Redman’s Spa, Bingley Moor, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1159 4343

Also Known as:

  1. Redmire Spa
  2. Redmond’s Spa
  3. Richmond’s Spa

Getting Here

Redman’s Spa on 1851 map

From East Morton village, take the moorland road, east, and up the steep hill.  Where the road just about levels out there’s a right turn, plus (more importantly!) a trackway on your left which leads onto the moor.  Walk up this track for ⅔-mile until you get to the point where the moorland footpath splits, with one bending downhill to an old building, whilst the other smaller footpath continues on the flat to the north.  Go up here for 400 yards then walk off-path, right, for about about 150 yards.  But beware – it’s boggy as fuck!

Archaeology & History

On this featureless southern-side of Rombalds Moor, all but lost and hidden in the scraggle of rashies, a very boggy spring emerges somewhere hereabouts.  I say hereabouts, as the ground beneath you (if you can call it that!) is but a shallow swamp and its actual source is almost impossible to locate.  If you want to find the exact spot yourself, be prepared to put up with that familiar stench of bog-water that assaults our senses when we walk through this sort of terrain.  Few are those who do, I have found… But somewhere here, amidst this bog—and still shown on the OS-maps—is the opening of what is alternatively called Redman’s or Richmond’s Spa.  We don’t know exactly when it acquired its status as a spa-well, but the 18th century Halifax doctor, Thomas Garnett—who wrote the early work on the Horley Green Spa—appears to be the first person to describe it.  Garnett (1790) said how the place:

“was first mentioned to me by Mr W. Maud, surgeon, in Bradford, who went with me to see it.  It is situated on Romalds-moor, about two or three miles from Bingley, and goes by the name of Redmire-spaw.  The access to it is by no means good; the ground about it being very spongy and soft.  On the bottom and sides of the channel is deposited an ochrey matter, of a very fine, bright, yellow colour; and which I believe is used, by the country people in the neighbourhood, to paint their houses.  It sparkles when poured into a glass and has a taste very like the Tewit-well at High-Harrogate; which water it very much resembles in all its properties, and seems to be about the same strength… This water seems to hold a quantity of iron dissolved by means of fixed air.  Its taste is very pleasant; it is said to act very powerfully as a diuretic, when drank in considerable quantity, and may prove a useful remedy, in cases where good effects may be expected from chalybeates in very small doses; the fixed air, and even the pure water itself may be useful in some cases.  It is, however, necessary to drink it at the well, for it seems to lose its iron and fixed air very soon.”

I’ve drank this water, and believe me!—it doesn’t quite taste as pleasant as Mr Garnett espouses!  Its alright I s’ppose—but drinking water from a bog isn’t necessarily a good idea.  That aside, I find it intriguing to hear so much lore about such a little-known spring; and it is obvious that the reputation Garnett describes about this spa came almost entirely from the local people, who would have been visiting this site for countless centuries and who would know well its repute. Below the source of the well the land is known as Spa Flat, and slightly further away Spa Foot, where annual gatherings were once held at certain times of the year to celebrate the flowing of the waters.  Such social annual gatherings suggests that the waters here were known about before it acquired its status as a spa—which would make sense.  The remoteness of this water source to attract wealthy visitors (a prime function of Spa Wells) wouldn’t succeed and even when Garnett visited the place, he said how he had to travel a long distance to get here.

The origin of its name was pondered by the great Harry Speight (1898) who wondered if it derived from the ancient and knightly Redman family of Harewood, whose lands reached over here.  But he was unsure and it was merely a thought.  As an iron-bearing spring (a chalybeate) you’d think it might derive from being simply a red mire or bog (much like the Red Mire Well at Hebden Bridge), but its variant titles of apparent surnames casts doubt on this simple solution.

No one visits the place anymore.  Of the countless times I’ve wandered the moors, rare have been the times when I’ve seen folk anywhere near this old spring.  It is still coloured with the same virtues that Garnett described in the 18th century: the yellowish deposits, the boggy ground, much of which reaches to the truly dodgy Yellow Bog a short distance north and which should be completed avoided by ramblers after heavy rains (try it if y’ don’t believe me—but you’ve been warned!).

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, Experiments and Observations on the Horley-Green Spaw, near Halifax, George Nicholson: Bradford 1790.
  2. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  3. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.886929, -1.825155 Redman\'s Spa

Bishop’s Well, Tottenham, Middlesex

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 332 911

Also Known as:

  1. My Lady’s Hole

Archaeology & History

Long since gone after drainage operations on Tottenham Cemetery made the waters dry-up, this was one of several holy wells in the Tottenham area.  Its history has been described in various old tomes, but the most definitive is found in William Robinson’s (1840) classic on the parish of Tottenham, when the well was still visible.  He told us:

“There is a spring which issues from the side of a small hillock on the south side of the Moselle, nearly opposite the Vicarage, leading thence to the Church, called Bishop’s Well.  This spring was formerly considered famous for many strange and wonderful cures performed on the diseased by the use of this water.  It has been for some years neglected, but of late the owner of the field in which this well is, had it cleansed, and planted some trees round it, and put up posts and rails to prevent the cattle treading down the sides of it.  It is said that the water of this well never freezes.  In former times this well was in great repute from the purity of its water.  The ladies in the vicinity of it were accustomed to send their servants in the morning and evening for water for their tea, from which circumstance it was for many years known by the name of “My Lady’s Hole.”  The water of this well is not only esteemed for its medicinal qualities, but particularly for curing disorders of the eye.

“There were formerly many other springs about the village, especially one which issued out of the hill on which the Church stands; and another in Spottons Wood otherwise Spottons Grove, on the north side of Lordship Lane, which in the fifteenth century was of considerable notoriety; but none of which have in former times been so much frequented and held in such repute as Bishop’s Well.”

(Please note: the grid-reference for this site is an approximation)

References:

  1. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Robinson, William, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, Nichols & Sons: London 1840.
  4. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  5. Thornbury, Walter & Walford, Edward, Old and New London – volume 5, Cassell: London 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.602995, -0.078076 Bishop\'s Well

Ellen’s Well, Angle, Pembrokeshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SM 86913 03483

Archaeology & History

Ellen’s Well on 1869 map

Very little seems to be known about this apparently lost site, deemed to be an authentic holy well in Francis Jones’ (1954) fine survey: the ‘Ellen’ in question here being the legendary St Helen.  It was highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1869 and subsequently included in the Royal Commission’s huge Pembrokeshire (1925) tome, but when they came to visit the site they reported that “it could not be traced, nor any information obtained about it.”  Has it truly fallen back to Earth, or do any local historians and antiquarians know where it is…?

References:

  1. Jones, Francis, The Holy Wells of Wales, University of Wales 1954.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales & Monmouthshire: VII – County of Pembroke, HMSO: London 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.689556, -5.084312 Ellen\'s Well

Low Well, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1589 3132

Archaeology & History

Low Well on 1852 map

Along the now-lost Low Well Road between Little Horton and West Bowling, could once be found this innocuous-sounding water source.   Shown on the 1st OS-map of the area in 1852, the site was deemed to be little other than a ‘public well’.  At the end of the 19th century, a small well-house was built over the waters; and the years following that saw its complete demise.  Its name you would think relates to a position in the land, but the dialect word low, or lowe can mean “a flame, blaze, light, glow”, it can also refer to a prehistoric tomb.  However in this case it most likely derives from “a pond or standing pool”.

…And if some of you wonder why I have given this so-called Public Well the provenance of being a “sacred well”, please keep reading…

Folklore

Although it was deemed a simple ‘public well’ by historians and the public water authority, local folk knew there was much more to it than that!  In the Bradford area, this innocuously-named Well is the most promiscuously supernatural of all water sources, with a hidden history of magickians, ghosts and black dogs haunting its once ancient flow.  It was a site remembered as having oracular powers, where local people used it in scrying the future.  For such powers to work here, one had to gaze into the waters as they stilled at 6 o’ clock in the morning – a common time used by ritual magickians for the invocations of spirits.

The Bradford historian William Scrotum (1889) told us that in the 1860s, local people reported that the phantom black dog—or Bharguest as it was known—with its glowing red eyes, was seen coming out of the well after dark and scaring people half out of their wits.  Very soon people would not even venture out after dark for fear of encountering this great harbinger of Death.  Several years passed before local people called upon the abilities of a ritual magickian in the hope that he could lay the ghostly hound and bring peace and stability back to the hearts and minds of those living hereabouts.  Eventually, after much work, the magickian exorcised the waters and cast the black dog back into the depths of the Earth from whence it had come and, to this day, sightings of the spectral hound have stopped.

