St. David’s Well, Weem, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8445 5002

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25672
  2. Chapel Rock Spring
  3. Fuaran Creig a’ Chaibeul
  4. St. Cuthbert’s Well

Getting Here

In the dark, dark wood... hides St. David's Well
In the dark, dark wood… hides St. David’s Well

The best way to find this site, in the middle of the large woods up the slopes, is to follow the circular mile-long tourist path that runs through it. Take the B846 road out of Aberfeldy over the bridge towards Dull and Weem.  As you go through Weem, watch closely for the signpost directing you into the trees of Weem Rock and Woods on the right. Follow this tiny road up until you reach the parking circle in the edge of the trees.  Follow the directed footpath up into the woods & keep to the winding track, up, zigzagging, and up again, until it levels out a bit and runs below the large long crags. Tis beneath here you need to be!

Archaeology & History

The pool of St David's Well
The pool of St David’s Well

Not far from the curious Weem Wood carvings, hidden beneath one section of the long high crags in remains of the ancient forest, is this trickle of fresh water which collects into a small stone-lined pool. (a small round plaque which reads ‘St. David’s Well’ on the cliff-face above the waters is helpful) It’s in a truly lovely setting, with a small ‘cave’ about 50 yards west along the same footpath and a modern carved ‘cross’ in front of it.

The well was formerly known as St. Cuthbert’s Well (date: 20 March) who, so legend tells, lived nearby—probably at the christian-druid college at Dull, a mile west of here. It was he who collected the waters from the rock face into the small pool we see today.  This used to be known as St. Cuthbert’s Bath.  But several centuries after the saint’s death, the local laird, Sir David Menzies, came and restored the well and gained a reputation for spending much time living hereby, sometimes in the small cave along the edge of the cliffs.  It was to him that the New Statistical Account wrongly dedicated the waters to in the 19th century—but the title has stuck!

Described in several old local history works, the site was included in the giant folklore tome on Scottish waters by MacKinlay (1893), who wrote the following:

“In the wood clothing the steep hill of Weem, in Perthshire, is St. David’s Well, said to be named after a former laird who turned hermit.  The spring has a considerable local fame, and many have been the wishes silently breathed over its water.  Part of an ancient stone cross lies at its margin, and on it the visitor kneels while framing his or her wish.”

Nothing of this ‘cross’ can now be seen, but it is said that its remnants are housed at Weem church in the village below.  Also in the 19th century, occasional christian gatherings were held here and as many as fifty people came “for religious services.” Thomas Hunter (1886) reported that “a collection of human bones” were found near the well in front of the crags. There is also what looks like a newly cut large cup-marking with two carved lines reaching out from it, heading towards the well, on a small ledge of stone close to the pool.

Folklore

Folklore tells that once, long ago, dragons lived in these old woods—overcome no doubt by the incoming christians who stole and denigrated the olde peasant ways of our ancestors.  In bygone times, locals used the waters here for their health-giving properties.  As Ruth and Frank Morris (1982) told,

“it was an ancient wishing well which was still visited in 1954, when such objects as pins and buttons and an occasional penny was thrown in.”

References:

  1. Ferguson, Malcolm, Rambles in Breadalbane, Thomas Murray: Glasgow 1891.
  2. Hunter, Thomas, Illustrated Guide to Perthshire, Robertson & Hunter: Perth 1886.
  3. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  4. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St David's Well

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St David\'s Well 56.627695, -3.885369 St David\'s Well

Hermit’s Well, Dale Abbey, Derbyshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 4378 3861

Getting Here

Dale Abbey is a small and interesting village not far from Ilkeston. It can be found by taking the A6096 from Ilkeston and after passing through Kirk Hallam, take the first turning on the left called Arbour Hill. At the Carpenter’s Arms in the village turn right and park near the church. The well lies within the private garden of Church house, although it can be easily seen in the winter from the field in which the footpath below the church passes through, as well from the church yard.

Archaeology & History

R.C. Hope (1893) gives two versions of the story of how the hermit found the well and cave, taken from the Chronicle of Thomas de Musca quoted in Glover’s History of Derbyshire:

“A hermit once going through Deep Dale being very thirsty, and for a time not able to find any water, at last came upon a stream, which he followed up to the place where it rose; here he dug a well, returned thanks to the Almighty, and blessed it, saying it, should be holy for evermore, and be a cure for all ills. Another version is that the famous Hermit of Deep Dale, who lived in the Hermitage which is close by the well, discovered this spring and dug the well, which never dries up, nor does the water diminish in quantity, however dry the season and blessed it.”

In another version of the story, Hope (1893) notes:

“There was a baker in Derby, in the street which is called after the name of St. Mary. At that period the church of the Blessed Virgin at Derby was at the head of a large parish, and had under its authority a church de onere and a chapel. And this baker, otherwise called Cornelius, was a religious man, fearing God, and, moreover, so wholly occupied in good works and the bestowing of alms, that whatsoever remained to him on every seventh day beyond what had been required for the food and clothing of himself and his, and the needful things of his house, he would on the Sabbath day take to the church of St. Mary, and give to the poor for the love of God, and of the Holy Virgin. It happened on a certain day in autumn, when he had resigned himself to repose at the hour of noon, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in his sleep, saying, ” Acceptable in the eyes of my Son, and of me are the alms thou hast bestowed. But now, if thou art willing to be made perfect, leave all that thou hast, and go to Depedale where thou shalt serve my Son and me in solitude; and when thou shalt happily have terminated thy course thou shalt inherit the kingdom of love, joy, and eternal bliss which God has prepared for them who love Him. The man, awakening, perceived the divine goodness which had been done for his sake; and, giving thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin, his encourager, he straightway went forth without speaking a word to anyone. Having turned his steps towards the east, it befel him, as he was passing through the middle of the village of Stanley, he heard a woman say to a girl, ”Take our calves with you, drive them as far as Depedale, and make haste back.” Having heard this, the man, admiring the favour of God, and believing that this word had been spoken in grace, a, it were, to bin’, was astonished, and approached near, and said, “Good woman, tell me, where is Depedale?” She replied, “Go with this maiden, and she, if you desire it, will show you the place. When he arrived there, he found that the place was marshy, and of fearful aspect, far distant from any habitation of man. Then directing his steps to the south-east of the place, he cut for himself, in the side of the mountain, in the rock, a very small dwelling, and an altar towards the south, which hath been preserved to this day; and there he served God, day and night, in hunger and thirst, in cold and in meditation.

And it came to pass that the old designing enemy of mankind, beholding this disciple of Christ flourishing with the different flowers of the virtues, began to envy him, as he envies other holy men, sending frequently amidst his cogitations the vanities of the world, the bitterness of his existence, the solitariness of his situation, and the various troubles of the desert. But the aforesaid man of God, conscious of the venom of the crooked serpent, did, by continual prayer, repeated fastings, and holy meditations, cast forth, through the grace of God, all his temptations. Whereupon the enemy rose upon him in all his might, both secretly and openly waging with him a visible conflict. And while the assaults of his foe became day by day more grievous, he had to sustain a very great want of water. Wandering about the neighbouring places, he discovered a spring in a valley not far from his dwelling, towards the west, and near unto it he made for himself a cottage, and built an oratory in honour of God and the Blessed Virgin. There, wearing away the sufferings of his life, laudably, in the service of God, he departed happily to God, from out of the prison-house of the body.”

The well is a delightfully rustic one and certainly contains old stonework if not from the hermit’s time than the period of the Abbey. It is an oval structure with eight stones around the mouth, a three foot rectangular stone covers half of the well and has a semi-circular cut placed in the middle. Mossy steps lead from the higher end of the garden into the little dell where the well arises. The well has been dressed in the early 2000s but has now disappeared into obscurity. Indeed, some believe that it is does not exist in the first place…

 Folklore

First noted in 1350 in association with the legend of the foundation of the Abbey, Hope (1893) notes it was curative and was a wishing well; being visited on Good Friday, between twelve and three o’clock, water being drunk three times.

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References:

  1. Hope, Robert Charles (1893), Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London.
  2. Parish, R.B. (2008), Holy wells and healing springs of Derbyshire.

Copyright © Ross Parish

Hermit's Well

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Hermit\'s Well 52.943163, -1.349871 Hermit\'s Well

Tigh Stallar, Boreray, St. Kilda

Stone circle:  OS Grid Reference – NA 153 050

Archaeology & History

The isle of Boreray is four miles northeast of Hirta and here once lived, according to legend, a christian hermit.  However in the reverend Kenneth Macaulay History of St. Kilda (1764), he told us that the character was actually a druid.   Take your pick!  The druid lived at Stallir House, adjacent to which, said Macaulay, was

“a large circle of huge stones fixed perpendicularly in the ground, at equal distances from one and other, with one more remarkable regular in the centre which is flat in the top and one would think sacred in a more eminent degree.”

In a later article by F.L.W. Thomas (1867) he also mentioned this ‘stone circle’, though indicated its decline.  Additional information on this little known stone is sparse due to its somewhat remote position on one of the uninhabited isles of St. Kilda.  I wouldn’t mind spending a month or two there, roughing it, to see what’s what!

References:

  1. Macaulay, Kenneth, The History of St. Kilda. Containing a Description of This Remarkable Island; the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants; the Religious and Pagan Antiquities There Found, T. Becket: London 1764.
  2. Thomas, F.L.W., “On the Primitive Dwellings and Hypogea of the Outer Hebrides,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 7, 1867.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.868512, -8.491268 Tigh Stallar

Goff Well, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 06149 38822

Getting Here

Goff Well is by the Elder tree in the middle

Various ways here. From Keighley, go up the A629 Halifax Road, first left after the Ingrow West train station, uphill; then turn right, and up the long, cobbled, zizaggy road past the little hamlet of Hainworth and uphill till you reach the solitary farmhouse of Goff Well Farm (where its friendly owners can sell you organic fresh eggs!).  It’s the field just before here on your left (if you reach the Guide Inn pub further uphill by the crossroads, you’ve gone too far). Alternatively start at the Guide Inn pub and walk across the road and downhill till you reach the farm. It’s in the first field on the right just past it.

Archaeology & History

Little is known about the history of this water source.  The first description of it seems to be in 1852.  Harry Speight (1898) mentions it briefly when he talks about the holy wells of the locale, saying simply:

“Goff Well, close to the road on Harden Moor leading to Hainworth, has given name to a neighbouring farm, but the purpose or virtues of this water are not now known.”

Goff Well on 1852 OS-map

Today the well is much overgrown and in need of attention.  It’s near the bottom corner of the field where the larger of the elder tree grows (the witch’s tree par excellence) and could do with being cleaned out.  When the owner of Goff Well Farm, Barry, took us to see the site, the waters couldn’t be seen but we could hear the water running clearly just beneath the surface, so it just needs a few hours work to bring it back into life.  Twouldst do the land and the genius loci the world of good!

The very name of the well is something of an anomaly.  There are several possibilities and we (as yet) cannot say which is the more likely derivation.  We know in northern dialect that Goff is a simpleton or fool, and although we can apply that definition in some cases, it’s unlikely to apply here.  If we could ascertain there was ever an apple tree growing here, the mystery would be solved, as a goff was an old word used for the common apple.  In West Yorkshire dialect the word was also used to denote “a hammer worked by water-power”; aswell as it being a corrupted form of the word ‘God.’  Take your pick!

Folklore

The early Victorian historian William Keighley (1858) thought Goff Well was named after a long-forgotten hermit called Goff who, at some time in the past, gave his name to the old hamlet of Hermit Hole, a half-mile downhill from this water source.  Mr Keighley wrote:

“On the skirts of Harden Moor is a farmhouse known by the name of Goff Well; and as goff is said to be the Danish word for red, it would probably be no great stretch of the imagination to suppose that the hermit was so named on account of his red hair, and the spring or well designated after him from the frequency and sanctimonious nature of his visits.”

But this is pure supposition on Keighley’s part — nice idea though it is!  The only tangible piece of folklore we have is that the well “was a famous resort of gypsies before the moor was enclosed in 1861.” (Speight 1898)

References:

  1. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: London 1858.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Goff Well

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Goff Well 53.845603, -1.908030 Goff Well

Chapel Flat, Dalston, Cumbria

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NY 37 50

Archaeology & History

Listed in Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, this is another long-lost megalithic ring, whose exact location seems to have been forgotten.  An early description of the site by William Whellan (1860) told us that,

“There was formerly a circle of rude stones, ten yards in diameter, near the village, supposed to have been the remains of a Druidical temple; and a little distance from it, was a tumulus, three yards high and eight in diameter.”

More than a hundred years later in Waterhouse’s (1985) fine survey, he described the circle, saying:

“It lay near the village of Dalton…near the River Caldew… An 18th century account describes it as consisting of ‘rude’ stones…set in a circle of diameter about 27m.  East of the the centre of the circle were four large stones lying on top of each other.  They may have been the remains of a cist, or possibly a tumbled cove, like that inside the circle-henge of Arbor Low in Derbyshire.  A tumulus may have stood nearby.”

There are however some discrepancies in the descriptions between Whellan and Waterhouse.  In the former, the site of Chapel Flat is talked of separately as being the abode of a hermit in the lost chapel of St. Wynemius, “in a deep and romantic part of the vale of Caldew.”  The description of the stone circle immediately follows this, but is spoken of as merely being “near the village.”

Does anyone know anything further about this once important site?  Did the lost hermitage on Chapel Flat actually have anything to do with the stone circle?

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Waterhouse, John, The Stone Circles of Cumbria, Phillimore: Chichester 1985.
  3. Whellan, William, The History and Topography of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, Comprising their Ancient and Modern History, W.Whellan: Pontefract 1860.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Chapel Flat circle

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Chapel Flat circle 54.844890, -2.975317 Chapel Flat circle

Tobar nam Buadh, St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NA 0863 0024

Tobar nam Buaidh on 1928 map

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 3962
  2. Tobar-ianadaiche-buadhan
  3. Well of Virtues

Archaeology & History

This legendary healing spring (the Well of Virtues) is on the north side of the island, a few hundred yards northwest of the legendary Amazon’s House. Martin Martin (1703) told that this well,

“near the female warrior’s house is reputed to be the best, the name Toubir-nim-buey, importing no less than the well of qualities or virtues; it runneth from east to west, being sixty paces ascent above sea; I drank of it twice, and English quart at each time; it is very clear, exceeding cold, light and diuretick; I was not able to hold my hands in it above a few minutes, in regard of its coldness; the inhabitants of Harries find it effectual against windy-chollicks, gravel, head-aches; this well hath a cover of stone.”

The reverend Kenneth Macaulay (1764) also wrote of this place, giving additional details:

“Near the fountain stood an altar on which the distressed votaries laid down their oblations. Before they could touch the sacred water with any prospect of success, it was their constant practice to address the genius of the place with supplication and prayer. No one approached him with empty hands. But the devotees were abundantly frugal. The offerings presented by them were the poorest acknowledgements that could be made to a superior being, from whom they had either hopes or fears. Shells and pebbles, rags of linen, or stuffs worn out, pins, needles or rusty nails, were generally all the tribute that was paid; and sometimes, though rarely enough, copper coins of the smallest value.”

T.S. Muir’s sketch

There was a very small stone-built well-house with a low roof covering the top of the spring, inside which a small pool formed.  The small well-house was described by Thomas Muir (1883) and ruins of it are reported to still cover the sacred waters, which run into an old stone trough.  Muir called it the ‘spring of many virtues’, describing it as one of five holy wells on this small isle.

In James MacKinlay’s (1893) magnum opus he reported that its waters could cure deafness.

References:

  1. Macaulay, Kenneth, The History of St. Kilda, James Thin: Edinburgh 1974 (original edition 1764).
  2. MacKinlay, James, Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  3. Martin, M., Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, Andrew Bell: London 1703.
  4. Mathieson, J., “The Antiquities of the St. Kilda Group of Islands,” in Proceedings Society of the Antiquaries Scotland, volume 62, 1928.
  5. Muir, Thomas S., Ecclesiological Notes on some of the Islands of Scotland, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1883.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.819806, -8.595823 Tobar nam Buadh