A Gloucestershire field guide
The site of Mary Magdalene’s Well was famed for its healing and petrifying qualities, for it is reported that when pieces of stick were immersed into the water they became coated with stone. The water had associations with curing sore eyes. A Saxon monastery was established in the 13th Century by the Cistercians in the vicinity of this never failing spring, and then conveyed by means of an aqueduct. This feel into disuse when the order moved towards Kingswood and the monastery became unused.
Two references to the well note that in 1357:
“John de Brerousa, granted forever the inhabitants of Tetbury free liberty to fetch water in Magdalen Meadow. A.D. Edward III 1357”
Again in 1487 a John Lymeriche, of Tetbury, Gentleman, gave leave the inhabitants of Tetbury to fetch water at a well-spring butting upon Magdalen Meadow, which evidently had its origins in the edicts. Within the town a drinking fountain was feed by the well. The spring is one source of the Bristol Avon, and it emerges from the Forest Marble, and then flows into a pond surrounded by a stone wall. In the 1857 the site was dilapidated and the water mixed with other streams. The site has indeed seen some changes from being in an industrial estate in the 1980s-90s to now being where Tesco is and considerably tidied up in the proceeding decades.
The interesting site, of Broadwell arises from beneath the Broadwell Tavern, to forma pool of approximately 15ft square, with near two foot of water. The spring was probably the origin of the settlement’s name Dur – water, Sley – meadow. The Inn itself would appear to have been a religious house bearing the name St. Mary’s House, a name which continued until 1610, and in 1639 reference is made to the nunnery of which the inn was part. The Rev. W. R. Lett believes that the dip well within the courtyard to supply water to the order easier.
The belief that the Tavern was a nunnery is supported by the presence of Gothic windows, which were until recently on the tavern, and the finding within the inn religious images. Thus the well could as Walters (1928) notes be called the Nun’s Well or St Mary’s well. The water itself arises from inferior Oolite limestone, being thrown out by the impervious Upper Lias clay. The water is hard and deposits a limestone called ‘tough or puffe’ stone.
This small well of Lady well, (SP 177 258) lies in the private grounds of Abbotswood, and its water is derived from the Coteswold Sands resting on Upper Lias Clay and flows into a small well house. This is built of stone it has a sloping roof and upright sides. The water flows through four inches by two inches opening and thence to a 1ft dipwell and then overflows to the River Dikler.
The most interesting note concerning the site is the strange and certainly pre-Christian legend that connects it with a nearby megalith called the Twizzle stone. It is said that:
“When the Wizzlestone or Wissel stone heard Stow clock strike, it went down to Our Lady’s Well to drink.”
This stone is said to conceal treasure but woe betide anyone who would try to uncover it whilst the stone is away, for it would swiftly return and squash them.
Gloucestershire boast two sites where crosses mount springs. Whether this is an examples of how sacred pagan springs were quickly Christianized by the erection of a simply cross above their waters or simply a marker for the spring is unclear. What is known that the Well-cross (SP 045 086) is 14th Century. This cross itself is without embellishment being a very crude and primitive lantern form. It seats on a stepped platform, and beneath which the spring flows at great speed through a typical stone wall and fills a iron trough (a replacement for an earlier stone one). It is possible that the cross was erected by the Knight’s Templars, who were active in the area.
Sadly the well cross at Condicote was destroyed in the 19th century and its fine finial had to be replaced by a gable obtained from the church during its restoration. Although a pump now feeds from this spring, originally there was a stone dipwell with two trap doors. Unfortunately this was often contaminated and hence the pump was erected on sanitation grounds. This cross is again believed to be of 14th Century date and bears upon the socket of the cross, virtually illegible. East side ( behind pump ) :
“HO, EVERY ONE THAT THIRSTETH, COME YE TO THE WATER” ISAIAH LVI
West side: RESTORED 1862. W. B. VAN NOTTEN POLE, RECTOR.
North side: “THIS WELL IS RESERVED FOR THE DOMESTIC PURPOSES OF THE INHABITANTS OF THIS PARISH : DOR ALL OTHER USES, RECOURSE TO THE PUMP AND TROUGH IS RESPECTFULLY SUGGESTED “SEE RESOLUTION OF VESTRY MARCH 16TH 1865.”
This later statement refers to another pump and trough however.