A Staffordshire field trip: some holy and ancient wells of Staffordshire
I am plough ahead with my work on Staffordshire, some fascinating sites there. Here are some well known and not so well known sites…all worthy of investigation.
A small village just outside of Leek lies the Egg Well (SK 005 540), a secular healing well which have been developed into a local spa but exact details are difficult to find. Local tradition believes that the site was used by the Roman, but the older fabric was set in place by William Stanley, the owner of Ashenhurst Hall between 1744 and 1752. On the basin is his monogram and an interesting Latin inscription which reads:
“Renibus, et splenui cordi, jecorique medatur, Mille maelsi prodest ista salubris aqua.”
The translation being:
“The liver, kidneys, heart’s disease these waters remedy. And by their healing powers assuage full many a malady.”
The name of the well is curious; it could refer to the shape of the basin, but could also refer to sulphurous waters although I could not detect a smell. Today, a rather ugly 19th century brick built structure surrounds this stone lined bath shaped structure, this was roofed at a later date.
South of the town east of the Cheddleton road is the delightful but little known Lady Well or Lady o’ th’ Dale well (SJ 887 145). It was called the Weaver’s Well. The age of this well is difficult VCH (1996) records that it was named in the Middle Ages, it is recorded as Lady Wall Dale in the late 16th century (1587) and there was a farm belonging to Dieulacres abbey along the Cheddleton road, but the presence of St. Mary’s RC church above the well and 19th century fabric suggests it was developed by the local Catholic community. Indeed, a May Day procession was taken by children from the church every May Day, although when it ceased is unclear. The site is grade II listed and the cartouche above the well has the 1855 and some unclear initials in Gothic writing. Its structure is rusticated ashlar 2 metre high with a slightly recessed niche below originally a water spout collecting water from the spring through which water still flows.
The spout is made of a worn circular structure which may be carved head, it appears to be surrounded by stylised hair or possibly is a sun. Its waters were used for healing by local people. The approach to the well has been improved with a wooden walkway and it appears to be well preserved.
In Sugnall Park, on the edge of Bigwood, is a Holy or St. Catherine’s Well (SJ 798 306). The well is unmarked on the current O/S and only as W on earlier editions, where the dedication originated is unclear but it is known as such in the village and in Stafford County Archives. The well is source of a small brook which flows to fill Cop Mere. It is covered by small square sandstone well house with pyramidal roof. The roof was said to have been surmounted by cross of which only base remains, but there does not appear to be any evidence of breakage. The well looks like an ‘improvement’ made when the estate was developed in the 1700s with a Gothick boathouse and walled garden. The well is thought to date from 1770 when a temple was constructed in the park. It has been given a grade II listing.
Uttoxeter boasts a very interesting holy well called variously Maidens, Marian’s or Mary Well (SK 094 264). It is situated on the hill along High Wood road above the town and now enclosed in the front section of the garden of 21a Highwood Road. The spring arises in a roughly two feet wide circular well basin lined by old brickwork, Although I could see no evidence of running water, the water is nevertheless clear and the well has a sandy bottom. A mesh cover has been placed over the well to prevent leaves fouling it and it is well looked after. Its water is thought to be curative. A local legend records that it is haunted by a ghost of a young women, who may be significant, perhaps it remembers the dedication. The Rykenald Way runs past the well, suggesting a great history and indeed it is also called Maiden’s Way.
This is only the tip of a very large number of sites which have received very little coverage so please look out for the book in the future.
Posted on January 19, 2014, in Folklore, Gazatteer, Ghosts, Hermits, Pagan gods, Pilgrimage, Saints, Spa, Staffordshire, Well hunting and tagged Holy well blog, Local history, Staffordshire, waterlore. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.
I have always been fascinated by wells and springs. We have one in our garden in Normandy and it pre-dates the house by many centuries (the house is 300 years old). I was born and raised in the Tean valley in Staffordshire and still have a home in Cheadle.
There is one striking similarity between our two local areas…aside from the fact both our French and English homes are in largely rural areas of villages and market towns…..is the lack of awareness the vast majority of ‘locals’ have for the hisory and folklore of their landscape. People flit around on cars….using just a few roads for the vast majority of their journeys in their area…..and have no knowledge of many of the smaller rights of way. I imagined the local French would be more rooted in their traditions than we are…but I have found myself having to tell them about my research and they are completely surprised by what I have found out. The loss of field names, springs, trackways etc is just the same….though often the loss is to agri-business rather than urban developement.
I wonder if you have done any research into the Well in the Wall near Tean? Its in the river valley between Upper and Lower Tean and I remember doing some research into it 30 years ago but cannot remember the reference. I think local legend associated it with the Romans….Tean is on a Roman Road. It doesn’t seem to survive on local maps but it was catalogued at one point as being a Holy Well.
Hi Janet. Thanks for the email. It’s much appreciated. Does the well still exist? I am doing research on Staffordshire holy wells and made local enquiries and found no evidence…so would welcome any information on this. Hope (1893) in his Legendary lore (check the download section) describes it and said to arise from beneath a large rock and throw out all year except July and August small bones like sparrows and chickens.
I wrent in search of it back in the 80’s. I hadn’t read Hope and got the information about the sacred spring from another source (sadly I cannot recall what this was) which mentioned it being revered as far back as Roman times. I was, and still am, a metal detectorist and was doing some related research into the Tean valley. I lived at Huntley near Tenford at the time. Anyway, I followed the footpath from Tenford to Upper Tean, which follows the river and then crosses the old Roman road in Tean at the bridge and again roughly follows the river to Checkley. The spring was not far from the footpath and a matter of around 30 to 40 yards from the riverbank. I remember there was evidence of a building, bricks, stones etc among the boggy patch of ground. Its a long time ago and I cannot be sure if the spring I was searching for, and presumeably found, is one and the same as the well-in-the-wall.
I know I followed the general description and directions I had been given by the source I was following up. It may have been an old history of Cheadle. I will make further efforts to find out.
Here is a link to a satellite image on which I have marked the location I visited, I don’t know what is there now.
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