Water sources that possess ingredients of hauntings, magic and oracular properties are universally ascribed as ‘sacred’ in one way or the other.  In pre-industrial times I have little doubt that, amongst the animistic pantheon of local Bradfordians, this was no exception.

References:

  1. Scruton, William, Pen and Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1889.
  2. Wright, Joseph, The English Dialect Dictionary – volume 3, Henry Frowde: London 1902.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.777973, -1.760357 Low Well

Tammy Mill’s Well, Laurieston, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 910 790

Also Known as:

  1. Tammy Milns Well

Archaeology & History

This all-but-forgotten site situated somewhere on the north side of Lauriston was mentioned in Falkirk’s Notes & Queries (1906) journal, but its whereabouts is somewhat of a mystery (to me at least!).   In a series of question and answers about the site, the editor of the journal, James Love, told us:

“Mr Charles Brown, factor to the Marquis of Zetland, kindly informs us that on a late occasion there passed through his hands a copy of a feu contract by the Right Honorable Francis Lord Napier in favour of Alexander Cowie, brewer, at New Merchiston (now Laurieston), of a piece of ground lying to the north of Mary Street.  This is dated 7 August, 1762 and contains the following clause:  ‘Providing also that the said Alexr Cowie and his foresaid have the Liberty of the water of Tammy Milns Well in common with the said Lord Napier’s other vassals ay New Merchiston.'”

The well was mentioned again in 1781 with similar historical information.  As to the name of the well, Mr Love wrote,

“it would appear, from the circumstance, that an old infirm man belonging to the village, called Thomas Mills or Milns, used to sit with his wooden cup at the spring which flowed from the face of the hill, over which the present structure now stands, and served out to the weary passers-by the cooling and refreshing draught for any small pittance they in their generosity might think proper to give him.  After the lands of Lauriston passed into the hands of Sir Laurence Dundas, he took the advantage of such a copious supply of what then was pure water, and built the present reservoir over the spring, and had it conveyed to Kerse House by means of leaden pipes.”

But he fails to tell us what “the present structure” was that covered the well, nor the whereabouts of the “reservoir over the spring”; and as there’s no such feature on any of the Ordnance Survey maps at the time he wrote his article, nor beforehand, I remain puzzled as to its exact position.  This situation isn’t helped by the earlier description, which said it was found on “a piece of ground lying to the north of Mary Street”.  There are two wells literlly on the other side of Mary Street, but Kerse House meanwhile—whose water supply came from the well—is about 1½ miles to the north!  All in all there are more questions than answers here.  Added to this, in John Reid’s (2009) magnum opus on local place-names, the site is mentioned, albeit in passing, where he gives us the vague grid-reference of just NS 91 79, but this may just be educated guesswork on his part.  It would be good to know exactly where it was…

References:

  1. Love, James (ed.), “Tammy Mills (or Milns) Well, Laurieston”, in Local Antiquarian Notes & Queries, Falkirk – volume 1, 1906.
  2. Reid, John, The Place-Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, Falkirk Local History Society 2009.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.991537, -3.748943 Tammy Mill\'s Well

Petrifying Well, Grosmont, North Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 82844 06665

Archaeology & History

Petrifying Well on 1853 map

Petrifying wells are found across the British Isles and would be deemed as being medicinal, or curative at the very least.  In Jeremy Harte’s (2008) massive study, he infers that some of them will have been regarded as sacred or ‘holy’. Their ability to calcify objects would be seen as a very strange effect indeed!  Yet despite this Eskdale example being shown on the first OS-map in 1853, its history seems to have been forgotten.  Back then, you could find it on the east side of the Murl Slack Beck, nearly a mile north of Grosmont village.  I highlight the site in the hope that someone may be able to unearth something about its past and/or its present condition.

References:

  1. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 1, Heart of Albion Press: Marlborough 2008.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  54.448638, -0.723902 Petrifying Well

Holy Well, Somersby, Lincolnshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – TF 3417 7303

Also Known as:

  1. Halliwell

Archaeology & History

Holy Well on 1887 map

Curiously missing from Thompson’s (1999) Lincolnshire survey, this old watering place can apparently still be found in the appropriately named Holywell Wood, just north of this lovely little hamlet.  Shown on the 1887 OS-map of the area, it’s first literary reference seems to be in George Weir’s (1820) early survey of Horncastle district where he gives it a brief mention, saying:

“In a woody dell in this parish is a spring, gently bursting from the rock, called Holy-well, but the name of the saint to whom it was dedicated is not preserved.”

…Like oh so many others.  But its ‘holiness’ may devive from other more archaic origins, in the spirit of the woods from whence the waters emerge.  Certainly that’s what the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson would have had us believe.  He grew up in Somersby village and this old well was one of his places of inspiration.  When the local writer H.D. Rawnsley (1900) described Tennyson’s affection for this site, he told us that,

“Alfred peopled that Holywell Wood with forms of fairies, and made the whole surrounding circle of the hills, a theatre for enchantment and chivalry.”

J.C. Walters 1890 sketch

Nature can certainly do that to anyone who wanders Her body with open reverence.

Although the place is now quite overgrown, it wasn’t always this way.  There used to be a well-trodden path with a gateway at the entrance that took you into the woods and up to the well.  Above the gateway there used to be a Latin inscription that read, Intus aquae dulces, vivoque sedilia saxo, Et paulum silvae superest. His utere mecum. (meaning something akin to, “At these sweet waters, by this living seat of stone and small forest remains, Make use of me.”)

When J.C. Walters wrote about it, he told that a “local student” gave him the following particulars:

“A series of steps led down into the well, a post was fixed in front of it, and a cross-bar extended thence to the rock.  On the cross-bar was a ring with a rope attached, so that the bather might safely descend into the well and enjoy the healing virtues of the stream which rushed from the rock.  Geologists say that the wold villages are so closely placed on account of the superior quality of the water which springs up wherever the Spilsby sandstone meets the Kimmeridge clay.  Susan Epton (Mrs. Thompson), Miss Emily Tennyson’s maid, tells me that she can remember the time when visitors came in scores to “take the waters.””

Some of this was later echoed in Rawnsley’s (1900) biographical account of Tennyson.  He talked with a local sexton about the folklore of the area who told him of his memories:

“Halliwell wasn’t growed up then; there was a bath-house with steps down to the watter, and fwoaks in carriages came from far and near to drink it.  Wonderful watter! it was nobbut a bit sen, that our owd nebbur was liggin’ adying and he axed for a cup o’ watter from the Holy Well, and they sent and fetched it, and he took it and went off upon his feet.  Why, i’ my time theer was a school-house down in Halliwell Wood, and a skittle halley close by the well, but all them things is changed now, excep the snowdrops, and they coomes oop reg’lar, a sight on ’em i’ Halliwell.”

References:

  1. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion Press: Wymeswold 2008.
  2. Howitt, William, Homes and Haunts of the Most Eminent British Poets – volume 2, Richard Bentley: London 1849.
  3. Rawnsley, H.D., Memories of the Tennysons, James MacLehose: Glasgow 1900.
  4. Thompson, Ian, Lincolnshire Springs and Wells, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 1999.
  5. Walter, J. Conway, Records of Woodhall Spa and Neighbourhood, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1899.
  6. Walters, John Cuming, In Tennyson Land, George Redway: London 1890.
  7. Weir, George, Historical and Descriptive Sketches of the Town and Soke of Horncastle, Sherwood, Neely & Jones 1820.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.237355, 0.008884 Holy Well, Somersby

Holland’s Well, Smalley, Derbyshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 4077 4436

Also Known as:  

  1. Holly Well

Archaeology & History

Hollands Well on 1881 map

Once visible near the middle of the village, references to this local water supply seem pretty scant.  According to Kenneth Cameron (1950) it gained its name from a local man called Robert Holland.  This may be the case; but there is a curious entry found in a notice regarding the Land Enclosures of Smalley from November 6, 1784.  In it we read that the land here was at that time owned by one Samuel Kerry (well known in the village as he built The Rose and Crown pub in 1768) who was living “upon the Common” and had “part of a croft” here.  Therein was mentioned a water source named the ‘Holly Well’ instead of the Holland Well.  I can only assume that the two are the same, as the proximity of them are very close indeed.  The account told that,

“a disused well in the triangular croft at the back of the sixth milestone in the village marks the site of (Samuel Kerry’s) original home, and he is said to have dug the “Holly Well” close by for brewing purposes, which has long supplied the vicinity with good water.”

The name ‘Holly’ may infer that a holly tree grew by the side of the well, and that the title ‘Holland’ was a corruption later grafted onto the site.  Are there any local historians out there who know more…?

References:

  1. Cameron, Kenneth, The Place-Names of Derbyshire – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1950.
  2. Kerry, Charles, Smalley in the County of Derby, Bemrose: London 1905.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.995023, -1.394027 Holland\'s Well

Ellen’s Well, Blair Drummond, Stirlingshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7196 0080

Getting Here

Ellen’s Well on 1856 map

This takes some finding!  From the village of Doune take the A84 road towards Stirling and, just over the bridge barely 100 yards along, on your left, walk down the track past the old lodge house.  350 yards along, up the slope on your right where young trees and an excess of boscage prevails, walk up through it until, about 10 yards below an overgrown path at the top, beneath a raised section of old stonework, an old pipe protrudes from the undergrowth.  The small spring of water that emerges 10 yards beneath this, amidst the brambles and reeds, is what you’re looking for.

Archaeology & History

Wells named ‘Ellen’ usually have a long and sacred history behind them, but this one seems unusually silent.   Apart from being shown on the 1866 OS-map—simply as a ‘Well’—it is only mentioned briefly in Mr Mackay’s (1953) survey of Doune, being not far from the Clans Well, and in his day it was “still in use.”  But not anymore!  The water is barely running, but the trickle that still exists is nice and clear and it tastes good.  It’s seen much better days though….

‘Ellen’s Wells’ tend to have one of three origins, being either 1) dedicated to St Helen, whose festival date is August 18; (2) named after or dedicated to the Elder tree (Sambucus niger); or, (3) named after a local person of this name.  At some wells it may be two of these elements with their relative mythologies complimenting each other, overlapping between heathen peasant lore and early christian folklore. This has been the case at a number of St Helen’s Wells I’ve surveyed in Yorkshire and Lancashire.  At this site however, there are no remaining Elder trees, meaning that its name relates to one of the two other options; but without any extant historical references to St. Helen hereby, we must conclude that at some point in the dim and distant past, a local lady called Ellen found her name immortalized in this all-but-forgotten sweet spring.

References:

  1. Mackay, Moray S., Doune Historical Notes, privately printed: Doune 1953.

Acknowledgements:  The map accompanying this site profile is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.182568, -4.064413 Ellen\'s Well

Wood Well, Shipley Glen, Gilstead, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12797 39277

Getting Here

Wood Well on 1852 map

Best reached by going up Shipley Glen, to the Brackenhall Circle enclosure; keep going for a couple of hundred yards and then drop down into the trees, taking the directions directly to the Cloven Hoof Well.  Just past the well, a small footpath leads you downhill towards the large stream at the bottom, where there’s a rocky crossing (an old ford).  Go over here and, barely 50 yards upstream to your right, a large singular moss-covered boulder is set back, just a few yards above the stream with a small pool in front of it.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

The ‘directions’ to find this might seem a little confusing to locals at first.  This is because the whereabouts of the Wood Well is on the eastern boundary edge of Gilstead – which is down at the bottom of Shipley Glen.  The steep muddy hill above it is almost always slippy and wet through, so it’s easiest to approach from the Baildon side.

The shallow muddy waters in a hot summer

The site is shown on the 1852 map of the area, but I can find written material telling of its qualities.  If it ever had any medicinal virtues, they have long since been forgotten.  Whilst the water here is fresh and drinkable, in times of drought and low rainfall the water subsides and leaves only a muddy pool – just as it was when I last visited, making it quite undrinkable.  But to me, the main aspect of this site is its natural spirit, its locale, as it’s surrounded by unerring hues of rich greens, cast out by the landscape of mosses prevalent in a region almost bereft of such voices.  If you like y’ wells – check it out!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.849577, -1.806964 Wood Well