Gorrick’s Spring, Calverton, Buckinghamshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SP 7880 3930

Getting Here

Take the Calverton Road out of Stoney Statford, then take the left hand road to Calverton and look for layby on the right near a copse.

Archaeology & History

Gorrick’s spring is an interesting site and perhaps the best of the county’s holy wells. The water flows from a rather worn lion’s head beneath a stone arch under the steps, and pours into a stone lined chamber repaired with concrete slabs. It is reached by a series of steps from the layby and beside the spring is a narrow and as Rattue (2003) states an uncomfortable seat.

Folklore

It is unclear where the name comes from but a local legend tells how a witch’s pupil gave the sight back to a Gypsy tinker. A rhyme states in Romance around Stoney Stratford quoted by Rattue (2003):

“When Gorrick’s Spring flows fast and clear,
Stoop down and drink, for health is here,
If Gorrick’s Spring shuld e’er run dry,
Beware, for pestilence is nigh.”

Interestingly it did run dry in 1996 as noted in the local Herald of 8th November 1996:

“It’s a mystery,” confessed Calverton resident Lucinda Lourie. She said she realised water levels were currently low, but older residents of the village remembered the spring running through the drought of 1976. She said one wag at Anglian Water had suggested the source of the spring may have been a burst pipe which the Anglian Water work had cured – unlikely since the spring is reputed to have been used by monks in the 13th century!”

An author named Bartley (1928) mentioned by Rattue (2003) in his Holy Wells of Buckinghamshire notes:

 “the monks of old….deemed the delicious waters of this wayside spring as sacred, possessing healing properties for all humans. Daily the holy Friar would hie to the mossy bank and reach the water with his ancient pitcher, and bear it homeward to his suffering flock”

As Rattue (2003) notes it appears unlikely that a friar would have visited the site as there  is no record of any religious institutions connected with the site.

Extracted and amended from the below post (which also discusses St Rumbold’s Well)

http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/a-buckinghamshire-field-trip-gorricks-spring-and-st-rumbolds-well/

References:

    1. James Rattue (2003) Holy Wells of Buckinghamshire

 

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  52.046539, -0.852214 Gorrick’s Spring

St Francis’ Well, Conisborough, South Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS-Grid Reference – SK 5112 9880

Also known as:

  1. Town Well

Getting Here

From Church street turn down into Wellgate, the well is on the right hand site at 18 Wellgate surrounded by railings near some new properties, on a little island.

Archaeology & History

Near the castle, and although dry it is a substantial site variously called the Town well or the Well of St Francis.  This is as C.F. Innocent (1914) described it:

“Covered by a curious little building very medieval-looking  with it a chamfered plinth and steeply slanted roof”

Little is recorded of its history, but the structure more a conduit house probably dates from the 1500s at the earliest and was used as source of domestic water until the 1900s.

Folklore

Which St Francis it is, is unclear, but Alport (1898) records the local tradition which states that he was a local holy man and probably not a true saint and it is interesting that a number of churches are dedicated to a St. Francis in Yorkshire. Interestingly though, the date of creation of the well is recorded and is quite late compared to other local saints.

It is said that in 1320 -1321 the village was suffering from a particularly terrible drought and this St. Francis, said to be an old and wise man was sought for his advice. He suggested that the local people cut a willow tree from Willow Vale and then as the people sang psalms and hymns he lead them through the church and priory grounds to the site of the well. At the spot St Francis then struck is and not only did a spring arise and followed for the next 582 years (for its sadly dry now) but the tree took root.

Sadly this tree has either died or was dug up. Clark (1986) believes the story recalls a Pagan priest and that the legend was a legacy of Conisbrough’s pre-Christian past; certainly the reference to a willow indicates a water diviner.

Extracted and amended (where both sites of the town are discussed) from http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/a-yorkshire-field-trip-conisboroughs-two-holy-wells/

References:

    1. Allport, C.H., (1898) History of Conisborough.
    2. Clark, S., (1986) “The Holy well of Conisborough,” in Source, Old Series no.5.
    3. Innocent, C.F (1914-18) “Conisborough and its Castle,” in Trans of Hunter Archaeology Society.

© Ross Parish

St Francis' Well

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St Francis\' Well 53.483503, -1.231057 St Francis\' Well

Egg Well, Ashenhurst, Leek, Staffordshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference — SK 005 540

Egg Well, Ashenhurst

Egg Well, Ashenhurst

Getting Here

Just outside of Leek a right-hand lane leads to the small hamlet of Ashenhurst, turning left pass the gated road and on the right hand side at the next fork is the The egg well on the right in a small brick building.

Archaeology & History

The Egg Well is a curious site.  No evidence appears to record it as a holy well, nor a spa— but it appears to be a secular healing well.  Local tradition believes that the site was used by the Roman, but the older fabric was set in place by William Stanley, the owner of Ashenhurst Hall bewteen 1744 and 1752.  The present house was erected in the 19th century.

Waters of the well

Waters of the well

The name of the well is curious; it could refer to the shape of the basin, but could also refer to sulphurous waters although I could not detect a smell.  Today, a rather ugly 19th century brick-built structure surrounds this stone lined bath-shaped structure, which was roofed at a later date.

Folklore

The site was used by the Romans, but there is no evidence.  Its properties are recorded on the basin is this monogram and an interesting Latin inscription which reads:

“Renibus, et splenui cordi, jecorique medatur, Mille maelsi prodest ista salubris aqua.”

The translation being:

“The liver, kidneys, heart’s disease these waters remedy. And by their healing powers assuage full many a malady.”

References:

  1. Parish, R.B., Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Staffordshire – in publication.

Links:

  1. Holy Wells & Healing Springs – Staffordshire

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

Egg Well

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Egg Well 53.083488, -1.993084 Egg Well

Billy Hobby’s Well, Chester, Cheshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference — SJ 413 662

Getting Here

The well is found on the south-east corner edge of Grovesnor Park, which is the south-east of the city beside the River Dee.

Archaeology & History

Billy Hobbys Well, Chester
Billy Hobbys Well, Chester

An early reference to this site is in the place-name of Billy Obbies Field, marked in 1745, with an accompanying spring marked at 1791. This would appear to suggest that the spring gained its name from the field and not vice versa, with the name possibly representing a local person.  Yet the name may hide a much earlier origin. The name ‘Hobby’ derives from hobb, a name for a devil or demon – and where the name hobgoblin derives from. It may be possible that the area was a marshy waste and to warn people away a legend of a demon was introduced. More interesting is the idea that as the name ‘Hobb’ is synonymous with Puck, and Puck possibly having a Roman origin, that the site could be a much earlier Pagan site. This might explain the fertility ritual found here (see Folklore, below) if it has a greater age.  It may be significant that when the park was developed, a long line of Roman earthenware water pipes were found.  Did they draw water from the spring?

Internal Structure
Internal Structure

Whatever the origin, when the garden was developed in the 1860s by the 2nd Earl of Westminster, Richard Grosvenor, a rather grand and impressive red and buff sandstone ashlar well house was erected. This was designed by John Douglas, a local Chester architect, who was not forthcoming in making this well grand with canted corners, pointed arches flanked by a granite columns with wrought iron bars. At each corner is a small carved circle containing carved sheafs and portcullis and the voussoirs contain carved roses. A tiled spired roof sits upon the structure with an apex surmounted by a copper fish weathervane. All in all, rather ostentatious for a well – especially as access to the well chamber has not been made very easy by the enclosure.  Whether the improvements were done to develop some sort of spa well is unclear, but it is known that the when Canniff Haight (1904) visited for his United Empire, the spring was still flowing and noted, for he records:

“Billy Hobby’s Well,” a spring of excellent water, where we have a drink.”

Folklore

This was a local wishing well.  A local anonymous rhyme records:

“I lov’d the tales that idle maids do tell,
Of wonders wrought at Billy Hobby’s Well,
Where love-sick girls with leg immured would stand,
The right leg ’twas – the other on dry land,
With face so simple – stocking in the hand –
Wishing for husbands half a winter’s day.
With ninety times the zeal they used to pray”

Billy Hobbys-well-8This old rhyme despite some pedigree suggested I have been able to date only to 1823. It appears to record a ritual undertaken at the well, a similar ‘one part of the body in, one out’ was done at Walsingham by lovelorn maidens, but it does look to be Victorian in origin there (or at least post Reformation). The only problem with the practice being undertaken then is that the present structure dates from that period.

From the forthcoming work on Holy wells and healing springs of Cheshire

References:

  1. Dodgson, J.M., The Place-Names of Cheshire – Part 5, English Place-Name Society: Cambridge 1981.
  2. Haight, Canniff, A United Empire Loyalist in Great Britain, William Briggs: Toronto 1904.
  3. Hole, Christina, Traditions and Customs of Cheshire, Williams & Norgate: London 1937.

Links:

  1. Holy and Healing Wells

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

Billy Hobby's Well

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Billy Hobby\'s Well 53.190186, -2.879718 Billy Hobby\'s Well

Lady Well, Ancaster, Lincolnshire

Holy well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 9840 4332

Getting Here

Lady Well, Ancaster
Lady Well, Ancaster

Park by the church, which has a Sheela Na Gig and some roman stones. Walk back to the A153 (Ancaster Cross roads), turn left and cross the road. Take the footpath which is on the south side of the A153 and bear right into the nature reserve. The well – a large pool – is on private land, but it can be seen to the right of the entrance to the reserve.

Archaeology & History

This spring was possibly known in Roman and pre-Roman times, as there is a Roman station settlement hereby.  Roman credentials have been strengthened since Time Team’s research which found that the site was the focus of a cult. There was an inscribed stone, found in the church and originally part of an archway, which says:

DEO VIRIDIO TRENICO ARCVM FECIT DE SVO DON

Translated to:

‘For the god Viridius, Trenico made this arch, donated from his own funds.”

The Time team archaeologists found a late Roman or early Dark Age burial with a similar inscription ‘DEO VRIDI SANCTO – ‘To the holy god Viridius.”  The show thought that the God was associated with agriculture, but with the proximity of the spring nearby, perhaps they missed an obvious connection.    It seems very likely that the Romans would have known of the spring as the valley beside it is thought to be a Roman raceway and the town was only a few yards away.

The spring is not mentioned historically; for example Leland (1535-43) notes a chapel and hermitage, but no well:

“The area wher the castelle stoode is large, and the dikes. In the highest ground of the area is now an old chapel dedicate to S. Marie, and there a her(em)ite.” 

Lady Well on 1858 map
Lady Well on 1858 map

In Victorian times the water was tapped as a source of water for the village and a large cistern and pipe system established.  According to Thompson (1999) in his work on Lincolnshire springs and wells, this was later removed and the well had become a boggy area, before finally being restored and clay-lined to be stocked with fish and prevent water loss.  Its water now appears to be a light greeny-blue as a result. One cannot directly reach the edge of the water as it is enclosed in fencing but it can clearly be seen from the footpath.

Folklore

No tradition appears recorded regarding it properties.  However, it appears likely that this is the spring Rudkin (1936) notes as St. Helen’s Well or Mucky Pool in the legend of Byard’s Leap, the famed story associated with a local witch as the story has association with Ancaster – although this could record another site.

References:

  1. Parish, R. B., (2012) Holy wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire
  2. Rudkin, Ethel, Lincolnshire Folklore, Gainsborough 1936.
  3. Thompson, Ian, Lincolnshire Springs and Wells, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 1999.
  4. Thompson, Ian, Saints, Churches, Holy Wells, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 2009.

Links:

  1. Holy and Healing Wells

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian 

Lady Well

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Lady Well 52.978162, -0.535996 Lady Well

Holy Well, Garenden, Loughborough, Leicestershire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 507 180

Getting Here

The path down to the well
The path down to the well

On the outskirts of Loughborough is an area called Holywell, but pronounced ‘holly’. The holy well can be found at the furthest north west part of the park, behind the large Garendon block of the Holywell complex. Here behind some hydrogen cylinders (!) follow the brook on the left until you reach a stile. Climb over this and the well in front of you. It is unclear what the access rights are, but there are no private signs.

Archaeology & History

The stile with the well in the background
The stile with the well in the background

Virtually swallowed up by Loughborough University is the estate of Holywell Haw, the present farmhouse taking its name from a spring nearby. Of the house itself: it probably began life as a hostel for those lost in the most substantial Charnwood Forest, which has since retracted around it.  However by 1180, it had become a hermitage owned by Garendon Abbey and is then first noted by the name of ‘Holywell Haw’, the latter word deriving from haw meaning enclosure, the same origin as hawthorn.  Potter, in his History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest (1842), notes it was mentioned in a grant by Robert de Jort to the abbey, with the site being described as heremitorium de Halliwellhaga.

Later, the 13th century Testa de Nevill, records ‘a dairy, with a small wood, called Haliwelle Hawe’, which by the 14th century the Leicester Abbey purchased from a Henry Lord Beaumont “a certain parcel of wood called Holy-well Haw for £28.”  It was they who appeared to have developed the area to what can be seen today: fishponds and moats, and probably used the site as a grange and possible a diary.  What remains today is mainly 15th century, with fragments of a medieval structure such as gothic doorways and timbers. Whether it was Holywell Haw or Hall is unclear.  This discrepancy has been blamed on the Ordnance Survey—and indeed, some blunders have been done by them in the past. However, it is possible that a 19th century owner, March Philips, had some sort of pretensions for the building and thought the name was better.  By the 18th century, the name Holywell Dyke was an eighteenth-century boundary mark for Charnwood Forest.

The spring is icy cold and never run dry, and produces—according to Bob Trubshaw (1990)—20,000 galloons a day and is one of the only non-incorporated spring in the Severn Trent catchment classed as A1 Drinkable.

The Site Today…

The not-very-interesting looking site today
The not-very-interesting looking site today

Despite a leaflet mentioning the well from the University (available as a pdf-file), it is a little reticent as regards to whether it can be visited.  However, exploring around the back of the enormous Holywell complex, a small path passes some gas cylinders and then to a stile. No keep out signs are present so I assumed it was okay to jump over. There almost in front of me is a large brick chamber covered by two large fibre glass up turned boats. These appear to cover the well.

Within, with natural rock & medieval stonework?
Within, with natural rock & medieval stonework?

Peering between a gap however, this rather unpromising edifice reveals something more interesting. The brick chamber encloses an elliptical natural stone or possibly medieval basin, into which a copious flow enters and fills and then flows through a pipe into the brook below. Despite the rather ugly surrounds there is still something ancient and mysterious about this most well-known of Leicestershire sacred springs. The local farm, the Holywell Haw, still apparently uses the water and it is regularly checked by the University authorities. One hopes it can get a better cover.  Surely the university could afford a metal grid more worthy of this venerable site.

Folklore

Local tradition states that it has medicinal qualities. Nichols (1795–1815) notes:

“The excellent spring is yet preserved.”

Potter (1852) notes that it:

“derives part of its name from a well, to the waters of which, even in recent times, considerable virtues have been attributed.”

However, its most famous legend is said to date from the 15th century. Potter (1852) notes that:

“The popular idea seems to be, that the Comyns (of Whitwick Castle) were great giants. One of them, said my informant, attempted to carry off one of the Ladies of Groby Castle, who left that place for security, intending to take sanctuary at Grace Dieu. Going, however, by a circuitous route, to avoid Charley and Whitwick, she was benighted, and would have perished in the Outwoods, but for one of the Monks of the Holy Well.”

The overflow runs into a delightful brook
The overflow runs into a delightful brook

The legend tells how after a considerable pursuit, she upon reaching the hermitage, collapsed and died. A monk then used the water to bring her back to life. Potter (1942) tells the story in verse:

“The oaks of the forest were Autumn-tinged,
And the winds were at sport with their leaves
When a maiden traversed the rugged rocks
That frown over WOODHOUSE EAVES.

The rain fell fast – she heeded it not
Though no hut or home appears;
She scarcely knew if the falling drops
Were rain drops or her tears.

Onward she hied through the OUTWOODS dark
(And the Outwoods were darker then)
She feared not the Forest’s deepening gloom She feared unholy men.

Lord Comyn’s scouts were in close pursuit,
For Lord Comyn the Maid had seen,
And had marked her mother’s only child
For his paramour, I ween.

A whistle, a whoop from the BUYK HYLLS side,
Told Agnes her foes were nigh:
And screened by the cleft of an aged oak,
She heard quick steps pass by.

Dark and dread fell that autumn night:
The wind-gusts fitful blew:
The thunder rattled: – the lightning’s glare
Showed BEACON’s crags to view.

