Dragon Well, Wharncliffe, South Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 3054 9609

Also Known as:

  1. Dragon’s Well

Folklore

Dragons Well on 1855 map

Highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1855—along with it’s home and an associated site of the Cailleach, or Old Wife’s Cellar close by—the famous Wharncliffe Dragon used to drink from here, moreso than the other Dragon’s Well at Bolsterstone more than a mile to the west.  The dragon – with its “seven heads and twice seven eyes” – lived a short distant away on the rocks above, at the Dragon’s Den.  The description of this great beast and its antics at the well were summed-up in Rob Wilson’s book on the Holy Wells of South Yorkshire (1991). He told that:

“The Wharncliffe area has been taken as the setting for the theme of a centuries-old ballad of 19 stanzas , its full title being, ‘An Excellent Ballad of a Dreadful Combat fought between Moore of Moore-Hall and the Dragon of Wantley.’ The 6th and 13th stanzas contain references to Dragon’s Well and are printed below in full:

“Some say this dragon was a witch;
Some say he was a devil;
For from his nose a smoke arose,
And with it burning snivel;
Which he cast off when he did cough,
Into a well that stands by;
Which made it look just like a brook
Running with burning brandy.

It is not strength that always wins,
For wit doth strength excel;
Which made our cuning champion
Creep down into a well:
Where he did think this dragon would drink,
And so he did in truth;
And as he stopp’d low, he rose and cry’d Boh!
And he hit him on the mouth!””

References:

  1. Jewitt, Llewellyn, ‘The Dragon of Wantley and the Family of Moore,’ in The Reliquary, April 1878.
  2. Wilson, Rob, Holy Wells and Spas of South Yorkshire, Northern Arts: Sheffield 1991.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dragon's Well

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