Along Halifax Road (A649), get to the Shears Inn and then take the footpath at the back of the pub that runs down the side of the fields and alongside the allotments. Less than 150 yards down, just through the stile into the edge of the field on your left, you’ll see the side-edge of a large flat stone in the grasses. Check it out!
Archaeology & History
Along with the Attack Well and Tree Root Well, this was one of three springs close to each other that gave local villagers their water supply in bygone times. When we visited here at the height of a long warm spell in the summer of 2023, there was still was a small amount of clear water trickling beneath the long flat slab of stone — although it was somewhat clogged-up with vegetation. It wouldn’t take much work to completely clean this out and use the fresh drinking water once again.
The well gained its name from its position in the land, with balk, being “a portion of a field left unploughed”, or “a strip of ground left untilled” and variants thereof.
Wright, Joseph, The English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: London 1898.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to the great Gary Ferner, for use of his photo and the day’s venture!
Located down the slope behind Shears Inn on Halifax Road (A649), past the stone-lined Balk Well, then round the other side of the allotments up where the footpath cuts to your right, the waters from this site can barely be found in the now large mass of brambles that make it virtually inaccessible to reach. When Gary Ferner and I visited here, it seemed that a very small pool of water existed in the hollow beneath the prickly vegetative covering—but even I didn’t struggle to get through it all and so we don’t know if the waters are still running as once they were. It was obviously one of the wells that fed local people in earlier times, but I can find no historical references to the site apart from its showing on the 1908 Ordnance Survey map.
This can take a little bitta finding if you don’t know the area. So it’s best starting from Hartshead church, right on top of the hill here. From whichever direction you’re taking to reach Hartshead, ask a local when you get close and they’ll direct you there. From here, walk out of the churchyard and turn left. Walk barely 50 yards and turn left again along Lady Well Lane. Past the old houses and bear right where it becomes a dirt-track. This then turns left, then again right and – with the fields on either side of you – note the single hawthorn tree ahead of you by the walling. Go into the field at the back of the hawthorn and look under its shady bough. Tis there, I assure you!
Archaeology & History
Emerging at the edge of the field beneath an old hawthorn tree at the side of the track running to the adjacent church, the waters from here are clean and fresh—though the stone trough into which it flows is constantly clogged up and the ground around it very boggy. The well has given its name to Lady Well Lane, which leads to the 12th century St. Peter’s Church, with its own ancient and legendary history. The well is thought to derive its name from ‘Our Lady’, the Virgin Mary, indicating it would have had considerable importance in the religious traditions of the christians who named it, but moreso the original animistic traditions of normal local people who would have used it for much longer…
Close by this old stone trough appears to be another one, covered by moss and the encroaching field. Whatever medicinal properties the waters may once have had, have long since been forgotten. Around Lady Well is a healthy abundance of flora: elder, chickweed, nettle, clover, bramble, dandelion, sow thistle, dock and shamanic species.
Marion Pobjoy (1972), like her predecessors, suggested that this was one of many sites in Calderdale used by St. Paulinus to perform baptisms. Local folklore tells that Robin Hood stopped here to drink the waters—but then we find an abundance of the pagan outlaw’s activities all round here. The nearby church of St.Peter is aligned to the equinoxes and may well be an indication of when pre-christian celebrations occurred here. The yew tree in churchyard was where Robin Hood was supposed to have taken wood to fashion one of his bows. Modern folklore also ascribes the well to be along a ley line.
Heginbottom, J.A., ‘Early Christian Sites in Calderdale,’ in Proc. Halifax Ant. Soc., 1988.
Pobjoy, Harold N. & Marion, The Story of the Ancient Parish of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, Riding 1972.