The thunder neared – the lightning played
Around the sheltering oak;
But Agnes, of men, not God afraid,
Shrank not at the lightning’s stroke!

The thunder passed – the silvery moon
Burst forth from her cave of cloud,
And showed in the glen “Red Comyn’s” men,
And she breathed a prayer aloud:-

“Maiden mother of God! Look down
List to a maidens prayer:
Keep undefiled my mother’s sole child
The spotless are thy care”

The sun had not glinted on BEACON HILL
Ere the Hermit of the HOLY WELL
Went forth to pray, as his wont each day,
At the cross in Fayre-Oke dell.

Ten steps had he gone from the green grassy mound
Still hemming the HOLY WELL HAW,
When, stretched on the grass – by the path he must pass
A statue-like form he saw!

He crossed himself once, he crossed himself twice,
And he knelt by the corse in prayer:
“Jesu Maria! cold as ice –
Cold – cold – but still how fair!”

The Hermit upraised the stiffened form,
And he bore to the HOLY WELL:
Three Paters or more he muttered o’er,
And he filled his scallop shell.

He sprinkled the lymph on the Maiden’s face,
And he knelt and he prayed by her side
Not a minute’s space had he gazed on her face
Ere signs of life he spied…..

Spring had invested the CHARNWOOD oaks
With their robe of glistening green,
When on palfreys borne, one smiling morn,
At the HOLY WELL’s HAW were seen.

A youth and a Lady, passing fair,
Who asked for the scallop shell:
A sparkling draught each freely quaffed,
And they blessed the HOLY WELL.

They blessed that Well, and they fervently blessed
The Holy Hermit too;
To that and to him they filled to the brim
The scallop, and drank anew.

“Thanks, Father! Thanks! – To this well and thee,”
Said the youth, “But to Heaven most,
I owe the life of the fairest wife
That CHARNWOOD’s bounds can boast.

“The blushing bride thou seest at my side.
(Three hours ago made mine)
Is she who from death was restored to breath
By Heaven’s own hand and thine”.

“The Prior of ULVERSCROFT made us one,
And we hastened here to tell
How much we owe to kind Heaven and thee,
For the gift of the HOLY WELL”.

“In proof of which – to the HOLYWELL HAW
I give as a votive gift,
From year to year three fallow deer,
And the right of the Challenge drift”.

“I give, besides, of land two hides,
To be marked from the Breedon Brand:
To be held while men draw from the Well in this Haw
A draught with the hollow hand”.

The Hermit knelt, and the Hermit rose,
And breathed “Benedicite!
And tell me”, he said, with a hand on each head,
“What heaven sent pair I see!”

“This is the lost de Ferrers’ child,
Who dwelt at the Steward’s Hay;
And, father, my name – yet unknown to fame
Is simply EDWARD GREY”.

It is thought that after being revived she gave her name to God and became a prioress and some historians link it to a  real life account of Eleanor Ferrars whose was carried off. It also has similarity to legends associated with Essex’s Running Well and Kent’s St. Thomas’s well at Singlewell.

References:

  1. Hope, R. C, 1893, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, London: Elliot Stock.
  2. Nichols, J.,1795-1810, History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, London: Nichols
  3. Potter, C.1985, ‘The holy wells of Leicestershire and Rutland’, in Source, 1st series, 1:15–17.
  4. Potter, T. R 1852, History and antiquities of Charnwood Forest
  5. Rattue, J., 1993, ‘An inventory of ancient, holy and healing wells in Leicestershire’, Tr. of the Leicestershire Arch. & Hist. Soc. 67: 59–69. Richardson, L. R., 1931, Wells and Springs of Leicestershire, Memoirs of the Geological Survey.
  6. Trubshaw, B., 1990, Holy Wells and Springs of Leicestershire and Rutland, Heart of Albion, Wymeswold.

Links:

  1. Holy and Healing Wells

Based on the following and part of a forthcoming Holy wells and healing springs of Leicestershire.

©  Ross Parish

Holy Well

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Holy Well 52.757722, -1.249748 Holy Well

Lady Well, Headon, Nottinghamshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 748 779

Lady Well, Headon
Lady Well, Headon

Getting Here

Follow the road around from Headon village to the Ladywell estate and on the left hand side is a small copse and footpath. It is near the junction of Greenspotts Lane and Lady Well Lane. Park carefully near here and walk down the small ravine to the well.

History & Archaeology

Close-up of the well
Close-up of the well

Only two dates can be confirmed of this site. One a reference in County records of mending a bridge to a ‘Ladyewell‘ in the nearby Markham parish, but this could easily be another site.  A better date is that  1718 which is carved on its arch. It was used as a source of water  until the 1930s. One of the most atmospheric and pleasantly situated sites, the spring is located in a small wooded dell and arises from the rock in a small alcove or cave.  This is fronted by a red brick arch, and the water fills a trough set partly into the ground with a small overflow lip and a channel to fill it, presumably this was for animals. On the key stone of the arch are the initials ‘HW’ and a date which possibly reads 1718.

Dressed for 2000AD
Dressed for 2000AD

Folklore

I have found no traditions of healing or other folk belief. However, the site was one of the few Nottinghamshire well dressing sites.  This began in 1981 and continued until 1991, and there was a one-off occurred in 2000 AD.  It was done on the weekend of the churches Patronal festival—St. Peter’s—and was used to use to pay for the church repairs.  The well dressing boards were of a Derbyshire tradition, as can be seen here to the right.

References:

  1. Parish, R.B, (2010) Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Nottinghamshire

Copyright © Pixyled Publications

Lady Well

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Lady Well 53.293228, -0.878156 Lady Well

St. Alkmund’s Well, Derby, Derbyshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 351 371 

Geting Here

It can be found by taking North Street off Duffield Road (A6) continuing until it joins North Parade and here a little lane, called Well Street comes off and the spring is at the junction of this and Bath Street on the left hand side.

Archaeology & History

St. Alkmund's Well, Derby
St. Alkmund’s Well, Derby

First recorded in 1190 in a rental agreement but considering its association probably earlier. The well is dedicated to the Saxon saint who died 800 AD and whose tomb or shrine was located in church nearby (and is now located in the Derby Museum).  Little is recorded of its history however.

The well is below ground level with four steps to its water which flows with some force into an oval basin. A stone carving states its name. The plaque reads:

“Until the area was built up from 1814, the well was in a rural setting, part of St Helen‟s Park. The stone niche surrounding the well was built by the Rev Henry Cantrell in the early 18th century”.

It now sits rather incongruously in an area of urban landscape,  an odd juxtaposition amongst the older houses and tower blocks still exists, but is often prone to vandalism. and has suffered from it. Well dressings were discontinued due to vandalism and it was blocked off my tall metal fencing for a period recently. Now it is surrounded by a small wall and black railings which has blocked access but will protect it.

Folklore

Cox (1875–9) records that a vicar of S. Werburgh’s was cured of his low consumption, after constantly drinking its water, although the sign It has been traditionally dressed, revived in 1870 and continued infrequently until 1993, stopping because the boards were thoughtlessly vandalised. The demolishing of the St. Alkmund’s Church in the 1960s for road widening stopped the tradition of processing to the well. I was told by a local elderly lady that she still drank the water and that it was very pure…I was not sure myself!

References:

  1. Parish, R.B, (2010) Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Nottinghamshire

Copyright © Pixyled Publications

St Alkmund's Well

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St Alkmund\'s Well 52.930735, -1.478024 St Alkmund\'s Well

Newell’s Well, Glentham, Lincolnshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 981 897

Getting Here

Newll's Well, Glentham
Newll’s Well, Glentham

Leave Glentham on the way to Caenby Corner. You pass a footpath marked on the right-hand side (it goes to Highfield farm). The road makes a bend to the right and then before a slighter turn to the left, just before this last bend there is a little lane to the right. Park safely here and then there is copse. You will need to scramble down there and follow the small stream to its source. It runs almost just under the road.

Archaeology & History

Many wells have associations with seasonal customs, but perhaps one of the most unusual traditions is that found in the Glentham Parish in Lincolnshire. Here can be found the Newell or Newell’s Well which had associated with it a rather unique custom: the ceremony of ‘Washing Molly Grime’ The tradition appears to have become confused over the centuries. A full account is recorded by a H. Winn in Notes and Queries (1888-9):

“The church of Glentham was originally dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, a circumstance obviously alluded to by a sculpture in stone of the Virgin supporting the dead Christ in her arms, still to be seen over the porch entrance and placed there by some early representative of the Tourneys of Caenby, who had a mortuary chapel on the north side of Glentham church. The washing of the effigy of the dead Christ every Good Friday, and strewing of his bier with spring flowers previous to a mock entombment, was a special observance here. It was allowed to be done by virgins only, as many desired to take part in the ceremony being permitted to do so in mourning garb. The water for washing the image was carried in procession from Neu-well adjacent. A rent was charged of seven shillings a year was left upon some land at Glentham for the support of this custom, and was last paid by W. Thorpe, the owner, to seven old maids for the performance of washing the effigy each Good Friday. The custom being known as Molly Grime’s washing led to an erroneous idea that the rent charge was instituted by a spinster of that name, but ‘Molly Grime’ is clearly a corruption of the ‘Malgraen’ i.e. Holy Image washing, of an ancient local dialect. About 1832 the land was sold without any reservation of the rent charge.”

The origin for the wells name is also confused.  Rudkin (1936) notes:

“They reckon it’s called Newell’s well on account of a man named Newell as left money to seven poor widow women..”

However, it is more likely to be simply new well, perhaps deriving its name from ‘eau’, a common word in the county.

When and why the tradition switched from washing the holy image to that supposedly of the Tourney (Lady Anne Tourney a local 14th century land owner) is unclear, but it is possible that the change occurred at the Reformation and that perhaps the money was given to wash both holy image and that of the benefactor and post Reformation only the benefactor washing survived. There is a similar tradition called the ‘Dusters’ in Duffield.  The name of the activity clearly survived as Rudkin that:

 “ they’d wash a stone coffin-top as in the Church; this ‘ere coffin-top is in the form of a women. ‘Molly Grime’ they calls it.”

The tradition even appears to have earned some note nationwide, for a nursery rhyme about the custom is known:

Seven old maids, Seven old maids,
once upon a time, Got when they came
Came of Good Friday, Seven new shillings
To wash Molly Grime, In Charity’s name,
The water for washing, God bless the water
Was fetched from Newell, God bless the rhyme
And who Molly was I never heard tell. And God bless the old maids that washed Molly Grime

Sadly the selling of the land appeared to killed off the tradition, except that between 2004 and 2007 a special Father’s Day race for women was established. This involved filling a balloon with water from Newell’s spring and the subsequent attempt for getting it back to the village without bursting it. In essence it remembered the tradition, but sadly it too appears to have fallen into abeyance.

Folklore

Another tradition in the village was that if one drank its waters one was said never to leave the village. A correspondent of Sutton (1997) states:

 “An old boy told me about the ‘healing well of Glentham. It was named after a saint but I can’t remember the name he used. Some folk call it Newell’s well. Many people came to take the healing waters and in the spring of the year, the Church held an annual service for ‘good water for the rest of the year’, the service marked a new year of the waters. The well was dressed in a traditional way using clay and flower petals to make some kind of picture, usually a saint. I’m told it look very impressive”

This is presumably before the site was enveloped in scrub as it is now. The report is interesting for a number of reasons; firstly because the correspondent refers to the waters as healing, secondly that it was dedicated to a saint and thirdly the account of well dressing more reminiscent of Derbyshire, and as far as I am aware it is only such example, as well dressing at Welton and Louth appeared to be more garland related. None of these observations have been made elsewhere which either casts doubt in the correspondent or more likely the patchy nature of well traditions in the county.

Despite the loss of the custom, the well still survives, the water clear and flowing arises beneath a stone built chamber of seven courses of stonework with a small square outlet through which the water flows.    However, according to recent reports boring in the vicinity has resulted in the water being drained away but I have been unable to ascertain this.

(Essay from the book by R.B. Parish – Holy Wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire)

References:

  1. Parish, R.B., Holy Wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire
  2. Reynolds, Jeff, Glentham Parish Council – Personal Comm.
  3. Rudkin, E.H., (1936) Lincolnshire Folklore
  4. Sutton, M., (1996) A Lincolnshire Calendar
  5. Winn, H (1888-9) in Notes and Queries

Links:

  1. Holy and Healing Wells
  2. In Search of Traditional Customs and Ceremonies

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Newells Well

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Newells Well 53.395511, -0.525470 Newells Well