A County Durham field trip
County Durham is not well known for its holy or healing wells, however research does repay and there are some interesting sites.
Looking like a village lock-up or even a cottage than a well, is the Holy Well. It does not appear to have a name, although in perhaps recent times, the saints Godric and Aelric have been associated with it. The gate has their names on it. It appears likely that there was an association between the site and these saints but nothing is clear, Of these saints 12th century, Godric is associated with Finchale although he was born in Walpole Norfolk. He lived as a hermit and his cell is supposed to be where Finchale Priory is. Another interesting account suggests he was a pirate.. Wolsingham was also associated with a miracle where a young girl was killed by a horse was brought to life and it would be nice to think that the well’s waters may have had a role. Aelric is said to have been an older hermit who Godfric befriended and lived with.The well house has a barrel ceiling with a heavy slate roof. Peering through the gate one can see that the spring fills a large stone lined chamber lined like bath, suggesting perhaps that it functioned as a bath house.
Gainford village is one of the most delightful Durham village and is certainly is very charming in the spring, with the main square bathed in a golden glow of daffodils. Just below the church, is St. Mary’s Well, which flows with some speed into a trough and forms a channel through a sea of wild garlic. Little is known of the well, except that it was used for baptism.
Returning to the square, the high quality Georgian housing, indicates its great expansion due to the most notable spring, the Spa, a sulphurous spring! This is found outside the village and is signposted off the A67 Barnard Castle road but beware it’s not easy to see and park immediately! Here a step path dives down to the River Tees where the springhead can be seen. One can smell the spring before selling it as it lays in a small wooded area. One can quite imagine quite a concourse of people attending the spring walking as they would have done the long Teeside path from the village, many of which appear to have left evidence of their visit in the graffiti imbedded in the sandstone rock nearby. The spring head has been recently repaired, with the very old and worn font basin lying beside it. The spring head consists of a smaller font or bowl within a larger one. Water flows at great speed from the central basin and has two overflow spouts which lead to a rock-cut groove to the river. The site is quite a refreshing and relaxing site and tasting the water.
Posted on April 13, 2012, in Durham, Folklore, Gazatteer, Hermits, Spa, Well hunting and tagged durham, Holy well blog, Local history, Saints, spas. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
I’m rsearching holy wells/springs that have been lost or forgotten about over the centuries in South Norfolk/North Suffolk with my local ‘dowsing’ group so I’ve found this site interesting !
Hi thanks very much. New post coming soon. I have more on Norfolk in future posts. Interested to see what you find…keep reading and contributing. All the best Ross