Chalybeate Well, Blockley, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 166 350

Archaeology & History

This is one of several iron-bearing wells (chalybeates) that used exist in and around the village.  Mentioned briefly in Alfred Soden’s (1875) history of the parish, he told that,

“years ago, there were several chalybeate springs here, very strongly impregnated.  One of these was at the lower end of Westmacott’s Lane: of this spring there is now no visible trace, it having been built over.”

Although Mr Soden said nothing about the healing properties of this well, due to the mineral composition of chalybeates they always tend to be good fortifiers or pick-me-ups, being good for the blood.  And in this case, as the waters were “very strongly impregnated” they would have possessed some considerable local renown.

References:

  1. Soden, Alfred J., The History of Blockley, J.W. Parbury: Coventry 1875.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Blind Well, Blockley, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 163 347

Archaeology & History

It would seem that there’s no longer any trace of a healing well of some renown that once existed on the south side of Blockley village.  It is mentioned briefly in Alfred Soden’s (1875) history of the parish, where he wrote:

“At the back of what is called “Bath Orchard,” now belonging to Mr. John Herbert, there was a well called “Blind Well;” the medicinal properties of the water being considered to be remedial in cases of weak eyesight.  The writer has been informed that persons would come from a considerable distance to fetch water from this well for the purpose of bathing the eyes.”

References:

  1. Soden, Alfred J., The History of Blockley, J.W. Parbury: Coventry 1875.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wood Well, Batley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2369 2422

Archaeology & History

Wood Well on 1854 map

In days of olde, before folk had taps to turn to get water, they’d have to go to the nearby wells and streams.  Many of these places were never written about, even to the point where no place-names were recorded, simply because the writers and surveyors either didn’t talk to the right people, or the right people didn’t talk to the surveyors!  In many cases, the latter is all too true.  Such is the case with this long forgotten healing well, whose memory is only preserved through the pen of a local man who, in the 19th century, was fortunate to have been able to write…

We know that old wells were mainly the province of women in most cultures through history; and Isaac Binns (1882) intimated this in his brief notes about the Wood Well.  There’s nowt much to tell to be honest, but its location and lore need to be preserved.

Lamenting the loss of trees, Mr Binns told of the Wood Well’s proximity to Carper Wood: shown on the first OS-maps, but long since destroyed by the ignorance of modernity.  In his day, the water from here was fresh “clear water.”  This alone was good, but something extra in the water gave it that added healing ingredient.  It was used medicinally,

“good yet, the old women say, for sore eyes.”

But not long after he wrote those very words, the Wood Well was destroyed…

References:

  1. Binns, Isaac, From Village to Town: Random Reminiscences of Batley, F.H. Purchas: Batley 1882.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Sore Eye Well, Eldwick, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1286 4007

Also Known as:

  1. Loadpit Well

Archaeology & History

Sore Eye Well on 1852 map

Descriptions of this site are few and far between, despite it having a meaningful name.  First recorded on the 1852 OS-map, in the folklore of our ancestors this was a well that local people frequented to wash their face and it was said that the waters would take away the ills of those suffering poor eyesight or other ocular problems.  Rags were left hanging over an old rowan tree as offerings to the spirit of the water, in return for curing the afflicted eyes.

When I first came looking for this as a boy, I was frustrated to encounter the water authority’s metal cover ruining the site completely, leaving nothing of the old well as it once was.  Around the metal-cover was evidence of a small rock enclave that would have defined the spring as it emerged from the earth—although it was barely noticeable.  The remnants of a small path just to the right of the main footpath that reaches up the hillside is apparent, leading to the well.  Below it were the remains of a large, water-worn flat rock, with other stones set to its sides, where the water used to flow and be collected, but today everything’s dried up and there’s little evidence of it ever being here.

References:

  1. Shepherd, V., Historic Wells in and Around Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1994.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Eyebright Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2986 3331

Archaeology & History

First mentioned in the 1715 magnum opus of Ralph Thoresby, this old healing well has long since fallen victim to the careless Industrialists.  In his day, the well was there for all to use, saying:

“Eye-bright Well on a declining Ground, near the Monk-Pits, discovers its Virtues in the Name, being, long-ago, esteemed a Sovereign Remedy against Sore-Eyes.”

This note was subsequently copied in in Hope’s (1893) classic survey, with no additional comment.  In all probability, the name of the well derived from the presence of the herb Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) which, as is well known, is the best herb for ailments of the eye.  The water from the well, in combination with the herb that grew around it, no doubt increased its ocular healing abilities.

By the middle of the 19th century, the rise of Leeds city brought an end to its ancient flow and its location was eventually forgotten.  In Bonser’s (1979) survey of Leeds’ wells, he told how,

“the position of this well can be accurately determined: it was situated on sloping ground between Wellington Street and Aire Street, as clearly indicated on the 1847 (1850) OS 5ft to 1 mile (map).”

Location of Eyebright Well on 1852 map

However, in the much earlier survey of Leeds, Edward Parsons (1834) told us that this well was a hundred yards to the south, “near the line of the new road to the iron bridge across the Aire at the Monk Pits.”  And although it isn’t named, it should be noted that immediately across the River Aire, where Parsons stated, the 1852 OS-maps showed the “Site of an Ancient Well.”  This is very likely to be where it was.  Parson’s also echoed the local lore of the time, telling us that the Well was “a sovereign remedy for soreness of the eyes.”

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 16, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  5. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Faith’s Well, Hexton, Hertfordshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 10302 30328

Also Known as:

  1. Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record No. 1926

Archaeology & History

The site of the well is now in the garden of a house on the south side of the B655 Barton Road in Hexton, south west of St Faith’s church.  Prior to the Reformation, there was a small chapel of St Faith adjacent to the well containing a shrine to the saint, which was, with the well a place of pilgrimage.

N. Salmon, writing in 1728, told us:

St Faiths Well on 1882 map

“At Ravensborough, within a Quarter of a Mile, is a fine Spring, which runs down to Hexton, and meets there another Stream rising at the Berystede near the church, which is indeed a very remarkable one.  It comes pouring out of the Earth in such plenty, that it would turn a Mill in a very little Way; and hath been since the Roman Times thought worthy of a Saint’s Name.  It was called St Faith’s Well, to which the church also is dedicated, and the Image of St Faith was placed over it.”

The well is just to the north of the iron age hill fort of Ravensburgh and near the ancient prehistoric roadway of Icknield Way, so would certainly have been a welcome stopping point for prehistoric travellers in these chalk uplands.  In line with Salmon’s contention of its having been known since Roman times, Francis Taverner, the 17th century Lord of the Manor of Hexton wrote of the well having been used for oracular purposes by people who would throw an object onto the surface of the water:

“which if swamme above they were accepted and there petition granted, but if it sinke, then rejected which the experienced Prieste had arts enove to cause to swymme or sinke according as himselfe was pleased with the partye, or rather with the offering made by the partye.”

St Faith who was a third century martyr who was beheaded at Agen in Gaul.  Her saint’s day is 6th October, and her patronage was invoked inter alia by pilgrims, so the dedication of the well and nearby church may have been to ‘christianise’ a pre-existing oracular place resorted to by travellers on the Icknield Way.

Taverner again:

“There is a small parcel of ground adjoining the churchyard called “St. Ffaith’s Wick Court,” about a pole in measurement, anciently divided from Malewick by a ditch in the same place where now a large moat is made.  The greatest parte of this Wick lying upon a bedde of springs, and undrained, was very boggye towards the churchyard; but the west side being higher, the ground was well planted with oaks, willows, and bushes, near adjoyning unto which,  the craftye Priests had made a well about a yard deepe, and very cleere in the bottome, and curbed about, which they called St. Faith’s Well.

“Now over this well they built an howse, and in the howse they placed the image or statue of St. Faith, and a cawsey they had mad (which I found when I digged and levelled the ground) for the people to passe who resorted thither from farr and neere to visitt our Lady, and to performe their devotions reverently, kissing a fine-colloured stone placed in her toe.  This Lady was trimly apparelled, and I find in an old book of churchwarden’s accounts, in the reign of Henry VIII, that they had delivered unto the St. Ffaith a cote and a velvet tippet.  The Lady had no land to maintain her, that I know of, more than i acre lying in Mill Field, called at this day St. Ffaith’s acre, which, as being given to superstitious uses, came to the King’s hands at the dissolution, and is now parcel of the demesnes.  The house being pulled down, and the idol cast away, the well was filled up, yet an apparent mention of the place remained till my time, and St. Ffaith’s Well continued as a waste and unprofitable and neglected piece of land till such time as the footpath was turned through the midst of it to the outside on the south by the highway, and their clearing and levelling the ground, having been drained, and sunk the spring, I converted the same, in the year of our Lord 1624, into a little orchard.  The Lady Ffaith was a Virgin and Martyr of Agenne, in France, a.d. 1290.”

The well may have had healing properties too.  Herbert Tompkins (1902) informed us how,

“…to folk who have never stepped out of Hertfordshire (I have known several such) the well of St. Faith is indeed the “Well at the World’s End.”  The waters of that well were of miraculous efficacy, and an image of its saint was long preserved in the chapel of St. Faith Virgin, of which no stone remains.”

The parish church of Hexton remains dedicated to St Faith , as does the parish church of nearby Kelshall.  There was another St Faith’s Well at Leven in East Yorkshire.

References:

  1. Clutterbuck, Robert, History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford – volume 3, Nichols Son & Bentley: London 1827.
  2. Farmer, David Hugh, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press 1987.
  3. Hippisley-cox, R., The Green Roads of England, 6th Edition, Methuen: London 1948.
  4. Hope, Robert c., Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliot Stock: London 1893.
  5. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory or the Continuity of British Archaeology, Clarendon Press: Oxford 1908.
  6. Jones-Baker, Doris, Old Hertfordshire Calendar, Phillimore: Chichester 1974.
  7. Salmon, N., History of Hertfordshire, London, 1728.
  8. Tompkins, Herbert W., Highways & Byways of Hertfordshire, Macmillan: London 1902.

Links:

  1. St Faith’s Well on the Megalithic Portal

© Paul T Hornby, 2021

St. Philip’s Well, Keyingham, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 23584 25549

Archaeology & History

The Well shown on the 1855 6″ OS map

This holy well was formerly on the northern boundary of a field adjoining the north side of the A1033 west of Keyingham.

In view of the surviving folklore relating to the well it seems that its dedication to St. Philip may have been an effort by the Church to ‘Christianise’ it; and the St Philip here is not the Biblical Apostle, but a local saint – Philip Ingleberd (died c.1325 and also known as Philip Inglebred), whose memory was celebrated by a nearby Cross and a shrine at St Nicholas Church in the village.  The well and the cross may have been dedicated some time after 1392 following a ‘miracle’ relating to Philip’s tomb.  These were destroyed by the mob in the Reformation, although the cross-base survives.  It seems the well may have been restored in the late seventeenth century.  By the early twentieth century the well was described as laying on the Common to the west of the village, by then filled in, only showing signs it ever existed by making the ground near its site wet and boggy in a rainy season.

Folklore

George Poulson writing in 1841 told that,

“…a few fields more to the west is a well, called St. Philip’s Well; on a small stone are inscribed W. H. W. D. IG67. W. K.  It is called the wishing well; and the country lasses were in the habit of dropping pins, or even a sixpence into it, for the purpose of ensuring to themselves either particular or general good luck.”

William Smith (1923) described the well as one of six wishing wells or pin wells in Yorkshire and, moreover, the only ‘Cross Well’ in the East Riding.  At none of these wells was evil allowed to be foreshadowed, and the wells were only to show to a girl the portrait of her future husband.  He told us that,

“In every case the wish had to be with truthful devotion, and not divulged to any living person, or the desired consummation would not be gained…. Tradition adds that the well was much visited by maidens, who, on dropping their pins or coins, expressed the wish to see their lovers mirrored on its waters. Thus they kept a custom, dating to the time when the well was counted to be under the control of the fairies.”

And as Keyingham Common was once the abode of the fairies, it is worth noting that some 700 yards west of the site of the well a ‘Pans Hill’ is shown on the old maps, although whether this rural spirit of classical myth ever made it up to the East Riding is altogether another matter….

References:

  1. Arrowsmith, Nancy & Moorse, George, A Field Guide to the Little People, Macmillan: London 1977.
  2. Hope, Robert, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliot Stock: London 1893.
  3. Poulson, George, History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness, Thomas Topping: Hull 1841.
  4. Smith, Rev. William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A.Brown: Hull 1923.

© Paul T Hornby 2021

St. Hilda’s Well, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 9006 1102

Archaeology & History

Virgin’s Pump, c.1890

This is one of at least five wells dedicated to St. Hilda in North Yorkshire that my old colleague Graeme Chappell has uncovered over his many years of research.  It’s sadly been destroyed, and accounts of it seem to be few and far between; but from the short description of it by Mr J.C. Atkinson (1894)—and helped out by its later title—we at least know where it once was.

In his account of the old roads in the village, Grape Lane was mentioned as far back as 1396, and close by, he wrote,

“is a spring called Seynt-Hild-keld, possibly where the so-called “Virgin pump” stands, or stood, not so very long since.”

This ‘ere “virgin pump” is shown in an old photo taken about 1890, just round the corner from Grape Lane where, today, is the car park on Church Street, opposite The Endeavour.

Folklore

St Hilda was a 7th century saint who was reputed to have founded Whitby Abbey.  Her festival date was November 17.

References:

  1. Atkinson, J.C., Memorials of Old Whitby, MacMillan: London 1894.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Allington Hill, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 5801 5874

Archaeology & History

Site marked on 1886 map

In times of olde on this prominent tree-covered hill, a tomb of some ancient ancestor once lived.  It had already been destroyed by some retards by the time the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1885; but thankfully, memory gave its existence the note it deserved.  The place had thankfully been given the once-over by some archaeologists in the middle of that century, giving us a pretty good idea as to its size and nature.  Measuring some 90 feet across and fourteen feet high, this was no mere toddler!

A Mr W.T. Collings (1846) gave his Intelligence Report to the archaeological journal of the period, from which the following description is gained:

“The excavation of this tumulus in 1845 was made from east to west, commencing from the eastern side, in the direction of its centre, in which, at a depth of about three feet, there was found a cinerary urn in an inverted position, slightly tilted on one side, and surrounded by charcoal and burnt earth.  It was filled with charcoal, but contained only one small fragment of bone. This vessel, which was of the simplest manufacture, moulded by the hand, and sun-baked, measured in height five inches, and its diameter at the largest part was five inches and a half.  From the deep red colouring, and the general appearance of the surrounding soil, it would seem that a small hole had been first dug, charcoal and bones burnt in it, the vase placed on the fire in an inverted position, and the whole covered up.  About ten feet eastward of the central deposit, on the south side of the line of excavation, and half a foot deeper, a deposit of fragments of bone was found apparently calcined, but with little charcoal or burnt earth, forming a layer not more than three inches thick, and two feet in circumference.  There were several pieces of the skull, a portion of the alveolar process, inclosing a tooth, apparently that of a young person, pieces of the femur and clavicle, and other fragments.  A little to the north of this spot there appeared a mass of charcoal and burnt earth, containing nothing of interest. After digging five or six feet deeper, operations were discontinued; and on the next day shafts were excavated from the centre, so as completely to examine every part, without any further discovery, and in every direction charcoal was found mingled with the heap, not in patches, but in fragments.”

Collings reported the existence of another burial mound a short distance to the south.  It was one of at least five such tumuli in the immediate locale, all of which have been destroyed by retards in the area.

References:

  1. Collings, W.T., “Archaeological Intelligence,” in Archaeological Journal, volume 3, 1846.
  2. Hore, J.P., The History of Newmarket – volume 1, A.H. Baily: London 1886.
  3. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Oliver’s Mound, Richmond Park, Surrey

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 192 735

Also Known as:

  1. Oliver’s Mount

Archaeology & History

Roque’s 1746 map

Oliver’s Mound was highlighted as early as 1746 on John Roque’s map of the Country Near Ten Miles Round (London) as still standing.  One hundred and fifty years later, when the Ordnance Survey lads came to map the area, it had gone.  We don’t know exactly when it was demolished, so Historic England (not necessarily a good measure of accuracy) tell us its demise occurred “between 1760 and 1868”, so giving themselves at least some degree of safety!

As we can see in Mr Roque’s old map, an avenue of trees led up to the barrow.  This avenue will have been created when Richmond Park and its gardens were laid out.

The round barrow was most likely Bronze Age in origin.  The historian and folklorist Walter John (1093) reported that in 1834, three skeletons were found at a  depth of a yard beneath the surface.

Folklore

Site shown on 1873 map

Traditional tells that the name of this barrow comes from when the religious extremist, Oliver Cromwell, and his men, set up camp here.  A slight variant tells that Cromwell stood here to watch a skirmish.

References:

  1. Cundall, H.M., Bygone Richmond, Bodley Head: London, 1925
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Metheun: London 1936.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
  4. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory, Clarendon: Oxford 1908.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian