St. Anne’s Well, Strathaven, Lanarkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 7039 4438

Archaeology & History

St Anne's Well on 1865 map

St Anne’s Well on 1865 map

Long since lost it would seem, in a search for this legendary site over the weekend with Gordon, Aisha and Lara, I’m still not certain of the actual status of the site.  Although we found a very fresh water supply still running not far from where the old OS-map showed the original holy well to be, it may be a completely different water source.

There are hardly any references to the spring and those that exist are scant.  In the early 1860s, St. Ane’s Well was mentioned briefly in the Object Name Book of the area:

“This is a good spring well in the southern part of the town of Strathaven.  It is commonly called Tun’s (Tan’s?) Well, but this is an abbreviation of the name.”

Lara plays at a nearby well

Lara plays at a nearby well

Looking down on the waters

Looking down on the waters

More recently, thanks to a communication from the local historian Robert Currie, more information has come to light about the well.  It was described in the local history work by Mary Gebbie (1880).  Mr Currie told me:

“In her Sketches of Avondale and Strathaven…we read: “In a lane off Tod’s Hill was the famous Tann’s Well – obviously a corruption of the celebrated water saint, St. Anne. This spring has within a few years completely dried up. Access was easily had from the castle to it, over the draw-bridge, which is said to have rested on the ledge of the ground and rock on which the fifth house is built south of the bridge. Before this aperture was built up, the inhabitants around took advantage of the pathway for drawing water from the Pomillion, at a place called the Fairy Pool. A little above this comes the Dove Castle; and a half a mile further out is the Gallow Hill.”

He continued:

“That said, the current siting of St. Anne’s Well is located on Lesmahagow Road with (the) site being almost opposite the Council houses bordering on Station Road (there is currently a mini-roundabout near the locus). In recent years the site has become obscured but in my own living memory there was once a plaque authenticating the site and with a garden seat thereby.”

In searching through their own library, Mr Currie and his wife came across more about the site in William Downie’s (1979) book on Strathaven, in which he wrote:

“A small lane off Todshill went down to a cluster of houses called St. Anne’s Well nestling on the sloping ground beside the mill dam. In 1911 these houses were acquired and demolished by the Town Improvement Committee. A row of houses backing backing on to Powmillon Burn were also demolished at the same time and a retaining wall with railings erected, so opening up a very fine view of the castle and burn etc.”

The dedication here to the mythic figure of St. Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus) is isolated and mysterious.  No church is dedicated to her in the area, nor other relative christian remains.  Her appearance in Strathaven is something of an oddity.  There was a Duchess ‘Ann’ Hamilton of Strathaven Castle who lived 200 yards away at Strathaven Castle on the other side of the river that might have given her name to the well, but this is very unlikely.  More probable is that St. Anne was used as the mythic figure who covered an earlier dedication to the prima mater, or Cailleach—although there are no remains that relate to Her either.  However, the existence of St Mary’s church and an associated well to the north, along with a burn dedicated to a “maiden” in the same parish to the northwest add to the cailleach’s potential…..but all tales of Her have seemingly been forgotten.

…So it seems that the spring of water that Lara, Aisha, Gordon and I came across was obviously not the same place, but exists just below the roadside where the disused railway line is.  It’s close to St Anne’s Well – but is not the same water source.

References:

  1. Downie, Fleming, A History of Avondale and Strathaven, Eric Moore: Glasgow 1979.
  2. Gebbie, Mary, Sketches of the Town of Strathavon and Parish of Avondale: Historical & Traditional, John Menzies: Edinburgh 1880.

Links:

  1. Strathaven Past & Present

Acknowledgements:  Considerable thanks must be given to Robert Currie, BA Hons, who sent us additional information enabling a more informative and accurate site profile for this holy well.  Thanks Bob! Also huge thanks again to Aisha Domleo, Lara Domleo, Unabel Gordon and their frobbling Leonidus!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.675409, -4.062593 St. Anne’s Well

Lady Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 60376 65323

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45037

Getting Here

Lady Well on 1865 OS-map

Lady Well on 1865 OS-map

Get yourself to Glasgow Cathedral—wherein you’ll find St. Mungo’s Well—and walk down John Know Street.  A coupla hundred yards down, across the road is a small street called Ladywell Lane (there’s no signpost for it though), running below the cemetery and leading to the back entrance of the giant Tennent’s Brewery.  At the bottom of this, up against the wall on your left, is the Lady Well.

Archaeology & History

The origins and early traditional history of this once famous sacred well are sadly lost due to the intrusion of industrialism.  It was obviously a place of some considerable repute and lent its name to local quarries and fields hereby.  Used extensively by local people for countless centuries, things were to change in 1715 when the waters of this and other wells were to be kept clean by one John Black, “at a salary of 400 merks yearly.”  The Glasgow historian Eyre-Todd (1934) told that,

“Black was to furnish them with chains, buckets, sheaves, ladles, and other necessary graith, aswell as with locks and iron bands.  He was ‘to cleanse, muck and keep them clean,’ and to lock and open them in due time, evening and morning.  In case of failure he was liable to a penalty of £100 Scots.”

Lady Well in 2015

Lady Well in 2015

Lady Well in 1883

Lady Well in 1883

That’s a helluva lot of money in those days!  Even when M’Ure (1736) described it, only in passing, he had nothing to say about its curative properties or local rites.  Once the Industrialists take control, the ways of local people are sanitized, sterilized and ‘progress’ outlaws tradition.  The only reference to an earlier sacrality is in Mr Russel’s (1883) article, where he said simply, that the Lady Well was “so called after a fountain at the bottom of the Craigs…sacred in Popish times to the Virgin.”

The construction that we see today—of the well in its little enclave—was first built in 1835-6.  The waters became polluted after they were redirected below the Necropolis and have not been used since (although they still flow out of the wall a couple of yards to the right, stinking!).  The architectural feature was cleaned up and restored by the local brewery in 1983.

The site may have derived its name from one Lady Lochow, who lived nearby and built a hospital at the old Gorbels in the 14th century.  However, an intriguing ingredient relating to the dedication of the Lady Well is the incidence of a St. Anne’s Street that used to exist immediately to the east, as seen on the 1865 OS-map above.  St. Anne may well be the mythic character behind the naming of this Lady Well, although I can find no literature to prove this.  In the christian mythos, St. Anne was a very important character indeed: the mother of the Virgin Mary no less!  However, as hagiographers from Attwater (1965), to Baring-Gould (1898) and Butler (1866) all tell, her biography is piecemeal—which is most surprising considering she was JC’s granny!  Anne’s festival date was July 26 (a couple of days after Sirius enters the northern hemisphere); she was the patron saint of midwives, grandmothers and also miners, who invoked her as the deity who produced gold and silverakin to the Earth Mother Herself!  It’s obvious that Anne’s original mythic nature was subdued, as she represented an archaic root of matriarchal triplicity of the Virgin, the Lady and Old Woman and not the patriarchal triplicity of the incoming christian cult.  The christian mythos at this Lady Well (as elsewhere) replaced one facet of the indigenous prima mater in Glasgow, known as the Cailleach—as shown in her attributes of midwife, grandmother and the deep Earth.  If local historians can find field-names or wells dedicated to the Maiden, the Lady and the Carlin (or their variant titles) nearby, the lost layers of archaic Glasgow’s indigenous animistic folk memories could be mapped out once again…

References:

  1. Attwater, Donald, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1965.
  2. Baring-Gould, S., The Lives of the Saints – volume 8, J.C. Nimmo: London 1898.
  3. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  4. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  5. Butler, Alba, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other Principal Saints – volume 7, James Duffy: Dublin 1866.
  6. Eyre-Todd, George, History of Glasgow – volume 3, Jackson: Glasgow 1934.
  7. Greene, E.A., Saints and their Symbols, Sampson Low: London 1897.
  8. MacIntosh, Hugh, The Origin and History of Glasgow Streets, James Hedderwick: Glasgow 1902.
  9. M’Ure, John, History of Glasgow, D. MacVean: Glasgow 1736.
  10. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.860841, -4.232425 Lady Well