Parsonage Well, Manchester, Lancashire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 836 985

Archaeology & History

Long since lost beneath the metal and concrete of modern times, even references to this forgotten place are very faint indeed.  I expected to find something of it in Henry Taylor’s (1906) giganteum, but it even slipped through his considerable work; and, even where mention of it exists, it is only in passing.  In William Proctor’s (1874) survey of early Manchester, he found deeds relating to the land and its early owners wherein the one and only mention of this well appears.  It was located near the middle of the city centre, between the Law Courts and Manchester cathedral, in the area known today as the Parsonage Gardens on the east-side of the River Irwell.  In earlier centuries this was the abode of a Christian minister, or parson, and the water from this well supplied his religious abode.  Proctor wrote:

“Crossing over to the Parsonage, we find that, in 1780, one of its residents was Mr John Quincey, linen-draper, uncle to the English Opium-Eater.  In the previous year Mr Quincey was married to Miss Martha Goodyear, of Ardwick.  His residence was bounded, it seems, on the north and west by “a narrow street or passage called Black Fryars”; while on the other points of the vane his prospect is thus shown by an extract from a lease dated 1758: — “The orchard or garden plot adjoining the river; it is now fenced out with hedges and ditches.”  Some years earlier mention is made of a summer-house, fruit trees, and plants in abundance, with “free liberty of way to the spring or well called the Parsonage Well.”  In 1686, Thomas Heyrick of Manchester, gentleman, leased a “tenement and parcel of land abutting upon a messuage and garden heretofore in the possession of George Tipping, deceased, and now the dwelling-house of the warden [Richard Wroe] of the said College; bounded on the east part with the old Parsonage ditch adjoining to the tenement of Mr John Oldfield.  Close by are or were the residences of John Nield, Hugh Boardman, Richard Haworth, Esq., and lately Jane Haworth, his widow.”  A worn parchment proves the existence, in 1698, of “Parsonage Croft;” another of “Parsonage Pool;” and an order of the Court Leet, 1594, required the tenants to “go along the hedge-side, keeping the footway towards the Parsonage style, for their fetching of water from the river.”  In 1765, an advertisement in the Mercury mentions “the sign of the Grey Horse in or near Parsonage Brow.” St Mary’s Church covers the ground once known as the Parsonage Green.”


  1. Proctor, Richard W., Memorials of Manchester Streets, T. Sutcliffe: Manchester 1874.
  2. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well, Didsbury, Manchester, Lancashire

Holy Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference — SJ 8464 9036

Archaeology & History

In Henry Taylor’s gigantic survey on the Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire (1906), he told that “records of the existence of holy wells in this (district) are scanty in the extreme.”  Indeed.  He certainly missed this one which, it seems (if modern lore is correct), has sadly fallen prey to that sickness which those ghastly people call ‘progress’.  Cited to have been in or near the old graveyard of St. James church in the old village, this once ever-flowing spring of water was of great repute in earlier centuries, not only for general health, magick and traditions, but also supposedly in prolonging life itself!

One of the standard historians of Didsbury, Mr Fletcher Moss (1898), was of the view that this Well may have been the “origin of Didsbury, the place the Saxon settlers would choose first for their church and community.”  He may be right.  He told that,

“It was said ‘to be holy in papist times.’  Only last summer I several times saw three young ladies who came every morning to bathe their eyes and faces in it, saying, “It was good for sore eyes.”  I could not see anything the matter with their eyes, but that may have been my ignorance, or that they were already getting better. In the spring time or early in May the well has often been nearly choked with wild flowers, and pins have been put in for luck.  If rags or crutches were ever left there, it was when the water bubbled up in the roadway on the hillside.  The flow of it is lessened by drains or sewers, and now it is taken down in pipes.  The lane is enclosed with brick walls, and all the romance is gone; but in the longest drought or severest frost the water from the holy well has never failed, and though it may come from the churchyard, we and many others drink no other.”

In an earlier passage (Moss 1891), he talked about the longevity and good health of the local people and who credited the good water here:

“Like most of the old Didsbury folk who never bothered with doctors or change of air, Sam Gaskill, the last clerk, lived to be long past the fourscore years, for I remember him and others much older than he was, regularly going to the Holy Well for the water for their households.  As in patriarchal and primitive times the villagers went to the well or spring at eventide and tarried and talked while the water flowed.  It mattered nought to them that the water flowed from the churchyard, from the burial-place of their forefathers; they had always been healthy as their forefathers had been healthy, and they wanted no other water and would have no other; that always bubbled up fresh and sparkling in summer or winter, in drought or frost, and never failed.”

Nearby to the east, spirits of the dead were said to come from the old trees of Parrs Wood, long since destroyed by those self-righteous Industrialists…


  1. Million, Ivor R., A History of Didsbury, E. J. Morten 1969
  2. Moss, Fletcher, Didisburye in the ’45, Cornish: Manchester 1891.
  3. Moss, Fletcher, Folklore, Old Customs and Tales of My Neighbours, privately printed: Manchester 1898.

Acknowledgements:  With big thanks to Bret Gaunt, Paul Hornby and Geraldine Dowsing for their input.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Werneth Low, Hyde, Lancashire

Settlement (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 959 928

Archaeology & History

Known by this name – Werneth – since at least the 12th century, place-name masters Ekwall, Smith and others have tended to think the place derives from a hypothetical British word, *verno-, meaning alder trees – though I aint so sure misself.

It’s been difficult to ascertain the precise nature of this prehistoric arena. Many mesolithic flint finds and old stone axes have been found around the area, but it seems primarily to have developed into a neolithic and Bronze Age settlement and burial site. A number of cairns were once here, and both rounded and linear earthwork features occur in the area; but there’s been considerable disturbance in and around the site and without in-depth archaeo-surveillance, much remains hidden.


  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Ekwall, E., The Place-Names of Lancashire, Manchester University Press 1922.
  3. Marriott, W., The Antiquities of Lyme and its Vicinity, Stockport 1810.
  4. Nevell, Michael, Tameside before 1066, TMBC 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 



Buckton Castle, Mossley, Lancashire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9892 0161

Archaeology & History

Buckton Castle on 1882 map
Buckton Castle on 1882 map

This giant site—deemed as Iron Age by some and medieval by others—is on the verge of complete destruction as the adjacent quarrying company cuts closer and further into the sides and top of the monument. Local people and archaeologists need to do something about this, or it will be lost forever as the Industrialists once again destroy more of our ancient heritage in order that they can feed their god of Money.


Legend has always told that great treasure existed beneath the grounds of this Brigantian hillfort, found on the moor-edges to the east of Manchester. Long ago, one man came along to see if he could find the treasure, said to consist of a huge chest of gold. The man brought two horses and the ground within the fort was gradually cleared away until, to the man’s surprise, the legendary chest was revealed!

Attaching chains to it and the horses, the man shouted:

“Gee, whoa, whoo! Bonny, Buck and Bell,
I’ll have this chest o’ gowd, i’ spite o’ all t’ devils in hell!”

But barely had the words left his mouth and the chest began to move, when the devil himself appeared in the shape of a huge hen that breathed fire! This scared the horses so much that they bolted and snapped the chains, taking their master with them but leaving the treasure-chest still in the ground. To this day the chest still remains, hidden in the Earth.


  1. Winterbottom, Vera, The Devil in Lancashire, Cloister: Stockport 1962.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian