St. Agnes’ Well, Cothelstone, Somerset

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – ST 183 318


In this lovely little hamlet we find an ancient well, registered as a scheduled monument in its well-house, but with a long history and lots of legends. It was said to have been a wishing well of considerable power, but many local people wouldn’t use it because it was also the place where mischievous pixies lived. It seems that one of its main magical properties was to divine the love of a person. The writer Ruth Tongue (1965) told a long tale she came across in her county folklore book about such a fortune:

“There was a maid servant, see, and she were coming on in years and she do serve a farmer’s wife as were high in station. Proper tackalackey she made of the dear soul, and she having no living kin. Twas pitiful, and her a-longing for a parcel of children underfoot, even if ’twas only to call her Auntie. But there, ‘twadn’t to be, and her with a heart so full a-drip with loving kindness as a honey comb. Oh, she were a proper mannerly maiden, no ways like her mistress who were just a old ewe dressed up lambs fashion and spending her days living two-three steps from nothing. But it didn’t seem like the maiden couldn’t never meet up with a proper man for her. She wadn’t no summer morning to look at, poor soul, and her mistress kept her so thin as a yard of pump water. But there Providence knows best! There were a old fellow over by Aisholt, and he were such a upstanding courageous man he’d a never got round to marrying, let alone finding the bravery to walk arm in crook with a maiden. Well o’ course he were lonely like she. And it come to a St. Agnes Eve when maids creepy over to her well at Cothelstone and whisper their heart’s desire when ’tis dark, and if St. Agnes do fancy the maiden she’ll send a husband that year. Now the poor maid she were coming to the end of her days of womanhood and beginning to blossom about the head, and she were desperate unhappy about it. Her heart was all a-set on children, and she find bravery to slip out after farm’s a-locked up. She didn’t feel ’twere mannerly to worrit St. Agnes over one who was so on in years when there was young maidens as plentiful as blackberries, so what do the dear soul do but go down all in the dimmit to the Wishing Well in Seven Wells Coombe. Proper unket well ’tis, and hard tew find. But St. Agnes must ha’ knowed, for she found’n though there wadn’ but little moon and old fellow he d’hear summat down in coombe and come to look-see. He were a wise old man and nothing hurted he, but he were shy of folks, seems like. Well, whether ’twere St. Agnes I can’t say, but in a year the farm was sold up and the maid was a-wed to the old fellow. So quiet as a sheep the man was, wouldn’ downarg no-one, but he made her a good husband. In a year or two she’d a babe in the cradle and one under her apron, and two clinging to her skirts, and they was all so happy as daisies in the sunshine, as they say.”


  1. Tongue, Ruth, Somerset Folklore,FLS: London 1965.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian