A rediscovered Essex Lady well

In my volume of Essex holy and healing wells I referred to Sandon’s Lady well which is recorded on the first series of Ordnance Survey and that I recorded as being lost. My further research suggested that the site may exist. Closer inspection of a modern map combined with google map satellite images appeared to show a lane off the main road, called Ladywell lane and some springs near a tennis centre there.

I contacted the Tennis Club but they knew nothing of a spring so I assumed the spring I could see was not as I had assumed on their property. The best idea was to do some field work. At first I investigated the bushes near the Tennis Club, and after exploring where I thought the spring was, found nothing and appeared much to the surprise of a man walking his dog. Despite being interested and having lived in the area for many years, he had never questioned why it was called lady well.

Exploring further down the lane I rang the doorbell of a Ladywell House and a lady appeared. She did know the reason for the lane’s name and confirmed that it still existed! She pointed me to a small copse on the edge, but beyond, her garden where the spring lay. She did not know who owned the land but added that access would not be a problem. Taking the footpath, and there I did I find a gate into the woods, long since broken away which served access to the woody area. Going back on myself as instructed I found a steep channel carved through the mud and tracing back to the source, a spring arising from a clay pipe and forming a shallow but quickly moving stream. Perhaps not the most picturesque of wells but in Essex something unique, a surviving Lady well. Why this sort should be a lady well is unclear, the church dedication is St Andrew although Great Baddow’s church is dedicated to St Mary and interestingly the named Baddow is believed to mean bad water!

I was informed by the owner of Ladywell House, that it was believed locally that a local women drowned in the spring and this is why it is so called. I am always intrigued by such explanations and clearly this cannot be the reason and I postulate it is more likely to be due to some post-Reformation reassignment. Of course I say rediscovered peope knew it existed in the area but not many!!

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on August 16, 2012, in Essex, Well hunting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this – it is really interesting. I am looking into a couple of odd references to Holy Wells in Leyton/Leytonstone and Wanstead…there is not much to go on and I wondered whether you might have any information?

    It’s complicated as a lot of the land in Leyton was owned by Holywell Priory in Shoreditch.

    Many thanks for your attention.

    • Hi
      Thanks for the comment. Did you see my post on Holy wells of Essex (October 2011), I have a book on it. Its out of print at the moment, but I going for a reprint. There is mention of a holy well at Wanstead so to speak thought to be Roman, later developed as a mineral spring. There is of course the Birch well not far away as well which has some fame but apparently neither holy nor healing!?
      All the best

  2. My great grandparents lived in Ladywell house with my nan and her sisters then their families as they married and had children. 5 families eventually under one roof. I remember my nan telling me stories of pulling water up from the well and having to carry it up to the attic where she lived with my Grandad, my mum as a child and her brother and sister.

  3. I grew up in Ladywell House and my parents continued to live there until the late 70s.
    The well was in the copse, at least spring water appeared. From the house view, a spring led i to a ditch that ran along the side of the copse. There were also two spots in the copse that were always wet, I understood that was where the ‘well’ was and fairies danced there. The house was known locally as The Russian House. It was built by Louise and Alymer Maud. I knew the son Lionel and his wife Doris (né Boulton). She was an accomplished artist and is worth reading about. Louise Maud’s sister was a famous artist who lived in Russia, their father was a jeweler. In later days Alymer Maud was a carpet importer.

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