Silver Well, Shouldham, Norfolk

Holy Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – TF 6753 0817

Archaeology & History

Once found in the small woodland known as the High Plantation, this holy well has, seemingly, long since fallen back to Earth.  Mary Manning (1994) included it in her survey where she told that in earlier days it could be seen

“in a field which has drainage ditches and cultivation. Here was formerly marshy land draining to the Nar and lying on the south slope of the Nar valley.”

She thought that the title ‘Silver Well’ meant it was a holy site, but others told that it was due to a silver scum that formed on the surface of the waters—and it was a chalybeate (or iron-bearing spring) this is possible.

It was described in Francis White’s (1854) Directory of Norfolk for Shouldham:

“On Mr. Cotton’s estate is a fine chalybeate spring, called Silver Well, which gives rise to a small rivulet which passes through the village.  Near this a new spring was discovered about 20 years ago, and both of them possess similar properties to those of Tunbridge Wells.”

This secondary “spring” was another chalybeate well, above which a stone obelisk was erected in 1839.


In relation to the object found in the well, Manning (1994) thinks “the objects found could have been pagan votive offerings in a venerated well.”  She also told that:

“The well is the subject of a local legend, which takes two forms.  One version is that at the Dissolution, treasure from one of the abbeys was hidden in the well.  The second says that workmen repairing the well brought up a container/box of silver ware, which was inadvertently dropped back and never recovered.  Both tales attribute the silver colour of the well water to the effect of passing over silver treasure.”

A variation on this was noted by folklorist W.B. Gerish (1892) who told that the silver which the workmen dropped back into the well, did so as a result of the devil fighting them over it, and they fled!


  1. Anonymous, Kelly’s Directory of the Counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, Kelly’s Directories Ltd 1925.
  2. Gerish, W.B., Norfolk Folklore Notes, 1892.
  3. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  4. Manning, M., Taking the Waters in Norfolk, NIAS: Norfolk 1994.
  5. White, Francis, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk, 1854.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian