There’s a well in the bottom of the garden: St John’s Well of Wembdon

Wembdon is a small strip village slowly being absorbed by the larger Taunton. Passing through the main street one would be surprised to discover in the garden of a bungalow, called Belle Vue, is an ancient and substantially built holy well. This is St. John’s Well. Unlike a number of Somerset wells which claim a long heritage and details being scant, St. John’s well does have a mediaeval age at least, being first mentioned in Bishop Thomas Bekyngton’s Register of 1464. In commissioning a report on the Wembdon churchyard, it records:

 “a certain spring commonly called “St John’s Spring” is issuing, to which for the last few days, but not previously, there has been a great concourse of people thirsting to drink the water thereof and in fact drinking it and making their offerings there in honour of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, and that now there is a concourse there every day, and many persons who have suffered for many years and are quite distrustful of the cures of the physicians are daily relieved of their sufferings and restored to health when they drink the water of the spring and make their offerings there.”

When Horne (1913) author of indispensible Somerset Holy Wells records that it was found in allotment gardens, and perhaps was in danger of being lost among new development, noting that it was:

“ now nothing to look at…like an ordinary draw well, being a deep hole in the ground, covered at the top with a flat stone with a circular hole in it.”

St John’s Well clearly no hole in the ground as Horne describes

Although he added:

“The water is still taken from this well in some quantity, persons coming for it from a great distance”

However Horne’s account is confusing. If he was visiting in the early 20th century, he may well have visited the wrong well for a plaque on the North gable of the present structure of the well house reads:

‘HOLY WELL, RESTORED BY JOHN B HAMNELL 1857’

This suggests that the present structure was put in place, 63 years before the publication date of Horne’s work. This restored well house is picturesquely sited at the bottom of the garden, below the level of the main part of it. It is made of red sandstone rubble, open to the south end. It is covered by a tiled roof with fish-tail bands with a large cruciform stone finial to North gable. The structure is open one side revealing an excavated quarry-tiled floor level reached by a rubble step. It the centre of this floor is a central circular well, a structure which fits with that described by Horne (1913) rubble lining, false bottom formed by a stone slab pierced with small holes to allow the water to flow thorough it, a 20th century metal cover is set over the well lifted when I visited it. Inside is also a semi-circular rubble bench with a quarry-tiled capping. The structure is well looked after being partly used to house garden equipment. The location of the well was difficult to trace at first as my map was a bit out of date and still showed it in open fields. Enquiring at the local pub I was directed to the appropriate house but when I visited the owners were unfortunately out but someone was working on the house, who informed me that they always showed visitors. This was back in the late 1990s of course the owners may have changed by then

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About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on February 12, 2012, in Favourite site, Somerset and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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