Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – TQ 731 614
Also known as:
- Pilgrim Spring (possibly?)
To find the Pilgrim Spring, the probable site see below, take the road to Blue Bell Hill out of Aylesford and after passing a footpath sign and red house, you will soon come across a farm road. (not signposted with a white gate). Drive or walk up here and the spring heads will be obvious, one beside the drive, one below the derelict farm buildings and a large one above them further along the footpath. An alternative route is via the Coffin Stone off the Burham road past Kits Coty.
Archaeology & History
The location of the Haly Well of Haley Garden, has caused a fair amount of confusion from Kent historians being some discussion has occurred regarding its exact location, although Hale Farm may have taken its name from it. Harris (1719) in his work on Kent Topography notes that a well, that had many virtues, in particular cleansing sin:
“Under Boreham (Burham, Burgham) formerly there was a fountain in this Parish (South Philipot) at a place called Haly or Holy Garden, which was accounted mighty sacred by common people, and had very uncommon virtues ascribed to it, and in the 17th year of King Richard II, The Friars Carmelites of Aylesford obtained a grant by letters Pateill to bring the water from to their monastery.”
Hunter (1811) refers to the friars building an aqueduct from the site. Finch (1925) believes that the well lay eleven hundred yards due west of the Kewland Wheel Well house. Although, he also states that other authorities believed that this wheel well itself was the site. This belief was discredited, however, when its well shaft was explored: no chambers or tunnels were found to lead off of from it. Sadly, there is no evidence of Great Kewland house, although some house debris down a nearby wooded quarry can be located, although being tightly fenced in, one is unable to find any remains of a well or local knowledge.
The possible location for the spring is Pilgrim’s Spring, (TQ 731 614) in the old community of Tottington. Finch (1925) in his a Tramp in Kentish Pilgrim Land describes a pool surrounded by sarsens believed to be of ancient origin:
“Spread around this beautiful spring head in plenteous disorder is a large number of huge stones, some thrown into the bed of the stream, others supporting its margins. Some half buried and peep through the ground. With Cromlech and altar thrown down and heaped around the spring, it is left to our imagination to picture this site of ancient water worship in the dim and distant past. The stone circle appears to have completely encircled the principal spring; hence there are reasonable grounds for concluding that too was devoted to water worship.”
Of course, the description is perhaps tainted by the ‘Druid’ obsession of Victorian antiquarians, so perhaps the stones are natural, although close to recognised ancient monuments. This spring would appear to be a likely watering hole for those visiting the nearby lost shrine of St. Stephen and maybe Halygarden Springs as the stream does travel towards Aylesford. Finch (1925) notes that five springs fed the moat that surrounded the ancient manor, and were according to Dr. Thorpe (1788) quoted by Finch, of petrifying quality so that sticks become encrusted in it. Today one can still trace both the manor and moat despite its dereliction. The springs still exist too, but the number of sarsens associated with them appears to have been reduced, and one would suggest that a number have been dragged from their position and placed on the Coffin Stone.
Another possible site is a Roman or Ancient Draw Well, (TQ 741 809) According to Finch (1925), there is a legend connecting the well with another that of Kewland by a secret tunnel. Finch (1925) notes that there is:
“…an elm tree and some stones of various sizes, beneath which is a well only some two feet in diameter, but tested to be 113 feet deep. This doubtlessly was sunk for a water supply for the Roman occupants hereabouts.”
Finch (1925) expected that this well was a local myth but was fortunate to find a sixty year old man, who as a boy, used to drop flints down it. He notes that:
“The elm tree is bowed over with age and its sinuous roots have all but closed the entrance to the well, leaving but a tiny aperture through which one could see the rough coping stones. With a little dexterity, one could drop a stone, time its fall, and hear the thus as it fell upon the accumulated debris on the bottom no casual visitor could find the well, even though accurately marked upon a plan, without a guide.”
Certainly, it is unmarked on the present maps, and attempting to uncover its location I was hindered by considerable ivy cover and rubbish. I did locate a large amount of brick and stone debris at one site and possibly remains of a dead elm, but conclusively.
(taken from the forthcoming Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Kent)
© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian and Pixyledpublications