Holy Well, Baildon, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1609 3961

Archaeology & History

This site is all but unknown to the great majority of folk in Baildon, and even some of the local historians have let it slip from their investigative tendrils.  According to the primary Baildon historian, W.Paley Baildon, it was first known as the ‘Halliwell Holy Well’.  In his magnum opus (1913-26) of the township he relates that,

“The 1852 Ordnance map marks Halliway Banks Wood to the south of Langley Lane, with a well just below it, and a footpath from Holden Lane to the well.  Halliway, I think, is a corruption of Halliwell, the ‘holy well,’ with the special footpath leading to it and nowhere else.  Haliwell Bank occurs in (the Baildon Court Rolls of) 1490, when it formed part of the property held by William Tong of Nicolas Fitz William.”

This etymology is echoed by the great place-name authority A.H. Smith (1954).  It also caught the attention of archaeologist Andrea Smith (1982), in her investigation of twenty-five holy wells in the West Yorkshire region.

“Many wells,” she wrote, “are recorded simply as ‘Holy Well,’ or the various forms ‘Halliwell,’ ‘Helliwell’ and ‘Hollowell.’  It is possible that in these instances the identity of the patron saint or guardian of the well has been forgotten, which may be the case with the site at Collingham, now known as Hollowell.”

Site of the Holy Well in 1852

The well itself can no longer be seen.  When I looked for the site in 1982, I found that to the right of where the 1852 map showed it, was a waterworks lid covering the old holy waters, just in the trees atop of the field beneath a great sycamore with a number of small stones roughly encircling the site: perhaps the only possible relics of the century before when the waters would have been used.  A stone trough was situated at the bottom of Holden Lane, fed by the waters from the Halliwell and from here the course of the stream meandered down the side of Slaughter Lane, now known as Kirklands Road.  The land around Halliwell became known as Kirkfield, or field of worship.

A local resident told how during autumn and winter, the left side of the field gets extremely boggy – the region were the old stream ran from the old well, along which dowsers have found aquastats abound.  Now however, houses have been built where the waterworks-lid used to be and is likely to be in someone’s backyard, all but forgotten.

Folklore

According to local lore, the site of this most ancient of holy wells was found in the warmest place in the Baildon district.  Whilst its geographical position doesn’t necessarily suggest this (although it did face south, into the sun), this lore may reflect some healing aspect of the well that has long since been forgotten.

Perhaps relevant to Andrea Smith’s comment about there being ‘guardians’ at holy wells is found in folklore relating to nearby Holden Lane: locals in the last century also referred to it as Boggart Lane, so called after the Boggart which was seen there in the form of a spectral hound that was said to possess large glowing red eyes and was a sign of ill omen.  Modern sightings of the spectral hound, which appeared along the road which led to the old well, are unknown.

References:

  1. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
  2. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1954.
  3. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.852504, -1.756778 Holy Well, Baildon

Tun Well, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1822 3593

Also Known as:

  1. Tunny Well

Archaeology & History

Tun Well, on 1893 map

First mentioned in local history accounts from 1618—as the Tunwells—it was highlighted on the first OS-map of Eccleshill in 1851.  Located on the aptly-named Tunwell Lane, it was a deep well covered by a large flat slab of stone, at the back-end the old Victorian mill.  The stone was put there to prevent children falling into it.  Some old locals thought the name of the place derived from a ‘tun’, or hundred, meaning it to be a hundred feet deep; although as A.H. Smith (1961) tells, tun could equally relate it to be one of Eccleshill’s town wells, of which there were several.  It used to be one of the principal drinking supplies for the village and was said to rarely run dry.  In William Ranger’s (1854) survey, he told this to be one of the sites to which local people relied in times of drought, where the land-owner allowed local folk to collect their supplies.

Folklore

The old cobbled Tunwell Lane was long ago supposed to be the haunt of a phantom black dog: a visionary precursor of death and Underworld guardian. Its spirit came and went into the deep well.  I remember hearing tales of this when I was a young lad, as the old women who worked in the adjacent mills spoke of it.  The ghost of a so-called ‘white lady’ was also said to walk along Tunwell Lane.

In more recent times, Val Shepherd (2002) included this in her short survey of wells in the area as being on “an alignment” with Eccleshill’s Moor Well and Holy Well.  She thought “it may be part of a ley line”, but her alignment is inaccurate and doesn’t hit the spots.

References:

  1. Crapp, H.C. & Whitehead, Thomas, History of the Congregational Church at Eccleshill, Watmoughs: Idle 1938.
  2. Ranger, William, Report to the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary Condition of the Inhabitants of the Township of Eccleshill, George Eyre: London 1854.
  3. Shepherd, Val, Holy Wells of West Yorkshire and the Dales, Lepus: Bradford 2002.
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.819331, -1.724729 Tun Well

Jim Craven’s Well, Thornton, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference — SE 0967 3251?

Archaeology & History

Is this the site of the lost Jim Cravens Well on the 1852 map?

Another well with considerable supernatural renown was this little-known site near the old village of Thornton, on the western outskirts of Bradford.  We’re not 100% sure about its exact location, but the grid-reference cited here is of an old ‘Well’ that was highlighted on the first Ordnance Survey map of the region, at the end of solitary path which led to it and nowhere else.  Our only documentary information comes from Elizabeth’s Southwart’s (1932) fine old book on the folk life of the old village, as it once was.  At a place once known as Bent Ing Bottom, just south of the old village, is where it used to be known.  The name of this Well is also curious, as no historian has yet worked out who the ‘Jim Craven’ was, nor what his relationship to the site might have been.  It’s the folklore of it, however, which brings it the attention it deserves.

Folklore

In Elizabeth Southwart’s (1923) work, she told us that the place once known as “Bent Ing Bottoms have lost their romance.” She continued:

“Whether the golfers have driven it away—for the fields now form part of the Thornton Golf Links—or whether the advance of modernity in other forms is to blame, it is difficult to say.  Once they were the haunts of “Peggy-Wi-T’-Lantern” and the Bloody-tongue.  Peggy, a dame in a white mob cap, kilted skirt and white stockings, walked about with a lantern, enticing the unwary traveller to his doom.  She was given to wandering, for, they say, Jim Craven Well, half a mile away, was a place to be avoided after nightfall.

“The Bloody-tongue was a great dog, with staring red eyes, a tail as big as the branch of a tree, and a lolling tongue that dripped blood.  When he drank from the beck (known as the Pinch Beck, PB) the water ran red right past the bridge, and away down—down—nearly to Bradford town.  As soon as it was quite dark he would lope up the narrow flagged causeway to the cottage at the top of Bent Ing on the north side, give one deep bark, then the woman who lived there would come out and feed him.  What he ate we never knew, but I can bear testimony to the delicious taste of the toffee she made.

“When the dark was coming we used to sit on the filled-in pit, which makes a hump in the middle of the field, and wait for him.  The sun would sink redly, through the arches of the viaduct, the trees that lined the beck would grow an ever darker green until they became black, the beck would begin to gurgle and gulp in a queer way; and down in the hollow we would hear a whimper, a whine, a moan, a snarl.  Then, with scalps and spines playing queer tricks, we would wait and wait.  But none of our little band ever saw him, except one girl, and she saw him every time.

“One Saturday a girl who lived at Headley came to a birthday party in the village, and was persuaded to stay to the end by her friends, who promised to see her ‘a-gaiterds’ if she would.  As soon as the party was over the brave little group started out.  But when they reached the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue, one of them suggested that Mary should go alone, and they would wait there to see if anything happened to her.

“Mary was reluctant, but had no choice in the matter, for go home she must.  They waited, according to promise, listening to her footsteps on the path, and occasionally shouting into the darkness:

““Are you all right, Mary?”

““Ay!” would come the response.

“And well was it for Mary that the Gytrash had business elsewhere that night, for her friends confess now that at the first sound of a scream they would have fled back to lights and home.

“We wonder sometimes if the Booody-tongue were not better than his reputation, for he lived there many years and there was never a single case known of man, woman or child who got a bite from his teeth, or a scratch from his claws.  Now he is gone, nobody knows whither, though there have been rumours that he has been seen wandering disconsolately along Egypt Road, whimpering quietly to himself, creeping into the shadows when a human being approached, and, when a lantern was flashed on him, giving one sad, reproachful glance from his red eyes before he vanished from sight.”

Southwart later tells us that the ghostly dog travelled into the north and vanished.  From the description she gives of the children walking their friend to “the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue,” I can only surmise that the solitary well shown on the very first OS-map of Thornton at the coordinate given above is the place in question.

The ‘Bloody Tongue’ is first mentioned in Yorkshire folklore, I think, by Roger Storrs, in his article on holy wells in 1888, where he tells it to be one of the mysterious beings that live, usually at the bottom of the waters and almost universally used “to deter children from playing in dangerous proximity to a well.”

From the description of the waters turning red when the ghostly dog drank from it, we have a mythic account of when the waters occasionally turned red from the iron-bearing waters (chalybeate) which, obviously, wasn’t like this at all times.  Whether this was a sporadic, unpredictable flow of iron in the waters, or a cyclical pattern of the water-flows, we are not told (which would imply, moreso, that it was sporadic).  The folklore about this ghost and its appearance with another elemental creature along an old straight track running north from Upper Headley Hall to Thornton is intriguing—as in many old pre-christian traditions, North is the airt, or direction, representing Death; and black dogs are traditionally guardians of underworld treasures in the land of the Dead.  With the plethora of other animistic folktales once known in this district (boggarts or goblins were known in nearby woods, wells and farms) it is likely that the origin of such folklore dates way back into antiquity.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of West Yorkshire, forthcoming
  2. Southwart, Elizabeth, Bronte Moors and Villages: From Thornton to Haworth, John Lane Bodley Head: London 1923.
  3. Storrs, Roger, ‘Legends and Traditions of Wells,’ in Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal – volume 1 (ed. J. Horsfall Turner) 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Jim Craven's Well

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Jim Craven\'s Well 53.788820, -1.854705 Jim Craven\'s Well

Pickel Well, Birstall, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2180 2633

Archaeology & History

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

Seemingly built over in recent years, the Pickel Well was one of the main water supplies to the people of Gomersal and Birstall in earlier times.  Getting its name, probably, from the northern dialect word pikel or pickel, meaning “very heavy rain” (Joseph Wright [1903] associates it with the expression “raining cats and dogs”), this may be a description of the heavy flow of water which helped feed the large man-made ponds either side of the road.

The Monk Ings Field in which it was found, derives its name from the monks from Nostell Priory who lived here, centuries ago.  They would, no doubt, have drunk the water from this well.

Folklore

A very curious legend relates to this place. H.A.  Cadman (1930) told,

“that whenever a birth was expected in Great Gomersal, a pad-foot came out at night from the Monk Ing fields and shouted out, ‘Thee first or me first!’  This was said to be a warning to people not to go out.”

Padfoots were phantom black dogs, stories of which occur all over northern England and beyond.  They were ostensibly interpreted as omens of doom and bringers of Death.  This example at Gomersal is peculiar in that it is equated with birth, as well as giving warnings for local people to stay indoors, as is more usual.

Incidences of black dogs at wells are not uncommon. In West Yorkshire alone we find them haunting the waters at Low Moor, Idle, Thorp Arch, Eccleshill, Heaton and others.  Their nature is quite complex, but ostensibly derives from animistic cyclical notions of death and rebirth—hence their emergence sometimes from wells; and in this instance, presaging a local birth.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Zalmoxis – The Vanishing God, University of Chicago Press 1972.
  3. Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 4, Henry Frowde: London 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.732911, -1.671027 Pickel Well

Maiden’s Well, Glendevon, Perthshire

Healing Well: OS Grid Reference – NN 9703 0139

Also Known as:

1. Maiden Well

Maidens Well on 1866 map
Maidens Well on 1866 map

Getting Here

Follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Maiden Castle fairy hill.  About 100 yards before reaching the hill, on the right-hand side of the footpath between the tree-line and the small stream, you’ll see a small pool of water. This is Maiden’s Well.

Archaeology & History

Maiden's Well - and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind
Maiden’s Well – and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind

A mile northeast of the faerie-haunted Butter Well, just on the border of Clackmannanshire and Perthshire, we find this little-known magickal spring.  More than a century ago, the story of this remote well was heard about hundreds of miles away by one Rev. Andrew Clark of Oxford, “who heard it from the late sexton of the parish of Dollar, in the county of Clackmannan” and who then mentioned its existence to the great Victorian Celtic scholar John Rhys (1901), who subsequently wrote of it as being “a fine spring bordered with flat stones, in the middle of a neat, turfy spot”, close to the legendary faerie hall of Maiden Castle. The well itself has now given birth to a pool whose waters, so folklore and text ascribe, always provides good clear water even in the height of summer.

The local historian Hugh Haliburton (1905) told that the well obtained its name from a princess who was held captive in Castle Campbell in the valley to the southwest, and that she was sometimes allowed out of prison by her captors, to walk to the well and drink its waters.

Folklore

This tale has been mentioned by various historians and, no doubt, has some religious relevance to the faerie lore of Maiden Castle, close by, Bruce Baillie (1998) told:

“A story associated with it states that it is haunted by the spirit of a beautiful maiden which only appears at night and, should any male attempt to kiss her, coronary thrombosis occurs.”!

The Maiden's Well pool
The Maiden’s Well pool

Earlier accounts tell of magickal rites that could be used to invoke the beautiful maiden, but once again dire consequences may befall the poor practitioner.

To this day, local people visit the well and make offerings to the spirit of the waters, as you’ll see if you come here.  Some of the remains here are very old; and a visit not long ago indicated that offerings were made even when surrounded by depths of snow in the middle of a freezing winter.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Fergusson, R. Menzies, The Ochil Fairy Tales, Clackmannan District Libaries 1985.
  3. Haliburton, Hugh, Excursions in Prose and Verse, G.A. Morton: Edinburgh 1905.
  4. Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore – Welsh and Manx: volume 1, Oxford University Press 1901.
  5. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.193924, -3.660908 Maidens Well

Glenrickard, Brodick, Isle of Arran, Argyll

Chambered Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NS 00499 34665

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 40204

Getting Here

Upright stone at Glenrickard

From Brodick, walk up the Glencloy dirt-track towards the friendly Kilmichael Hotel but turn off on the left shortly before hand, up another footpath, crossing the stream until you eventually reach the derelict house which was built into the edges of this old tomb.  Upon the small rise above here, at the edge of the forestry commission trees, you’ll notice the overgrown ruins of the old tomb.

Archaeology & History

The remains here are somewhat overgrown and ramshackled, but I still like this place and in my younger days used to spend a lot of time here.  It can get quite eerie in some conditions and seems to validate some of the folklore said of it.  The site was described in Balfour’s (1910) magnum opus as:

“Situated in Glen Cloy, on the moor above Kilmichael House, close to a cottage called Glenrickard.  There are no traces of a cairn or of a frontal semicircle. The chamber is formed of rather light flags, with their upper edges nearly on the same level, so that the monument is more like a series of cists than a chamber.  The roof and end stone have gone; there are two portal stones, but the gap between them is only 7 inches.  The chamber is directed N and S, with the portal to the south.  There have been three compartments, but they are rather smaller than usual, the third from the portal being only 3 feet 10 inches long by 2 feet 2 inches broad.  Two feet 6 inches from this compartment is another cist, which is possibly a short cist representing a secondary interment, and 10 feet farther north is a second ruined cist placed at a different angle.  This last has the appearance of a short cist, but it is not carefully constructed and differs little from the component compartments of the chamber.   The structure is anomalous, and may perhaps be regarded as representing a phase of degeneration in the transitional period.”

Glenrickard ground-plan (after Henshall 1972)
Glenrickard on 1868 map
Glenrickard on 1868 map

Audrey Henshall (1972) later descried the site in greater details in her own magnum opus and told that “two rude clay urns of the primitive flower-pot pattern (were) found in the chamber”, along with “calcined bones, said to have been in the two vessels.”

Folklore

Said by local people to be haunted, the spirit of the tomb was said to have been disturbed upon the building of the derelict house below it.  Ghosts of a middle-aged couple and young child have been seen in the house; whilst the spirit of the site can generate considerable fear to those who visit the place when it is ‘awake.’  To those who may visit this out-of-the-way tomb, treat the site with the utmost respect (and DON’T come here and hang a loada bloody crystals around the place in a screwy attempt to “clean” the psychic atmosphere of the place. If you’re that sort of person, don’t even go here! The spirit of the place certainly wouldn’t want you there).

References:

  1. Balfour, J.A., The Book of Arran: Archaeology, Arran Society: Glasgow 1910.
  2. Henshall, Audrey Shore, The Chambered Tombs of Scotland – volume 2, Edinburgh University Press 1972.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.564719, -5.165361 Glenrickard cairn

Fairy Loch, Arrochar, Argyll

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NS 3384 9937

Also Known as:

  1. Lochan Uiane

Getting Here

Fairy Loch on 1865 map

To get here, go down the A82 about four-and-a-half miles south of Tarbet (along the Loch Lomond road). Near a burn coming down the hill is an old house, long in ruin, and near the side of this is an old path – more for deer than city-folk. Go up through the wooded hillside for about a half-mile (amble the trek and make it a nice hour’s walk to get into the place). I’d take the stream itself, as you get more into the nature of the place once you get up the slope: there’s more to see, feel and a healthy water supply en route.

Folklore

This is more of a ‘holy loch’ than a holy well — for obvious reasons.  Although it’s not much bigger than a large pond, it is little-known, but has long had the tradition of being an abode of the sith, or faerie-folk. There is, of course, a tendency to find prehistoric remains where the sith have their repute, but there seems little on official records nearby.

Tradition tells that the loch was actually formed in ancient times by locals damming the burn for water supply. Another tells the same in order that a mill could be fed with constant water – though no mill can be found. If this latter tradition is true however, the fairy creature here could have been a brownie – though they are generally more a lowland elemental. One of the reasons the place has been named after the little people is that when certain light falls on it, at the right time of day and year, green triangular shapes emerge from the water formed by deposits hidden beneath the surface (hence the original Gaelic name, Lochan Uaine, or the Green Loch).

Local historian Norman Douglas echoed the folktale described many years earlier by the great John Gregorson Campbell (1900), telling that,

“another story is that the local people would deposit their sheeps’ fleeces in the Fairy Loch overnight, wish for them to be dyed a certain colour, and overnight the fairies would carry out their wish.”

References:

  1. Campbell, John G., Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, James MacLehose: Glasgow 1900.
  2. Douglas, Norman, Arrochar, Reiver Press: Galashiels n.d. (c.1971)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.158113, -4.676850 Fairy Loch