St Peter’s Well (1), Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2894 3382

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1852 map

Not to be confused with the other St. Peter’s Well that once existed in the city centre, this site was shown on an 1815 map of Leeds (which I’ve not been able to get mi hands on!), known as the Waterloo Map.  But when the Ordnance Survey lads visited the place in 1846, it had been covered over.  Immediately west of here, the saint’s name was also given to a nearby hill, whose folklore seems has been forgotten.

Although Ralph Thoresby mentioned it in passing, Edward Parsons (1834) gave us a brief description of its qualities, telling us that,

“Near North Hall is the celebrated spring called St. Peter’s Well ; the waters are so intensely cold that they have long been considered very efficacious in rheumatic disorders.”

Bonser (1979) reiterated this in his survey, also telling that, like its nearby namesake, its waters were “intensely cold and beneficial for rheumatism, rickets, etc.”  An old bathing-house that was “annexed to the Well” may have been used specifically to treat such ailments, but we cannot say for sure.

Interestingly, Andrea Smith (1982) told that 400 metres away a well was sunk in 1838 and a quantity of petrified hazelnuts were recovered from a broken red jar which had a female head painted on it.  Such a deposit is not too unusual, as a number of sacred wells in bygone days were blessed with nuts and signified the deity Callirius, known by the Romans as Silvanus, the God of the Hazel Wood – though we have no direct tradition here linking St. Peter’s Well with this ritual deposit.

St. Peter’s festival date was June 29.


  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 54, 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. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  5. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Helen’s Well, Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 295 329

Archaeology & History

In the Holbeck area of Leeds, one of the three spa wells was previously patronised to this mythical saint, whose wells profuse in this part of the world.  St. Helen’s Well (later becoming the Holbeck Spa Well) was found at the appropriately named St. Helens Bridge.  Ralph Thoresby (1715) wrote of the place: a supposed medicinal holy well, it previously had a chapel by it, of which no trace is seen today. John Mayhall (1860) also mentioned this “medicinal well,” but told little more. It was Andrea Smith (1982), more than a century later, who wrote the most about the place:

“In connection with the well by St.Helen’s Bridge, Holbeck, (Thoresby) refers to “another ancient fabrik called St. Helen’s,” but there is a difficulty in deciding exactly what he means by ancient; it is taken here as meaning more than two hundred years old. This suggests, then, that by St. Helen’s Bridge there was once a well and chapel which gave rise to the dedication and which was probably a Medieval foundation, considering the popularity of St. Helen at that time.”

Both of these sites have long since disappeared. The well eventually became known as a local Spa Well, and was found to possess a high sulphur content.


  1. Mayhall, John, The Annals of Yorkshire, Joseph Johnson: Leeds 1860.
  2. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  3. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis: or the Topography of the Ancient and Populous Town and Parish of Leedes, Robinson & Holdsworth: Leeds 1816.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian