St Bunyan’s Well, Leuchars, Fife

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference NO 45252 21483

Getting Here

St Bunyan's PlaceIf travelling from Dundee or Newport, turn right into Meadow Road, the last turning before the roundabout in the middle of the town. On the right is a large white-painted building where bicycles are sold. The site of St Bunyan’s Well is on the patch of empty land opposite, to the left nearest the road.

Archaeology & History

Site of St Bunyan's Well
Site of St Bunyan’s Well

The Well is named in conjunction with the ninth century Culdee chapel of St Bunyan on the nearby Temple Hill, now known as School Hill.  St Bunyan has been remembered by various alternative names:  Bunoc, Bonac, Bonoc, Bonnoch, Bunan, Bernard and Bennett, and W. Reid noted in 1909,

“A crown charter of 1539 refers to a yearly market on St. Bonoc’s Day, and a further reference to the Chapel of St Bonach occurs in the confirmation of a charter by James VI.”

Forbes’ Kalendars of Scottish Saints records, under the entry for Saint Bonoc that one of the Endowments of Saint Fergus at St Andrews was the jawbone of Saint Bonoc, given by Bishop David Rhynd.

The mid nineteenth century Ordnance Survey Name Book correspondents Messrs. Pillans and Keddie described the well: “In the village of Leuchars. A excellent Spring Well in the village of Leuchars it is built round with cut stones, and is Kept in good repair by the inhabitants. the date when it was first Constructed is not known but it said to have been before the reformation, dedicated to St. Bunyan hence its name.”

The Reverend Kettle in the Old Statistical Account for Leuchars adds: “There is a most excellent well flowing with an abundant Stream of Soft water near the west en of the village (for the village is now extending westward) called by the name of the saint to whom the Chapel was no doubt consecrated.”

An elderly couple whom I met remembered a small well-house, but I didn’t ask them when it was demolished.  The Saint is remembered in Leuchars by the road name of a modern development in St Bunyan’s Place.  St Bunyan’s Well probably dried up as a result of the increased water demand following the establishment of RAF Leuchars in 1920. The Saint now has his waters extracted by Scottish Water’s Meadow Road Pumping Station.

References:

  1. Reid, William., “Notice of the Discovery of a Group of Full-Length Stone Cists at the School Hill, or Temple Hill, Leuchars“, in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 43, 1909.
  2. Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh, 1872
  3. http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Fife/Leuchars/18/585/

Link:

  1. Canmore

© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.382435, -2.888228 St Bunyan\'s Well

Lady’s Well, Leuchars, Fife

Holy Well :  OS Grid Reference NO 45573 21645

Also Known as:

  1. Lady Well

Getting Here

Lady's Well at Leuchars
Lady’s Well at Leuchars

Entering Leuchars from Dundee or Newport go straight ahead through the roundabout; entering from Cupar or St.Andrews turn right at the roundabout, then up School Hill and bear left up the Pitlethie Road, then immediately past a long terrace of bungalows, turn left up an unmade road opposite the school, where you can park up.  Walk down the track, noting the Castle Knowe Motte across the fields ahead and follow the track to the right, and there at the bottom of the slope, below modern housing, is the site of the Lady’s Well.

Archaeology & History

There seems to be only minimal information about Lady’s Well. To the south lies the ancient church of St Athernase, described architecturally as the second finest Romanesque church in Britain (after Durham Cathedral) and apparently built by some of the same masons who built Durham.  Prior to the building of St Athernase, a ninth century Culdee church, dedicated to St Bonoc (also known as St. Bennet or St. Bonach or St.Bernard) stood on the School Hill which rises over Leuchars.  School Hill was anciently known as Temple Hill, perhaps indicating a connection with the Knights Templar.

Writing in the Old Statistical Account for Leuchars in the 1790s, the Reverend Kettle wrote:

“A little north of the east end of the village, to the convenience and comfort of the inhabitants, there is another well of equal excellence, called the Lady well, no doubt consecrated to the Blessed Virgin”

The mid nineteenth century Ordnance Survey name book has the following entry referring to the Lady’s Well, contributed by a Messrs Pillans and David Keddie:

“The site of a Spring Well in a small piece of open ground adjoining the Village of Leuchars. It ran dry before the year 1843 from some unaccountable reason. and in that year A New well was sunk and opened a short distance from it. which since supplys its place. This last was done by subscription by the inhabitants of the village the original well was sunk and opened for use by a Lady of the name of “Carnegie” who formerly Lived at “Leuchars Castle” hence the name “Lady’s Well” it was never resorted to as a holy Well.”

Despite this, we must bear in mind the Kirk’s powerful post Reformation antipathy to holy wells, which may be reflected in the story given by the above two correspondents.

While your writer was bimbling around Leuchars, a chance (?) meeting led to him being introduced to probably the oldest residents in the town (mid- to high-90s).  They only remember the Lady’s Well site being known as ‘The Well Green’ where the old Fife County Council waterworks were once situated, and there we may have the reason for the Well’s physical demise:  modern water extraction to serve Leuchars RAF Station and its ancillary barracks and housing has lowered the water table, leading to the spring drying up as it passes from living memory

Links:

  1. Canmore
  2. Leuchars St. Athernase, Church of Scotland
  3. http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/fife-and-kinross-shire-os-name-books-1853-1855/fife-and-kinross-shire-volume-44/61
  4. http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Fife/Leuchars/18/585/

© Paul T Hornby 2014-16, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.383924, -2.882997 Ladys Well