Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 17884 23487
Also Known as:
- Ladies Well
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.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian