The earliest OS-map of this area shows this well a hundred yards or so northwest of an old church and just a few yards east of the stream that is now in woodland; but unlike today, when the early survey was done there were no trees, enabling a clear view of the waters. When Myles Ronan (1927) wrote of the place, he told that it was still visible. The site was added to the Grogan & Kilfeather (1997) county inventory where they suggested it’s probable relationship with the legendary St Brigid. This seems highly probable. Does anyone know if the Well is still there?
Grogan, Eion & Kilfeather, Annaba, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Stationery Office: Dublin 1997.
Ronan, Myles V., “The Ancient Churches of the Deanery of Arklow”, in Journal Royal Society Antiquaries, Ireland, December 1927.
This is one of at least five wells dedicated to St. Hilda in North Yorkshire that my old colleague Graeme Chappell has uncovered over his many years of research. It’s sadly been destroyed, and accounts of it seem to be few and far between; but from the short description of it by Mr J.C. Atkinson (1894)—and helped out by its later title—we at least know where it once was.
In his account of the old roads in the village, Grape Lane was mentioned as far back as 1396, and close by, he wrote,
“is a spring called Seynt-Hild-keld, possibly where the so-called “Virgin pump” stands, or stood, not so very long since.”
This ‘ere “virgin pump” is shown in an old photo taken about 1890, just round the corner from Grape Lane where, today, is the car park on Church Street, opposite The Endeavour.
St Hilda was a 7th century saint who was reputed to have founded Whitby Abbey. Her festival date was November 17.
Atkinson, J.C., Memorials of Old Whitby, MacMillan: London 1894.
There seems to be very little information available about this holy well, lost long ago and now hidden beneath the foundations of a food superstore! It was found in close association with both a chapel and a hospital in St. Leonard’s name—both of which have also been destroyed. The water from here may have been used by the monks for patients in the hospital, but that’s purely speculative. St. Leonard was known to be connected with lepers, which may be something that the waters here were used to treat. But again, I’m speculating…
When the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1853, the waters were still running and they subsequently added it to their map a few years later. The site was still visible when Erskine Beveridge (1917) came here, telling us briefly that,
“St. Leonard’s Well still remains a little to the south-east, and, though now built up, is recognisable.”
But a few years later it had been destroyed and its position was shown on the updated OS-map of 1926 as “Site of.” The old well had gone…
The ruins of this little-known site, dedicated to the legendary Sir William Wallace, can still be seen in the form of an overgrown stone ruin just off the footpath that runs through the Pittencrieff Glen out of the town centre. In earlier times the waters were evidently of some repute, as a Council meeting in May 1773 reported with some disdain the closure of the waters by a Mr Chalmers:
“This Day the Council considering that the entry from the Town to the Well of Spaw is now shut up by Mr. Chalmers, which was a particular privilege to ye Inhabitants of the Burgh, Do hereby appoint the Provost to intimate to Mr. Chalmers that the Town will not give up that privilege, and to require him to oppen an entry thereto as formerly.”
We don’t know whether the miserable Mr Chalmers gave access to the well, as there seem to be no Council meeting notes telling us the outcome. My guess would be that the local people got their way, hopefully at Chalmers expense! More than 70 years later, another Mr Chalmers (1844) wrote about the well in a more respectful light:
“On the north edge of the rivulet, a little below this bridge, at the foot of the Tower Hill, there is a famous well, named the Wallace Spa, or well of Spa, which was formerly much resorted to by the inhabitants of the town for its excellent water, but which has been long since disused. It is noticed here simply on account of the traditionary antiquity of its name, Sir William Wallace, it is said, having once, in the haste of a flight, drank a little of it, out of the palm of his hand.”
In spite of there being local folklore of William Wallace, the local historian Ebeneezer Henderson (1879), in his giant work on Dunfermline, thought there was a more prosaic origin to the well’s name. He told,
“This well is still in existence, about fifty yards south of the ruins of Malcolm Canmore’s Tower — Tower Hill. The water is reported as being “very cold at all times.” The water should be analysed. The well during the period of its being used was known as the “Spaw Well,” and the ” Well of Spaw,” and, by and by an easy, natural transition, ” Wallace Spa;” and thus the name of the well has sometime been connected with that of the great Scottish hero.”
By the end of the 19th century, the well had become almost buried by earth and foliage, but was subsequently brought back to life following architectural improvements of the glen around the turn of the 20th century. In Patrick Geddes’ (1904) work he gives us “before and after” portraits (attached here) showing how it had been restored. He also mentioned “its tradition of medicinal value”, but could give no further information regardings the ailments it was reputed to cure…
Chalmers, Peter, Historical and Statistical Account of Dunfermline, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1844.
In 1897, when Butler wrote his history of the village, he told that a certain well, “adjacent to the Gattaway stream” (thought to be the Nethy Burn which passes Gattaway farm) was known to old locals as Brendan’s Well, with the name still surviving as ‘Bredni Well’. There were a number of large boulders around it that had been scattered by blasting, but which Butler thought were, “in all probability placed originally near the wall as a guide for pilgrims.”
The site was included in Ruth & Frank Morris’ (1982) survey, adding simply that the site was named “after the saint who lived here in the seventh century.” In the christian calendar, St. Brendan’s day was May 16.
When the local antiquarian Paul Hornby looked for the well, a local lady told him that she thought an occasional but regular boggy patch that appeared in her garden was due to the underground waters from St Brendan’s Well.
Butler, D., The Ancient Church and Parish of Abernethy, Edinburgh 1897. Page(s): 102
This once famous healing or spa well has long gone. It was located where the buildings that now constitute 104-105 Lambeth Walk presently stand: an area which the great London historian William Thornbury (1878) told was already “a favourite resort of Londoners, and celebrated for the variety of sweet-smelling flowers and medicinal herbs growing there,” complementing the healing waters before and during the spa craze. The great herbalist John Gerard did his collections here.
I can find no information regarding its early use by our peasant ancestors, so its written history simply begins when it had been appropriated by those well-to-do up-market types who took this medicinal spring for their commercial gain in the early days of the trendy spas. Supplied by two separate springs known as the Nearer and Farther Wells respectively, the Well House built here was “formally opened in April 1696” and subsequently had almost daily accompaniments of music, including French and country dancing! But as the popularity of the Lambeth Spa increased, so did its problems. Phyllis Hembry (1990) told that by July 1715, one visitor to the spa,
“was so depressed to find that the many people there were mostly rakes, whores and drunkards, idlers such as Guard officers, or young pleasure-seeker like attorneys’ clerks, mingling with loose women of the the meanest sort. The Lambeth Wells also became a public nuisance, so a dancing license was refused in 1755.”
The so-called Great Room which had been the place of great occasions by spa users ended up being the meeting place “for Methodist meetings.” Oh how the winter nights must have flown by…..
There was a decided improvement in the years that followed and social events at the spa increased again. It became what Thornbury said “was another place of amusement.” The Lambeth Wells, he wrote,
“were held for a time in high repute, on account of their mineral waters, which were advertised as to be sold, according to John Timbs, at “a penny a quart, the same price paid by St. Thomas’s Hospital.” About 1750, we learn from the same authority, there was a musical society held here, and lectures, with experiments in natural philosophy, were delivered by Dr. Erasmus King and others. Malcolm tells us that the Wells opened for the season regularly on Easter Monday, being closed during the winter. They had “public days” on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with “music from seven in the morning till sunset; on other days till two!” The price of admission was threepence. The water was sold at a penny a quart to the “quality” and to those who could pay for it; being given gratis to the poor. We incidentally learn that there were grand gala and dancing days here in 1747 and 1752, when “a penny wedding, in the Scotch manner, was celebrated for the benefit of a young couple.”
By this time, a rival St. George’s Spa of had been created a short distance away on the parish boundary and with it, the popularity and attendance at Lambeth Wells began to decline. By the end of the 18th century, the rot had truly set in and its days were finally numbered.
As for the medicinal properties of these wells, little seems to have been recorded. Aside from repeating the common description of them being mineral waters, William Addison (1951) simply added that they were also purgative.
Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
Long since gone, this great olde ash tree could once be found on the south side of Killin’s Mill building, close to the bridge at the Falls of Dochart. It was deemed to be ‘sacred’ by local people – just as all trees were, once upon a long time ago.
In John Shearer’s (1883) wonderful book on the ancient ways of the Perthshire people, he described the tree as being adjacent to the earthfast rock known as St. Fillan’s Seat:
“At the side of it grows a large ash tree which is held sacred by the natives as no person will burn any of the branches although fallen to the ground nor destroy them in any manner. However, there was one who had the hardihood to take one of the branches for a caber to repair his house. Strange to tell the first fire that was kindled burned it to the ground as a punishment for this impious sacrilege. Of course no person since has troubled it or taken any of the wood. The branches that fall lie till they rot.”
The brilliant Killin historian, W.G. Gillies (1938) reported that the tree was still standing until it was “blown down by a gale in 1893″—but it didn’t quite kill it off for good; for in September 1911, C.G. Cash visited Killin and this was one of the many places he looked for and, despite local folk telling him about the more famous St Fillan Stones (still in existence and found at the Mill), he saw the last remnants of this great Ash, telling simply that,
“the mere dead stump of St Fillan’s Ash-tree still stands against the south post of the mill gate. And quite near it is a young ash, said to be its descendant. This younger tree has an out-curving branch that was said to have been the gallows-branch in olden days; but it is obviously too young and too weak.”
…So, does anyone know precisely which is the “descendant” of St. Fillan’s Ash and where happens it to be growing?
In Norse myth, the ash tree Yggdrasil was the tree of Odin and was one of the primal ingredients in their Creation myths. It stood at the centre of the cosmos: an axis mundi no less, linking the many worlds and was the abode of the gods. Its mythologies are extensive. In Scotland, the myths of the ash are not so well known, but there’s little doubt that it possessed a sanctity and certainly has many traditions of it own, which are unfortunately outside the remit of this site profile.
We don’t know for certain the precise whereabouts of this long lost healing well, but it would seem to be the one highlighted here (right) on the 1855 OS-map. However, I think it equally possible that the small unnamed building, roughly halfway between the highlighted ‘Well’ and Spring Cottage, where the walling meets, could be the site in question. It’s one or the other!
When Thomas Blashill (1896) wrote of the Blind Well in his standard history work of the area, memory of it was already falling away. In discussing where local people could wash and look after their health, he told that
“There was one place in the parish where washing seems to have been practised as a curative measure. Down in the East Field, near to Spring Cottage Farm, was the Blindwell, to which the people had access. If they used its waters freely when suffering from sore eyes, their faith would probably be rewarded.”
Shown on the 1855 Ordnance Survey map as a ‘pump’, in the grounds of Everingham Priory, the ‘seat’ of the lord of the manor, it was in an enclosure formerly open to the people of the village. It was filled in prior to 1923. The water was described as ‘abundant and excellent.’ Graeme Chapman, in his Yorkshire Holy Wells website states:
‘A few metres to the south of the site of the well the modern OS map marks the start of a stream (SE 8055 4250) which could be the original source of the Holy well’s water.’
The present writer has not been able to verify this from the materials available to him.
Everilda, also known as Everild and Averil, is recorded in the York Breviary, printed in 1493. She was a mid Yorkshire Saint who died around 700 CE. According to this source she was of a noble Wessex family who went to Yorkshire with companions Bega and Wulfreda, settling on land called Bishop’s Farm, an estate of the Bishop of York, St Wilfrid , which he gave to them, the place being then called Everildisham. There they established a nunnery, of which all trace is now lost. Her Saint’s day is July 9th. The name of St Everilda has been changed to ‘Emeldis’ in the dedication of the church at Everingham. Some historians claim the village is not named after her, but as a derivation of ‘ham of Eofor’s people’. The only other church known to be dedicated to her is at Nether Poppleton, some 17 miles north west of Everingham.
The water of the village and the mothers of Everingham are said to have been blessed by St Everilda, and the Reverend Smith wrote that over a fifty year period, no mother had died in childbirth.
Farmer, David, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987
Raine, James, The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches, The Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, Vol II, 1873
Salisbury, Matthew Cheung, The Use of York: Characteristics of the Medieval Liturgical Office in York, Borthwick Institute, York, 2008
Smith, Rev William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A.Brown & Sons, London, Hull & York, 1923
The site of the well, which was in the historic county of Middlesex, appears to have been on the west side of the present Moorefields Road just north of the junction with St Loy’s Road. The OS reference is an approximation. The restored circular well house to the south of the High Cross at the High Road – Philip Lane junction now popularly known as ‘St Eloy’s Well’ is not the historic well described in this profile.
Archaeology & History
The well was still in existence in 1876, but by the time of the revision of the OS map around 1894, it had been destroyed following building of the Great Eastern Railway’s Enfield branch line and the construction of terraced housing along the new St Loy’s Road.
So where was the well? The 1873 6″ OS map shows a field on parts of which the railway line and St Loy’s Road are now built, and a small area of water is shown in this field which is the likely position of St Loy’s Well on the eve of its destruction, when it was described as a dirty pool of water full of mud and rubbish. If this was the position of the well then it has now been completely built over…
It was described by Robinson in his 1841 History of Tottenham as being:
‘..in a field….on the western side of the High Road…surrounded by willows…it is bricked up on all sides, square and about 4 feet deep..’ ‘ In Bedwell’s time [it was]…always full of water, but never running over; the water of which is said to exceed all other near it.’.. ‘the properties of the water are similar to the water of the Cheltenham springs’.
Thomas Clay ‘s 1619 map of Tottenham, illustrated in Robinson’s book shows a field north west of Tottenham High Cross called ‘Southfeide at St Loys’. The Tottenham historian Wilhelm Bedwell described the well in 1631 as:
‘“nothing else but a deep pit in the highway, on the west side thereof;”….”it was within memory cleaned out, and at the bottom was found a fair great stone, which had certain letters or characters on it; but being broken or defaced by the negligence of the workmen, and nobody near that regarded such things, it was not known what they were or meant.’
This fair great stone with its ‘certain letters or characters that no one knew what they were or meant’ is intriguing especially in view of the well’s proximity to the Roman Ermine Street (Now the High Street). Were those mysterious characters spelling out an undecipherable Latin inscription on a Roman stone? We shall never know, but it hints at a pre-Christian origin or veneration of the well. Another hint is that before the Reformation there was nearby a chapel of St Eloy known as the Offertory, which may have been originally built to ‘Christianise’ a pre-existing heathen sacred spring. The Roman origins of the well are also hinted at (probably erroneously) by W.L. Bowles in 1830, writing of a ‘Druidical Tour’ that one Sir Thomas Phillipps undertook on the continent, first quoting Phillipps before adding his own conclusion:
‘“Near Arras in France, are found the mount of St. Eloi and the very name of a place, Tote. I have no doubt Druidical remains will be found there, if this be not the very country of Carnutes.”
Now let me observe, that Tote is Taute —Tot—Thoth, latinized into Tewtates by Lucan, &c. the chief deity of the Celts. St. Eloi is neither more nor less than the Celtic word Sul, turned into the Greek the Sun; and Elios, turned into the Catholic St. Eloi, as at Tottenham, Middlesex, anciently Tote-ham, the ham of Taute or Tent, where is also the sacred well of St. Eloi, or ‘Helios’, the Sun !’
Saint Eloi / Eloy /Loy / Eligius, is the patron saint of those who work in the alchemists’ metal of the sun – goldsmiths! He is also the patron saint of blacksmiths, farriers, and all who earned their livings from horses, and lived from around 588 to 660 to become Bishop of Noyon and the evangelising apostle for much of modern day Belgium. His feast day is 1st December, and he had a widespread cult in mediaeval Europe, including England. In addition to being a healing well for humans, one writer hints that the well’s waters may have been employed for healing horses…they certainly would have drunk from it with its proximity to what is now the High Street.
Around 1770, an artist called Townsend (the sources are unsure as whether it was a Mrs or Mr) produced a romanticised drawing of the well, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1770-1. It depicts a hermit beside the well (the Hermitage of St Anne stood to the south of High Cross prior to the Reformation) receiving an offering from a lady. It was engraved and sold as a print, and may be the only image of the well before its demise.
In 1819 – 20, John Abraham Heraud wrote a poem about St Loy’s Well, set in the time of St. Edward the Martyr, (the late 970s), entitled ‘ Stanzas in the Legend of St Loy‘ of which the most relevant verses are;
‘TOTEHAM! the Legend of thine olden day, To the last note hath on thine echoes died; But the Bard’s soul still lingers o’er the lay, To muse upon thy transitory pride The pride of times that hath been — blank and void— When all was Nature, big with many a song Of Chivalry and Fame, with Love allied— But Time both changed the scene — now houses throng Where once was solitude — and people crowd along.
Where now thy WOOD, that spread its misty shade O’er twice two hundred acres? — past away! And vain its PROVERB, as the things that fade, Earth, sun, moon, stars, that change as they decay! The lonely CELL, the tenor of the lay, Its grove, which hermit tendance loved to rear; And, St. LOY, mouldering to Time’s gradual sway, Thy rites, thy OFFERTORY disappear;— Forgot thy SPRING OF HEALTH no votary worships there!
Forgot, neglected — still my harp shall dwell On thee, thou blest BETHESDA of ST. LOY! As Fancy muses o’er the vital WELL On years of storied yore, with grief and joy, Exults they were — weeps Truth should e’er destroy! Thrice I invoke the Spirit of the Stream With charm she may not question, or deny, And, like a Naiad, o’er the watery gleam She rises to my voice, and answers thus the theme:— ‘
Heraud wrote a further poem mentioning the well, his ‘Tottenham‘ of 1820, the relevant verse being:
‘St. Loy! here is this fountain—emblem pure Of chaste unostentatious charity— Never in vain intreated, ever sure ; Yet o’er the marge thy waters fair and free Ascend not, overflowing vauntingly, But in thy bounty humble as unfailing, In grief, disease, and sickness, visit thee. But part in joy, changed by thy holy healing To manhood, strength, and life, thy far renown revealing. There is thy offertory, and thy shrine, Simple, inartificial ; nor of fame, Nor any honour, save that it is thine, And all its glory centres in thy name !’