An early dedication to the St Martin of this well is from the 13th century, when referring to the “church of sanctus Martinus” in 1282, whose building is a half-mile to the north. The well itself is located on the old parish boundary, on the footpath today known as the North View.
In earlier days, the water from this site came “flowing out of a rock” giving birth to St Martin’s stream (Quiller-Couch, 1894). “It was much used by the villagers,” they wrote, “because of the excellent quality of the water; now it is covered in with an ordinary wooden lid, and is used to supply the town of Looe with water.”
Things hadn’t changed when Mr Lane-Davies (1970) visited the place, who was far from pleased at its status. “The spring,” he told, “has been enclosed in an ugly shed and the water piped away.”
Despite this, when Meyrick (1982) came here, he thought the site had “a romantic and grotto-like air” to it, but he was equally displeased by barbed wire preventing folk from easily accessing the waters and “spoilt by a certain amount of rubbish.” Unfortunately due to a dreadful accident here in 1993, when a young child fell into the waters and drowned, the site is now completely enclosed by railings to prevent this happening to anyone else.
Bond, Thomas, Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe, J. Nichols: London 1823.
Lane-Davies, A., Holy Wells of Cornwall, FOCS: St Ives 1970.
Meyrick, J., A Pilgrims Guide to the Holy Wells of Cornwall, Falmouth 1982.
Quiller-Couch, M. & L., Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, C.J. Clark: London 1894.
Straffon, Cheryl, Fentynyow Kernow: In Search of Cornwall’s Holy Wells, Meyn Mamvro: Penzance 1998.
This little-known iron-bearing spring can still be found in the woodland known today as the Heugh of Mawse, a mile north of Blairgowrie. It was included in the Object Name Book of 1863, where they referred to an earlier account in the New Statistical Account, which told that,
“On the south end of it is a chalybeate spring much resorted to by the people of the locality. “There are one or two chalybeate springs in the parish; but they have never been chemically analyzed. There is one very fine spring called the “Heugh Well” It springs from the face of the “Heughs of Mause” (a mortar cliff of singular appearance; which descends abruptly into the bed of the river with an almost perpendicular declivity of about 200 feet) and judging from its colour, contains a considerable quantity of ferruginous matter. The use of its water has been found to be very beneficial in cutaneous eruptions, & affections of the Stomach.””
Subsequently highlighted on the 1867 OS-map, a singular footpath led to the site and no further. It was mentioned by the regional historians J.G. McPherson (1885) and John MacDonald (1899), albeit briefly, where they respectively told that its waters were “formerly much resorted to by persons in the neighbourhood.” It possessed considerable medicinal properties which, according to tradition, were “found very beneficial for skin diseases and derangement of the stomach”! Doubtless such attributes will still be effective.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 180 452
Archaeology & History
The Well Meadow in the middle of Blairgowrie was once the place where the 5th century Apostle of the Southern Picts, or St Ninian, baptised local folk into the so-called “new faith”. It’s long since gone. The local historian John MacDonald (1899) told that it was located opposite the buildings on the north-side of the square, adding:
“St Ninian, one of the earliest Christian Celtic missionaries, on his tour through Scotland, pitched his camp where the Wellmeadow now is, and quenched his thirst at an old well or spring which ever afterwards bore the name of “St Ninian’s Well,” until it was covered in and the water led into the town drains.”
Of the three wells in old Louth around which local ceremonies occurred, the Small Wells were apparently the least impressive. Its ritualised compatriots south of the River Lud in St. Helen’s Well and the Ash Well (the Aswell in modern Louth place-names) were reportedly the much better water supplies in bygone times. The site was highlighted on a map of the town in Robert Bayley’s (1834) history of the area, showing it as a small pool just below the Cistern Gate road; but when the Ordnance Survey lads came here later in the 19th century it had already gone.
It’s category here as a “sacred” well is due to it being annually decorated with garlands of flowers, commonly known today as well-dressing. Such wells tend to be places of pre-christian rites, attended by local people at dawn usually at Beltane or at Midsummer (St John’s Eve); but I’ve been unable to find out which was the sacred day when the waters here were honoured. All that we have left to tell us of the rites is from old township notes that said how,
““The small wells,” a cluster of little springs on the north of the town, shared in the honours of green boughs and popular huzzahs” the traditions held at the wells of St. Helen and Aswell a half-mile to the south.
A brief 16th century account told of a local man being paid for the adornment of the Small Wells: one “Henery Forman received for dressing small wells for a yeare – xiid” – or 12 pennies in old money. Not bad at all in them days!
This old water supply had no direct ‘holy’ nature, despite its proximity to the cathedral, the old market cross and St Clement’s Well some fifty yards away! Most odd. A much more mundane story lies behind this long lost water source. The Dundee historian William Kidd (1901) told us,
“When the public wells were erected, about the year 1749, to supply the town with water from the Lady-well reservoir at foot of Hilltown, one was placed on the High Street, on the east side of the Cross, and was called the Cross Well.”
It didn’t have too long a life either—much like the old Market Cross, for,
“In the year 1777 that quaint structure was demolished. The platform and octagonal tower were carted away as rubbish, the least decayed stones being selected to be used in other buildings. The stone shaft, also, was preserved, and placed beside the Old Steeple. With the demolition of the Cross, the Cross Well was cleared away from the High Street, but, as water was an essential to the people, the well was re-erected behind the Town House in St. Clement’s Lane. In that situation it remained for nearly one hundred years, when, being rendered unnecessary by the introduction of the Lintrathen water supply, it was also demolished, along with the old buildings in the Vault and St. Clement’s Lane, to make room for the additions to the Town House.”
Colville, A., Dundee Delineated, A. Colville: Dundee 1822.
On the northwest side of the Loch of Boardhouse can still be found a spring of water which was, in bygone times, the abode of the supernatural creature known as the troll or trow. The site is described in local place-name records and is located near the foot of a slope near Westerhouse, from where a small channel of water runs down into the Loch of Boardhouse about forty yards away. When it was last described in the 1960s, all folk memory of its heathen inhabitants had seemingly been forgotten and no folk-tales seem to have been recorded. Thankfully, the Well itself is still shown to exist on modern OS-maps.
This little-known Biblical-sounding spring has apparently long since fallen back to Earth (perhaps there might be some local folk who could find out for certain). Shown on the 1861 Ordnance Survey map as being at the side of the wall in the small copse of trees—immediately east of kirk- place-names and a half-mile north of St Ninian’s Well—it was briefly described by T.C. Ramage’s (1876), who seemed to know nothing of its lore, merely telling us that,
“on Templand farm, close to the wooden bridge over the Cample, there is Moses’ Well, an unusual designation, but which some Knight Templar may have given in remembrance of his toils in Palestine.”
The Templar designation was deemed by Ramage to come from the name of the farm. However, a few years prior to this, the early Scottish place-name surveyors were traversing the area and found from local people how it derived “its name from a Tinker named Moses Marshall who with his family lived near it in a Camp during the time they had the small pox.” The Well was also included in the Morris survey (1982), but without comment. Another Moses Well can be found 44½ miles to the northeast, near Galashiels at NT 4046 4306.
This seemingly lost holy well was first mentioned by John Morton (1712), who told us that it was the source of the River Tove. About eighty years later, John Bridges (1791) wrote that,
“In this town was formerly a grange to the monastery of St Andrews in Northampton; and a spring which riseth near the place where this house stood, still retains the name of Halywell Spring.”
Little else was written of the site until H.C. Smith’s (1933) in-depth overview of the famous Washington family (some dood called George apparently) of Sulgrave, where he echoed John Morton’s words that the River Tove “rises from the spring of Holy Well, near the site of the old Grange of St. Andrew’s Priory.” He told that it was located up Stockwell Lane where an old water-mill was located and “the water for the mill is provided by a large mill-pool fed by a spring known in former times as Holy Well Spring.” Local historian Beeby Thompson (1914) identified the Stock Well as being the later alternative name for our holy one.
Bridges, John, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, D. Price: Oxford 1791.
There’s a minor discrepancy of opinion as to the exact location of this site, so I’ve chosen to go right in-between the positions cited by Leggat (1987): SW 836 433, and Meyrick (1982): SW 838 434.
The site was mentioned by Charles Henderson, who told that around the year 1750 there was a medicinal well at Sunny Corner, known as “Glastonbury Well”. Its waters had the ability to “cure all disorders,” but its reputation was apparently short-lived, which would suggest that its fame beyond local villagers was concurrent to the rise of Spa Wells amongst the upper- classes at that time.
In the Leggats’ (1987) survey, no locals they spoke with had ever heard of the place; but that they “found a spring halfway up the lane adjacent to Sunnyside House which had been used in the past from time immemorial as a domestic water supply to a scattering of local cottages” and wondered if this might have been the long long Glastonbury Well…
Adams, J.H., “The Mediaeval Chapels of Cornwall,” in Journal Royal Institution of Cornwall, volume 3 (new series), 1957.
Henderson, Charles, One Hundred and Nine Parishes of the Four Western Hundreds of Cornwall, Oscar Black: Truro 1955.
Leggat, P.O. & D.V., The Healing Wells: Cornish Cults and Customs, Dyllansow Truran: Redruth 1987.
Meyrick, J., A Pilgrims Guide to the Holy Wells of Cornwall, Falmouth 1982.
At the beginning of the 19th century, William Hargrove (1818) described the scant remains of some old walling along old Haver Lane (renamed as Green Lane and now known as The Stonebow) which were the remains of a building, long gone, and which,
“tradition informs us (was) a religious house, which formerly stood here, called Holy-Priests; and though the site of it is not known, the report is greatly strengthened by the appearance of the walls just mentioned, and by the circumstance of a deep draw-well which now remains, being still called Holy-Priests Well.”
Some suggest that this water source may still exist beneath one of the buildings hereby, but the landscape here has been so badly mutilated over the last two hundred years that it’s very unlikely.
Hargrove, Willliam, History and Description of the Ancient City of York – volume 2, part 2, W. Alexander: York 1818.