Gerchew Well, Balfron, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Rid Reference – NS 579 884

Archaeology & History

One-and-a-half miles east of Balfron, this curiously-named well could once be seen – and indeed may still be there.  Mentioned just once in D.S. Buchanan’s (1903) Guide as a well-known place, I’ve been unable to locate it and can find no other accounts of the place. He wrote:

“A little beyond Dailfoil there is a road to the right, down which, about 200 yards, there is a stile over the fence, only a few feet from the famous Gerchew Well, on the banks of the Endrick.  Here the visitor can repose for a time under the shade of the trees, and quench his thirst in its pure, cool, and bubbling waters.”

His directions seem to indicate it as being just off the small road that runs to the ruins of Easter Gerchew, but there is nothing of note hereby.  A half-mile away was Wester Gerchew house, which seems contrary to his directions —and there’s nothing in evidence there either.  And so I enter it here in the hope that someone might be able to relocate this healing well. (the grid reference is an approximation based on Buchanan’s description)

References:

  1. Buchanan, D.S., Buchanan’s Popular Illustrated Guide to Strathendrick, Aberfoyle and District, J. & C. Buchanan: Balfron 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Pancras’ Well, Marshfield, Gloucestershire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – ST 766 743

Archaeology & History

In R.C. Skyring Walker’s (1928) fine survey of Gloucestershire’s holy wells, he lamented the passing of this site, telling how

“it is sad to relate that this well has totally disappeared and its precise site is unknown.”

Since those words, the situation regarding its whereabouts has not been resolved.  First mentioned in Samuel Rudder’s (1779) work, the main clue we’ve got regarding its whereabouts is his description of the adjoining hamlets and village tithes:

“Westonton, formerly called Old Marshfield, or Little Marshfield.  It has been a distinct parish, called St Pancras, according to Sir Robert Atkins, and a well in this hamlet still bears the name of that saint.”

‘Well’ on 1886 OS-map

Westonton is the old farmhouse of Westend Town less than a mile northwest of Marshfield where, on early Ordnance Survey maps, a Well is shown.  To the north of this is Springs Farm.  This latter name probably has no bearing on St Pancras’ Well; but the location cited by Rudder of the well being in Westend Town gives us a damn good indicator as to where local historians should dig for this forgotten sacred site.

The Well was described in T.D. Fosbroke’s (1807) work, but only in passing.  St Pancras’s festival date is April 3. (the grid reference cited for this well is an approximation)

References:

  1. Fosbroke, Thomas D., Abstracts of Records and Manuscripts Respecting the County of Gloucester – volume 2, J. Harris: Cirencester 1807.
  2. Rudder, Samuel, A New History of Gloucestershire, S. Rudder: Cirencester 1779.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of Gloucestershire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1964.
  4. Walters, R.C. S., The Ancient Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire, St Stephens Press: Bristol 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Slaughter’s Well, Lechlade-on Thames, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SU 215 995

Archaeology & History

Not listed in the field-name surveys of the town, the name Slaughter Well was obviously a folk-name given to it by local people.  The place was mentioned in an unpublished manuscript that Adin Williams’ (1888) managed to lay his hands on, where it was mentioned in relation to the missing pyramidal Market Cross.  Its waters were “said to be medicinal.”  The name of the well was said to derive from a battle here between Oliver Cromwell’s men and the Royalists.  At this place,

“an officer was shot, and this incident gave the name ‘Slaughter’ to the well.”

References:

  1. Williams, Adin, Lechlade: Being the History of the Town, Manor and Estates, The Priory and the Church, E.W. Savory: Cirencester 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lady Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4026 3072

Also Known as:

  1. Our Lady’s Well

Archaeology & History

Lady Well on 1776 map

One of at least five sacred wells that could once be visited in Dundee: like its compatriots they have all fallen under the hammer of the Industrialists and flow no more.  Our Lady’s Well could once be seen, said Maxwell (1884), “flowing from under the Chapelshade Braes,” its waters “bright and sparkling,” but today it has been drained and laid to rest beneath the road.  Its memory however, has been preserved in the modern place-names of the Ladywell Roundabout and the nearby Ladywell Avenue.

The well was mentioned as far back as 1409 when, as Alex Lamb (1895) found, it was referred to in a contract between the Constable of Dundee and the burgesses.  It flowed freely until the beginning of the 18th century when, as Maxwell told us, “the water from the Lady well was impounded and conveyed in pipes for supplying other cisterns throughout the town.”  Previously, the water from here was one of many springs and burns that fed the larger Castle Burn down to the sea.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Mary’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 401 301 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

Cited just once in the “Register of the Great Seal” (Registrum Magni Sigilli) in the year 1512 CE, this Fontis Beate Marie, or Well of St. Mary has long since disappeared.  Its exact location in the city has been forgotten, but it seems likely to have been close to St. Mary’s Church.  Further research is needed.

Links:

  1. Saints in Scottish Place-Names

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Clement’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4035 3024

Also Known as:

  1. Bishop’s Well
  2. Saint’s Well

Archaeology & History

One of at least five sacred wells that formerly existed in old Dundee, this one dedicated to St. Clement was associated with the ancient church, also of his name.  It could be found a short distance south of the church—itself long gone—”rising out of a knoll overhanging the river bank,” wrote Alexander Maxwell (1884) and possessing considerable renown to local people.  This great Dundee historian found several early references to it in old council registers: one of which, from 1589, described a conflict regarding the building of a school on land owned by Andro Renkyne.  And it was on this piece of land where St. Clement’s Well emerged.  The school was built and then Rankyne built a gable up to the edge of the school but, in doing so, cut off his own access to the holy well.  This somewhat short-sighted action of Renkyne’s was subsequently remedied in 1607 by Dundee Council.   Maxwell told us:

“The Council “grantit him licence to strike furth ane windok in the north side wall of his tenement in St. Clement’s kirkyard, near to the well in the schoolhouse closs, or within the bounds of the said well, to the effect he may draw water furth of the well to his awn service, with this provision that he hald the windok continually close, except at sic time as the water is drawn thereat, and that he close up the windok with stane wark quhenever he beis requirit.”

The waters—”reputed to have sovereign virtues”— were protected and covered by an old well-house.  When Alex Lamb (1895) came to write about it he told that it was of a circular form with “unmistakable traces of splendid workmanship.”  On its stone roof was what seemed to be a somewhat crude carving of a bishop and because of this it acquired the name “Bishop’s Well.”  Another title given it by some locals was the Saint’s Well.

In the middle of the 19th century the remains of the well-house could still be seen, albeit in a state of neglect between the school building and Renkeyne’s house.  But their end was nigh.  Maxwell continued:

“When the buildings were demolished a few years ago, the saint’s old well — its water yet pelucid and fresh — was discovered at the angle where the school joined to Andro’s house. Above it was the window which he struck furth for drawing water; but it had long before been built up and the purpose of it forgotten, and its curiously recessed position and uncouth masonry only served as a puzzle for ingenious antiquaries.”

Subsequently he lamented the demise of the well telling how it had “been covered over by the extension of the Townhouse.”

Folklore

Alexander Maxwell (1891) told how the church was used as a shrine by local people and fishermen, as St. Clement of Rome had been cast into the sea chained to an anchor and so became the patron saint of sailors.  He thought such properties, “would, no doubt, be in request for the supply of ships.”

St. Clement himself was a very early, first century saint, said to have died in 99 CE.  His festival date is 23 November.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.
  3. Maxwell, Alexander, Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1891.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on St Clement’s Well

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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

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