Shown on the early 25-inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey map of the area, this is a frustrating site. In Thompson’s (1870) early history of Welton village, he says very little about this place, other than:
“Then there is Saint Ann’s Well, which supplies Welton House with spring water.”
Even worse is the fact that in William Smith’s (1923) survey of East Yorkshire holy wells, he merely copies Thompson; and in Jeremy Harte’s magnum opus he does exactly the same thing! Not good. Thankfully the local artist and singer, Gaynor Perry, helped us out big time! She grew up in this area and used to play here when she was young, but at the time she had no idea that the well where she’d played had any magical traditions attached to it. This discovery happened many years later. Regarding the present condition of the well (as of 2017), she told:
“The well has been covered with stone slabs for a long time (and) a tree has tried to grow over it. It has been sheltered here over the years in the grounds of Welton House, a large estate which was demolished in 1952.”
The well can still be seen in the small copse of trees immediately north of St Anne’s College. There is the possibility that this holy well gave its name to the village of Welton itself. First mentioned in 1080 CE, the place-name means “the well near the farm,” (Smith 1937) although there is no direct linguistic association with St. Anne, so we don’t know for sure.
St. Anne is a curious saintly figure and one of my personal favourites. St Anne (saint’s day – July 26) was a giant in early christian and Islamic myths. An apocryphal figure, She was the Great Mother of the mother of Christ—the Virgin Mary—and was Herself a Virgin until, in Her old age, after seeing a bird feeding a chick, decided She wanted a child and so eventually gave birth to Mary. An old woman giving birth when the Springtime appears (when birds and other animals become fertile) is the same motif found in the lore of the Cailleach in Ireland and Scotland (and parts of northern England). A pre-christian mythos would is highly probable here.
Tumulus (destroyed): OS Grid-Reference – TA 420 150
Archaeology & History
This long lost site is one of probably many such sites on the east coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that used to exist, before the great North Sea took them away. The only account I’ve found of this one is from a short article in an early copy of the Lincolnshire Notes & Queries magazine by John Cordeaux (1891), who wrote:
“The Spurn, or Spurn Point, as it is now usually called, at the mouth of the Humber, is so closely connected with Lincolnshire history that it is unnecessary to apologize for recording in Lincs. N. & Q. an interesting sepulchral relic found there. This is a rude chest or coffin, roughly hewn and squarely hollowed, probably with stone implements, from the trunk of an oak, recently exposed by the action of the sea on the beach at Kilnsea. The total length overall of the chest is 51 feet, the interior (it was much decayed and fallen when I saw it) little, if anything, over four feet. In this space the skeleton, presumably of an adult male was found doubled up. Most unfortunately the original finders (labourers) scattered the bones, which subsequently were washed away. A thigh bone alone being recovered, and this is suggestive of a man probably a little below the average height.
“From oral evidence collected in the neighbourhood, I came to the conclusion that the body must originally have been buried with the head bent forward on the chest, and the legs tucked up like a trussed fowl, the knees near the chin. No corresponding lid or covering was found on the coffin, it had been placed in an excavation in the red or chalky boulder clay, and tenacious blue clay placed on it. The locality on the coast where it was found represents the Pit Marshes — that is before “the sea gat ’em ” — their position was about one-hundred and fifty yards south of the first sea-groin on Kilnsea beach. It is not improbable that a barrow or tumulus, either of earth or piled stones, at one time covered the interment, until levelled and dispersed by the sea’s encroachments on the land. Not far from this place on the beach, a small, simple, flat-sided celt, about four inches long, was picked up. It may or may not have borne some relation to the occupant of the oak coffin. When the foundations of the enlarged Chancel of St. James’ Church, Grimsby, were dug, a similar coffin or chest was exposed, partly within and partly without the line of the north chancel wall. I remember it was conjectured at the time, from the comparatively small interior, that it had been used for the interment of a child. It is more probable, however, that it had once contained an adult packed away in the manner indicated at Kilnsea.”
A very short distance north we find the place-name of “How Hill”, which may be a record its existence, as the word how in many places round here can mean a tumulus. Seems to make sense.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – TA 026 223
Archaeology & History
This curiously-named, lost holy well was to be found somewhere between the old terrace at West Field and the old road of West Acridge, but even when Henry Ball (1856) wrote about it, the site had passed into history. He told that,
“In the old enclosures to the west of the town was a spring of clear water called St. Trunnion’s well, and in a field in the West Acridge a very old thorn tree called St, Trunnion’s tree, which was standing in 1736; but who St. Trunnion was is not known…”
The close proximity of the tree with the well is highly likely. Throughout the British Isles there are many relationships where sacred trees and wells of the same name are next to each other and we have little reason to doubt this was the case here. However, unless local historians can uncover some old field-name maps, the exact location of the site seems to have been lost. It was named as St Tronians in 1665; with his sacred tree mentioned in early enclosure awards dated 1681 and 1697 respectively.
The enigmatic saint ‘Trunnion’ is thought to derive, not from some old hermit or heathen holy dood, but from the corruption of an early word: “a perversion of Trin-union or Tri-union, used as an asservation or oath”; although another option cited by Cameron (1991) is that it derives from “trinune, trin-une, referring to the Trinity”—which would explain the sanctification of the waters.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – TA 032 222
Archaeology & History
Not far from the middle of this small town there lived, many centuries ago, a sacred spring of water dedicated to St. Catharine. Described in local field-names from 1697 (as St. Catherin’s Well), all trace of it has long since vanished. Indeed, even when Henry Ball (1856) wrote about it, local knowledge of it had already fallen into obscurity. He could merely tell us that,
“At the end of Newport, in what was called “the Colony,” was St. Catharine’s Well, and the road from thence to Finkle lane was named Catharine street.”
St Catharine’s festival date—known as Cattern Day in some parts of England—is November 25.
We don’t know for certain the precise whereabouts of this long lost healing well, but it would seem to be the one highlighted here (right) on the 1855 OS-map. However, I think it equally possible that the small unnamed building, roughly halfway between the highlighted ‘Well’ and Spring Cottage, where the walling meets, could be the site in question. It’s one or the other!
When Thomas Blashill (1896) wrote of the Blind Well in his standard history work of the area, memory of it was already falling away. In discussing where local people could wash and look after their health, he told that
“There was one place in the parish where washing seems to have been practised as a curative measure. Down in the East Field, near to Spring Cottage Farm, was the Blindwell, to which the people had access. If they used its waters freely when suffering from sore eyes, their faith would probably be rewarded.”
This long lost wayside cross was described in various local records from 1621 upwards. In the definitive place-name survey of this area, Kenneth Cameron (1991) told us that this was,
“A medieval cross dedicated to St James, situated at the point where the Thornton and Burnham roads meet… Mr R. Newton comments, “said to have replaced a wayside shrine. The foundations of the shrine were exposed when the Home Guard dug a defensive trench there at the beginning of the last war. Foundations destroyed by a bomb.””
Cameron, Kenneth, The Place-Names of Lincolnshire – volume 2, EPNS: Nottingham 1991.
Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 748 282?
Archaeology & History
I’ve looked and looked for info on this seemingly lost site, but have found very little. It lent its name to the very woodland within, or on whose edges, it could once be found. First described as early as 1284 in the ‘Calendar of Patent Rolls’ – where is appeared as ‘Ringestainhirst‘ – and then in the Testamenta Eboracensia in 1391, it is mentioned several other times before falling into nothing but literary memory in the middle of the 19th century.
We don’t know for sure where the circle was located, though one Latin reference describes it in proximity to a hermitage once known as St. Mary Magdalen’s Chapel at Howden: “heremitae de Ryngstanhyrste.” The site would likely have been on the highest point in the locality, which may put it where the great church now stands, or perhaps on the more northern and western outskirts of the township. Are there any Howden historians reading this who might be able to throw a bit more light on the issue?
The great place-name authority A.H. Smith (1937) thought that the Ringstone Hurst (woodland) at Howden got its name from a “wood near the circular stone”; but modern etymologists would place a much greater likelihood that the woodland owed its name to the now lost stone circle that was once in this locality.
Raine, James (ed.), Testamenta Eboracensia; or, Wills Registered at York, J.B. Nichols: London 1836.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1937.