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

Rob Roy’s Well, Aberfoyle, Perthshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference –  NN 43172 04274

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1866 map

This long-forgotten site was found just by the old roadside several miles northwest of Aberfoyle, up the B829 Loch Chon road.  Shown on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area in 1866, subsequent visits showed no remains of it and we must assume it had fallen back to Earth.  When we visited the place recently, although there were no remains of any water trough, the spot where the well was shown on the map was very boggy with a small trickle of water running out of the slope.  There is the possibility that, if the soaked soil just above the trickling water was excavated a few feet into the ground, that the original spring might be retrievable.

Obviously, its name tells of the tradition that this was a place where Rob Roy was known to drink.  A number of places in this area bear his name.  Surely this is a site that is worthy of bringing back to life, so to speak, and place it on the Scottish heritage map, where it belongs?

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wood Well, Batley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2369 2422

Archaeology & History

Wood Well on 1854 map

In days of olde, before folk had taps to turn to get water, they’d have to go to the nearby wells and streams.  Many of these places were never written about, even to the point where no place-names were recorded, simply because the writers and surveyors either didn’t talk to the right people, or the right people didn’t talk to the surveyors!  In many cases, the latter is all too true.  Such is the case with this long forgotten healing well, whose memory is only preserved through the pen of a local man who, in the 19th century, was fortunate to have been able to write…

We know that old wells were mainly the province of women in most cultures through history; and Isaac Binns (1882) intimated this in his brief notes about the Wood Well.  There’s nowt much to tell to be honest, but its location and lore need to be preserved.

Lamenting the loss of trees, Mr Binns told of the Wood Well’s proximity to Carper Wood: shown on the first OS-maps, but long since destroyed by the ignorance of modernity.  In his day, the water from here was fresh “clear water.”  This alone was good, but something extra in the water gave it that added healing ingredient.  It was used medicinally,

“good yet, the old women say, for sore eyes.”

But not long after he wrote those very words, the Wood Well was destroyed…

References:

  1. Binns, Isaac, From Village to Town: Random Reminiscences of Batley, F.H. Purchas: Batley 1882.

© 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

St Faith’s Well, Hexton, Hertfordshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 10302 30328

Also Known as:

  1. Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record No. 1926

Archaeology & History

The site of the well is now in the garden of a house on the south side of the B655 Barton Road in Hexton, south west of St Faith’s church.  Prior to the Reformation, there was a small chapel of St Faith adjacent to the well containing a shrine to the saint, which was, with the well a place of pilgrimage.

N. Salmon, writing in 1728, told us:

St Faiths Well on 1882 map

“At Ravensborough, within a Quarter of a Mile, is a fine Spring, which runs down to Hexton, and meets there another Stream rising at the Berystede near the church, which is indeed a very remarkable one.  It comes pouring out of the Earth in such plenty, that it would turn a Mill in a very little Way; and hath been since the Roman Times thought worthy of a Saint’s Name.  It was called St Faith’s Well, to which the church also is dedicated, and the Image of St Faith was placed over it.”

The well is just to the north of the iron age hill fort of Ravensburgh and near the ancient prehistoric roadway of Icknield Way, so would certainly have been a welcome stopping point for prehistoric travellers in these chalk uplands.  In line with Salmon’s contention of its having been known since Roman times, Francis Taverner, the 17th century Lord of the Manor of Hexton wrote of the well having been used for oracular purposes by people who would throw an object onto the surface of the water:

“which if swamme above they were accepted and there petition granted, but if it sinke, then rejected which the experienced Prieste had arts enove to cause to swymme or sinke according as himselfe was pleased with the partye, or rather with the offering made by the partye.”

St Faith who was a third century martyr who was beheaded at Agen in Gaul.  Her saint’s day is 6th October, and her patronage was invoked inter alia by pilgrims, so the dedication of the well and nearby church may have been to ‘christianise’ a pre-existing oracular place resorted to by travellers on the Icknield Way.

Taverner again:

“There is a small parcel of ground adjoining the churchyard called “St. Ffaith’s Wick Court,” about a pole in measurement, anciently divided from Malewick by a ditch in the same place where now a large moat is made.  The greatest parte of this Wick lying upon a bedde of springs, and undrained, was very boggye towards the churchyard; but the west side being higher, the ground was well planted with oaks, willows, and bushes, near adjoyning unto which,  the craftye Priests had made a well about a yard deepe, and very cleere in the bottome, and curbed about, which they called St. Faith’s Well.

“Now over this well they built an howse, and in the howse they placed the image or statue of St. Faith, and a cawsey they had mad (which I found when I digged and levelled the ground) for the people to passe who resorted thither from farr and neere to visitt our Lady, and to performe their devotions reverently, kissing a fine-colloured stone placed in her toe.  This Lady was trimly apparelled, and I find in an old book of churchwarden’s accounts, in the reign of Henry VIII, that they had delivered unto the St. Ffaith a cote and a velvet tippet.  The Lady had no land to maintain her, that I know of, more than i acre lying in Mill Field, called at this day St. Ffaith’s acre, which, as being given to superstitious uses, came to the King’s hands at the dissolution, and is now parcel of the demesnes.  The house being pulled down, and the idol cast away, the well was filled up, yet an apparent mention of the place remained till my time, and St. Ffaith’s Well continued as a waste and unprofitable and neglected piece of land till such time as the footpath was turned through the midst of it to the outside on the south by the highway, and their clearing and levelling the ground, having been drained, and sunk the spring, I converted the same, in the year of our Lord 1624, into a little orchard.  The Lady Ffaith was a Virgin and Martyr of Agenne, in France, a.d. 1290.”

The well may have had healing properties too.  Herbert Tompkins (1902) informed us how,

“…to folk who have never stepped out of Hertfordshire (I have known several such) the well of St. Faith is indeed the “Well at the World’s End.”  The waters of that well were of miraculous efficacy, and an image of its saint was long preserved in the chapel of St. Faith Virgin, of which no stone remains.”

The parish church of Hexton remains dedicated to St Faith , as does the parish church of nearby Kelshall.  There was another St Faith’s Well at Leven in East Yorkshire.

References:

  1. Clutterbuck, Robert, History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford – volume 3, Nichols Son & Bentley: London 1827.
  2. Farmer, David Hugh, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press 1987.
  3. Hippisley-cox, R., The Green Roads of England, 6th Edition, Methuen: London 1948.
  4. Hope, Robert c., Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliot Stock: London 1893.
  5. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory or the Continuity of British Archaeology, Clarendon Press: Oxford 1908.
  6. Jones-Baker, Doris, Old Hertfordshire Calendar, Phillimore: Chichester 1974.
  7. Salmon, N., History of Hertfordshire, London, 1728.
  8. Tompkins, Herbert W., Highways & Byways of Hertfordshire, Macmillan: London 1902.

Links:

  1. St Faith’s Well on the Megalithic Portal

© Paul T Hornby, 2021

Bride’s Well, Ballintemple, Wicklow

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – T 17340 77380

Archaeology & History

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?

References:

  1. Grogan, Eion & Kilfeather, Annaba, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Stationery Office: Dublin 1997.
  2. Ronan, Myles V., “The Ancient Churches of the Deanery of Arklow”, in Journal Royal Society Antiquaries, Ireland, December 1927.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Falls of Monzie (6), Crieff, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 88740 26366

Getting Here

The rock in the landscape

A couple of miles east of Crieff, take the A822 road from the Gilmerton junction towards the Sma’ Glen.  After literally 1¾ miles (2.8km)—just 100 yards before the track up to Connachan Farm—you’ll reach a dirt-track on your left that leads into the hills.  Go on here and after an easy walk of 400 yards or so, you’ll reach a conspicuous large boulder just by the track-side, on your left.  It’s impossible to miss!

Archaeology & History

Immediately adjacent to the Falls of Monzie (7) carving, this petroglyph was located by Paul Hornby on a recent visit to the Falls of Monzie cluster.

The 3 cups numerated

More than halfway up its south-sloping face are two very distinct cup-marks, some two inches across and up to half-inch deep: one near the western-edge and the other closer to the middle of the rock face.  You can’t really miss them.  They seem to be accompanied by a third about 2 feet further across to the right on its more eastern side.  In formation, the three of them form a small raised arc.  With the naked eye they’re very easy to make out, but were difficult to photograph due to the daylight and angle of the stone; hence in the photo here, I’ve numerated them.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Pipers Stones, Blessington, County Wicklow

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – N 96998 14582

Archaeology & History

This stone circle was found close to the roadside and is remembered today only by the street-name of ‘Pipers Stones’.  Shown on the first OS-map of the area, the site was destroyed sometime before 1838.

Folklore

In a folklore motif found at a number of megalithic rings, Grogan & Kilfeather (1997) tell us that the name of this circle,

“refers to a tradition that people caught dancing on a Sunday were turned to stone.”

References:

  1. Grogan, Eion & Kilfeather, Annaba, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Stationery Office: Dublin 1997.
  2. o’ Flanagan, Michael, Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Wicklow, Bray 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian