – in our visit to this site.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.874105, -4.130081 Todds Well

Mary’s Well, Easterhouse, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 68613 65094

Archaeology & History

This old well, named after Queen Mary (one of at least three dedicated to her in Lanarkshire), was illustrated on the earliest Ordnance Survey map of the area in 1864.  Local tradition tells us that the site gained its name when the great Mary Queen of Scots visited this old healing well, amidst a period when she stayed at Provan Hall 1½ mile away.  Both she and her horse stopped and drank here for refreshment.

Site of Mary's Well
Site of Mary’s Well
Mary's Well on 1864 OS-map
Mary’s Well on 1864 OS-map

In the 19th and early 20th century, the well was converted into a pump and supplied the water to a row of cottages that used to be here.  When we visited the site yesterday, no trace of the pump, nor any spring of water could be found.  It seems that a huge pile of industrial crap has been piled on top of the well, then trees planted to give the impression that Nature has taken back the place.  The well seems to have been completely destroyed (the photo here shows the spot where the well should be, just a few yards into the young trees).  Due to this site being an important part of Scotland’s heritage, its ignorant destruction must be condemned.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the team – Nina Harris, Paul Hornby and Frank Mercer – for their work here. And to Dan Holdsworth and John Bestow for their additional input.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.861092, -4.100743 Mary\'s Well