Dragon Well, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 17567 35473

Also Known as:

  1. Pendragon Well

Archaeology & History

Site on the 1893 map

A most curious place:  this ‘Well of the Dragon’ as it was first called (on the 1852 OS-map) and subsequently the ‘Pendragon Well’ (on the 1922 map) just off Pendragon Lane, seems to have been forgotten in both folklore and history.  I grew up round here and no legends of dragons were known, either in my life, nor that of the old folks I knew; nor any pub of that name that might account for it.

Equally unexplained is the name of the adjacent ‘Pendragon Lane’, which has been known as that for some 175 years.  We have no Arthurian myths anywhere in West Yorkshire that remains in folk memory—and certainly nothing hereby that accounts for it.

As for possible landscape associations (i.e., serpentine geological features), nothing in the vicinity has any bearing on the name.  Indeed, the only thing of any potential relevance was the former existence of a healing rock known as the Wart Stone, some 100 yards to the east at Bolton Junction.  Such stones are usually possessed of naturally-worn ‘bowls’ of some sort on top of the rock—akin to large cup-markings—into which water collected that was used to rid the sufferer of warts or similar skin afflictions.  But such an association seems very unlikely.

The only thing we can say of this Dragon Well is that probably, in times gone by, a folktale or legend existed of a dragon in the neighbourhood that had some association with the waters here.  Dragons are invariably related to early animistic creation myths, and this site may have been all that remained of such a forgotten tale.  The nearest other place in West Yorkshire with dragon associations is six miles northwest of here on the south-side of Ilkley Moor.  In Britain there are a number of other Dragon Wells, the closest of which is in South Yorkshire.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Chapel Well, Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9125 9122

Archaeology & History

Chapel Well on 1866 map

A little-known holy well on the south-side of the village has seen better days – if indeed it’s still there!  Located 500 yards due south of the destroyed Lady Well, this spring of water gained it name, according to local lore, from its proximity to an ancient chapel—remains of which have been frugal to say the least!  Shown on the earliest Ordnance Survey maps and continued to be shown until the 1950s, it seems that the first written account of it was in the Object Name Book of 1861 where it was told:

“A Spring well adjacent to Chapelhill.  It is cut in a freestone rock, from which issues a constant supply of pure spring water even in the dryest Seasons.  It is not impregnated with any Kind of Mineral.  A Chapel Stood near it at one time, the site of which Cannot be pointed out by any person in the neighbourhood.”

A visit by one of the Ordnance Survey lads here in 1950 found the well to be blocked-up by silt and soil; and on a quick visit I made here today I could find no remains of the well, but it may have been beneath the mass of excessive vegetation.  A subsequent visit in the winter may prove more fruitful – he sez, hopefully…..

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Peter’s Well (1), Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2894 3382

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1852 map

Not to be confused with the other St. Peter’s Well that once existed in the city centre, this site was shown on an 1815 map of Leeds (which I’ve not been able to get mi hands on!), known as the Waterloo Map.  But when the Ordnance Survey lads visited the place in 1846, it had been covered over.  Immediately west of here, the saint’s name was also given to a nearby hill, whose folklore seems has been forgotten.

Although Ralph Thoresby mentioned it in passing, Edward Parsons (1834) gave us a brief description of its qualities, telling us that,

“Near North Hall is the celebrated spring called St. Peter’s Well ; the waters are so intensely cold that they have long been considered very efficacious in rheumatic disorders.”

Bonser (1979) reiterated this in his survey, also telling that, like its nearby namesake, its waters were “intensely cold and beneficial for rheumatism, rickets, etc.”  An old bathing-house that was “annexed to the Well” may have been used specifically to treat such ailments, but we cannot say for sure.

Interestingly, Andrea Smith (1982) told that 400 metres away a well was sunk in 1838 and a quantity of petrified hazelnuts were recovered from a broken red jar which had a female head painted on it.  Such a deposit is not too unusual, as a number of sacred wells in bygone days were blessed with nuts and signified the deity Callirius, known by the Romans as Silvanus, the God of the Hazel Wood – though we have no direct tradition here linking St. Peter’s Well with this ritual deposit.

St. Peter’s festival date was June 29.

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 54, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  5. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gerchew Well, Balfron, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Rid Reference – NS 579 884

Archaeology & History

One-and-a-half miles east of Balfron, this curiously-named well could once be seen – and indeed may still be there.  Mentioned just once in D.S. Buchanan’s (1903) Guide as a well-known place, I’ve been unable to locate it and can find no other accounts of the place. He wrote:

“A little beyond Dailfoil there is a road to the right, down which, about 200 yards, there is a stile over the fence, only a few feet from the famous Gerchew Well, on the banks of the Endrick.  Here the visitor can repose for a time under the shade of the trees, and quench his thirst in its pure, cool, and bubbling waters.”

His directions seem to indicate it as being just off the small road that runs to the ruins of Easter Gerchew, but there is nothing of note hereby.  A half-mile away was Wester Gerchew house, which seems contrary to his directions —and there’s nothing in evidence there either.  And so I enter it here in the hope that someone might be able to relocate this healing well. (the grid reference is an approximation based on Buchanan’s description)

References:

  1. Buchanan, D.S., Buchanan’s Popular Illustrated Guide to Strathendrick, Aberfoyle and District, J. & C. Buchanan: Balfron 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Pancras’ Well, Scampton, Lincolnshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid reference – SK 9542 7853

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1886 map

Mentioned in Thompson’s (1999) survey but without comment, it was, curiously, Skyring Walters’ (1928) that drew my attention to this site.  He added it to his list of St Pancras sites, telling how even in his day, it had fallen into memory.  Indeed, it had already gone when the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1885.  Thankfully we were left with an albeit piecemeal account of the place by Cayley Illingworth (1810) before its destruction. It was an iron-bearing well that existed some fifty yards from an ancient Roman villa and was probably the water supply for the Romans who lived here.  He told us:

“The circumstance…of the chalybeate spring within a few yards from the entrance of the villa, and still called Saint Pancras Well…favours the conclusion of a chapel having been erected on its site.  (This) is supported by the strong evidence of a discovery, upon record, that a chapel dedicated to Saint Pancras did actually exist on this spot, so early as the beginning of the twelfth century; about which period Richard Fitz-Robert of Scampton gave to the monastery of Kirksted three selions of land in that lordship, two of which are described in the gift as lying in the south field, on the south side of the chapel of Saint Pancras.”

He further told that at the bottom of the well an oak floor had been laid, which had been dug up “several years ago.”

St Pancras’s festival date is April 3.

References:

  1. Cameron, Kenneth & Insley, John, The Place-Names of Lincolnshire – volume 7, English Place-Name Society: Nottingham 2010.
  2. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells: A Sourcebook – volume 2, Heart of Albion Press: Loughborough 2008.
  3. Illingworth, Cayley, A Topographical Account of the Parish of Scampton in the County of Lincoln, T. Cadel & W. Davies: London 1810.
  4. Thompson, Ian, Lincolnshire Springs and Well, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 1999.
  5. Walters, R.C. S., The Ancient Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire, St Stephens Press: Bristol 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Pancras’ Well, Marshfield, Gloucestershire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – ST 766 743

Archaeology & History

In R.C. Skyring Walker’s (1928) fine survey of Gloucestershire’s holy wells, he lamented the passing of this site, telling how

“it is sad to relate that this well has totally disappeared and its precise site is unknown.”

Since those words, the situation regarding its whereabouts has not been resolved.  First mentioned in Samuel Rudder’s (1779) work, the main clue we’ve got regarding its whereabouts is his description of the adjoining hamlets and village tithes:

“Westonton, formerly called Old Marshfield, or Little Marshfield.  It has been a distinct parish, called St Pancras, according to Sir Robert Atkins, and a well in this hamlet still bears the name of that saint.”

‘Well’ on 1886 OS-map

Westonton is the old farmhouse of Westend Town less than a mile northwest of Marshfield where, on early Ordnance Survey maps, a Well is shown.  To the north of this is Springs Farm.  This latter name probably has no bearing on St Pancras’ Well; but the location cited by Rudder of the well being in Westend Town gives us a damn good indicator as to where local historians should dig for this forgotten sacred site.

The Well was described in T.D. Fosbroke’s (1807) work, but only in passing.  St Pancras’s festival date is April 3. (the grid reference cited for this well is an approximation)

References:

  1. Fosbroke, Thomas D., Abstracts of Records and Manuscripts Respecting the County of Gloucester – volume 2, J. Harris: Cirencester 1807.
  2. Rudder, Samuel, A New History of Gloucestershire, S. Rudder: Cirencester 1779.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of Gloucestershire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1964.
  4. Walters, R.C. S., The Ancient Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire, St Stephens Press: Bristol 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Slaughter’s Well, Lechlade-on Thames, Gloucestershire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SU 215 995

Archaeology & History

Not listed in the field-name surveys of the town, the name Slaughter Well was obviously a folk-name given to it by local people.  The place was mentioned in an unpublished manuscript that Adin Williams’ (1888) managed to lay his hands on, where it was mentioned in relation to the missing pyramidal Market Cross.  Its waters were “said to be medicinal.”  The name of the well was said to derive from a battle here between Oliver Cromwell’s men and the Royalists.  At this place,

“an officer was shot, and this incident gave the name ‘Slaughter’ to the well.”

References:

  1. Williams, Adin, Lechlade: Being the History of the Town, Manor and Estates, The Priory and the Church, E.W. Savory: Cirencester 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lady Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4026 3072

Also Known as:

  1. Our Lady’s Well

Archaeology & History

Lady Well on 1776 map

One of at least five sacred wells that could once be visited in Dundee: like its compatriots they have all fallen under the hammer of the Industrialists and flow no more.  Our Lady’s Well could once be seen, said Maxwell (1884), “flowing from under the Chapelshade Braes,” its waters “bright and sparkling,” but today it has been drained and laid to rest beneath the road.  Its memory however, has been preserved in the modern place-names of the Ladywell Roundabout and the nearby Ladywell Avenue.

The well was mentioned as far back as 1409 when, as Alex Lamb (1895) found, it was referred to in a contract between the Constable of Dundee and the burgesses.  It flowed freely until the beginning of the 18th century when, as Maxwell told us, “the water from the Lady well was impounded and conveyed in pipes for supplying other cisterns throughout the town.”  Previously, the water from here was one of many springs and burns that fed the larger Castle Burn down to the sea.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Mary’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 401 301 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

Cited just once in the “Register of the Great Seal” (Registrum Magni Sigilli) in the year 1512 CE, this Fontis Beate Marie, or Well of St. Mary has long since disappeared.  Its exact location in the city has been forgotten, but it seems likely to have been close to St. Mary’s Church.  Further research is needed.

Links:

  1. Saints in Scottish Place-Names

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Clement’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4035 3024

Also Known as:

  1. Bishop’s Well
  2. Saint’s Well

Archaeology & History

One of at least five sacred wells that formerly existed in old Dundee, this one dedicated to St. Clement was associated with the ancient church, also of his name.  It could be found a short distance south of the church—itself long gone—”rising out of a knoll overhanging the river bank,” wrote Alexander Maxwell (1884) and possessing considerable renown to local people.  This great Dundee historian found several early references to it in old council registers: one of which, from 1589, described a conflict regarding the building of a school on land owned by Andro Renkyne.  And it was on this piece of land where St. Clement’s Well emerged.  The school was built and then Rankyne built a gable up to the edge of the school but, in doing so, cut off his own access to the holy well.  This somewhat short-sighted action of Renkyne’s was subsequently remedied in 1607 by Dundee Council.   Maxwell told us:

“The Council “grantit him licence to strike furth ane windok in the north side wall of his tenement in St. Clement’s kirkyard, near to the well in the schoolhouse closs, or within the bounds of the said well, to the effect he may draw water furth of the well to his awn service, with this provision that he hald the windok continually close, except at sic time as the water is drawn thereat, and that he close up the windok with stane wark quhenever he beis requirit.”

The waters—”reputed to have sovereign virtues”— were protected and covered by an old well-house.  When Alex Lamb (1895) came to write about it he told that it was of a circular form with “unmistakable traces of splendid workmanship.”  On its stone roof was what seemed to be a somewhat crude carving of a bishop and because of this it acquired the name “Bishop’s Well.”  Another title given it by some locals was the Saint’s Well.

In the middle of the 19th century the remains of the well-house could still be seen, albeit in a state of neglect between the school building and Renkeyne’s house.  But their end was nigh.  Maxwell continued:

“When the buildings were demolished a few years ago, the saint’s old well — its water yet pelucid and fresh — was discovered at the angle where the school joined to Andro’s house. Above it was the window which he struck furth for drawing water; but it had long before been built up and the purpose of it forgotten, and its curiously recessed position and uncouth masonry only served as a puzzle for ingenious antiquaries.”

Subsequently he lamented the demise of the well telling how it had “been covered over by the extension of the Townhouse.”

Folklore

Alexander Maxwell (1891) told how the church was used as a shrine by local people and fishermen, as St. Clement of Rome had been cast into the sea chained to an anchor and so became the patron saint of sailors.  He thought such properties, “would, no doubt, be in request for the supply of ships.”

St. Clement himself was a very early, first century saint, said to have died in 99 CE.  His festival date is 23 November.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.
  3. Maxwell, Alexander, Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1891.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on St Clement’s Well

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian