St. Helen’s Well, Thorpe Hesley, South Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost): OS Grid Reference – SD 370 960

Archaeology & History

In Rob Wilson’s (1991) study on the saints and wells of South Yorkshire, he mentions this site which, it would seem, may have been lost to history.  In Wilson’s site-entry for the St. Helen’s Well at nearby Barnburgh, he tells that,

“There may have been other wells in South Yorkshire dedicated to St. Helen… Two 18th century surveys by William Fairbank list St. Helen’s Fieldin Thorpe Hesley and St. Ellen’s Field in Wentworth.”

Around ten different wells are highlighted in the village itself on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, with a number of others scattered in the surrounding fields.  Any one of these may be the well in question.  Much of the region was badly disfigured by the Industrialists in their usual desecration of the landscape, which may make any recovery of this site impossible.  However, a foray into the whereabouts of William Fairbank’s survey could be worthwhile — and if St. Helen’s Field is one that remained untouched by local mining, the site could be recovered from its present “lost” status.

(Please note: the grid-reference cited above is an approximation until further data allows us to correct it.)

References:

  1. Wilson, Rob, Holy Wells and Spas of South Yorkshire, Northern Arts: Sheffield 1991.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


St. Mary’s Well, Wallingwells, Nottinghamshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 572 840

Archaeology & History

Old photo of St Mary's Well

Old photo of St Mary’s Well

First mentioned in Pipe Rolls and referred to by the founder of Wallingwells Benedictine Priory (founded around 1150 CE) as ‘juxta fonts et rivum fontium’, the site Wallingwell or originally Waldon-by-the-Wells, may be significant.  The name refers to ‘bubbling wells’, but whether these wells were dedicated appears to be unknown, although it does seem likely.  Indeed, an anonymous article from the Worksop Guardian dated 1929 on the Wallingwell Estate, shows the well arising under a rough stone work arch beside the site of a lake.  Close by, appears to be a grotto of a similar construction. The article states that the grotto was built 250 years (from 1929 this suggests a date of 1679 which appears a little too early for this folly, a date in the 18th century being more likely). This was done by Thomas White using stone from petrified springs in Derbyshire. No reference is made of the well, but one assumes that it was built at the same time, but whether White was constructing a folly around an existing traditional site again is unknown.

Baker (2000) refers to the castle folly but fails to reference these sites suggesting that it had vanished. However, grotto and well still exist in the overgrown and forlorn garden to the back of the house.  The grotto is well-preserved, although signs of ruination are evident and the urn within has gone.

The internal brickwork

The internal brickwork

The overgrown well

The overgrown well

St. Mary’s Well is the most ruined. The archway appears to have fallen or been knocked down but the channel or basin the spring flows into still exists. Observation underneath a flattened stone covering the channel show that the spring flows from a pipe further up and under a series of neat brick arches. It is clear that the well structure was never accessible as it abutts onto the Lake, but was designed to be seen from the other side of the Lake. This view now is