Small Wells, Louth, Lincolnshire

Sacred Wells (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 32603 87555

Also Known as:

  1. Little Wells

Archaeology & History

Small Well on 1834 map

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!


  1. Bayley, Robert S., Notitiae Ludae; or Notices of Louth, W. Edwards 1834.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Lighthouse Well, Dunnet Head, Caithness

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – ND 20422 75807

Getting Here

Lighthouse Well, Dunnet Head
Lighthouse Well, Dunnet

Take the B855 road northwards out of Dunnet village, through Brough and, nearly 4 miles on, you’ll see the waters of the Long Loch right by the roadside.  300 yards along the side of the loch, keep your eyes peeled to your left-hand side, where the white stone surround falls below the roadside just a couple of yards away.  By its side, a small stone with a plaque highlights its position. You can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

Stone & plaque by its side
Stone & plaque by its side

Marked on the earliest OS-map of the region in 1875 (simply as “Well”), this is the most northerly example of a healing well in mainland Scotland, being a good mile further north than John o’ Groats!  Consisting of a standard stone surround, the well has two stone troughs: one inside the surround, and another outside, where the water runs, before being directed back to Earth.

Secondary stone trough
Second stone trough

Although the waters here have long since quenched the thirst of crazy travellers, the well was the main water supply for the men who lived and manned the famous Dunnet Head lighthouse in earlier years, who would carry the water from here more than half-a-mile up to their remote abode, overlooking the great cliffs and out towards megalithic Orkney.  Its healing properties have, sadly, long since been forgotten.  When we visited the site, the waters did not look to be in a healthy state to drink.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian