A Warwickshire field trip: Holy and healing wells of the county’s South-west

Warwickshire does not perhaps have the greatest reputation for holy and healing springs and appears to be hide in the shadows of nearby Gloucestershire. However, my research into the county has revealed there’s more to the county’s healing waters than Leamington Spa. Here are a few lesser known sites towards the Banbury side of the county; any further information on them is gratefully received. Hopefully the book is out this year!

KNIGHTCOTE

Many of the county’s healing springs are compared to Leamington, the Stockwell is no exception, being saline in nature it was bound to be compared such, as Leamington was. However, that is as far as the comparison goes for little other than it made a decent cup of tea is recorded of it. It currently arises in a three feet by three foot roughly square chamber with stone surrounds. Old railings enclose the spring head and steps go down from the road.                

It is worth contemplating on the thoughts of Bob Trubshaw on the origin of Stockwells Old English stoc meaning ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ being the apparent same derivation as stow. That would give the site an explanation perhaps for the belief in its healing waters but it could equally derived from the place cattle stock were watered or even less interesting Old English stocc for ‘spring by stumps’, a description which could describe it today.

RATLEY

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Not far away is St. Anne’s Well which arises a small stone chamber beside the footpath from the hamlet of Arlescote. The well consists in a shallow square basin and flows downhill forming a muddy area beneath. A stone set into the back of the fabric reads:

“ST. ANNE’S WELL / Reparavit M. L / A. D. / MCMXI

However, beyond that nothing is recorded. It is likely to be ancient as it found below an iron-age earthwork and clearly the footpath past it is of some age and past significance, yet the early forms of the OS only record spring.

Considering that the hamlet above the well is called Knowle End it is possible that the legend recorded considering fairies moving the stone is related to this site and not the Knowle End in Birmingham as reported by folklorists. Again little is recorded but it must have been thought well enough in the 1930s considering how far the spring is from any houses. A site to visit in the winter or spring however, because it gets very overgrown!

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UPTON

The next holy well is a considerable find and it is surprising that no photo exists of it or more recorded, considering it survives in a popular National Trust garden and is quite strikingly unique. Found in the Bog Garden in the grounds of Upton Hall is an 18th century stone Monk’s Well. The Bog Garden consists of a number of ponds originally Stew ponds fed by this spring improved in the 17th century. Trace the flow back and be ready for a surprise. For the spring erupts from the base of a rock face in a cave/grotto and flows over mossy stones to fill the ponds. The spring head is enclosed in an early C18 red brick vaulted chamber (listed grade II)  set into the rock face laying c 100m west of the House. All in all pretty unique and surprisingly unheralded. Indeed the Bog Garden was closed off when I visited but the gardeners were happy to allow me over to see it. I cannot say whether access is achievable without asking however. The well is so named because Upton was held in the twelfth century by the canons of St Sepulchre’s at Warwick but it may have a grange property as no one has worked out where any house would have been located. The site does not have any recorded properties and it is only holy by its name association

BURTON DASSETT

The last well is a bit of an enigma, in the deserted Burton Dassett village in Northend, is found a substantial well head which has claims to be a ‘Holy Well’  although the provenance is unclear. Burgess (1876) in his Warwickshire History simply notes that it was used for baptism and immersion. Whilst Bord and Bord (1985) Sacred Waters appear to be earliest to refer to it as such stating:

“the holy well with its stone cover will be seen on the left-hand side of the lane as you approach the church”.                                           

The present stone well house is of a considerable size being constructed of local red sandstone around 1840 in a Grecian style. The central doorway is party below ground level and has steps down into a square chamber. Over the stone lintel but the worn instruction is an inscription with carved flowers. It possibly states 1534 but it was not clear. It is evident that the well was part of an estate improvement but when and by whom? And did it exist before? If it does say 1534 that is an early date for a landed estate improvement. It certainly is still visited by well wishers as coins are found in its waters. Sadly, despite a substantial water supply it did not stop the demise of the village and now only the substantial church remains, which incidentally is worthy of a visit.

With many more sites yet to explore…Warwickshire is proving to be another interesting County.

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on March 19, 2018, in Favourite site, Folklore, Gazatteer, Warwickshire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’m enjoying these posts so much, thank you.
    I’ve always been fascinated by pools, streams, grottoes and mossy, ferny, “secret places”.

  2. Hi. I found the above very interesting. I could not find St Anne’s well though. I descended the public footpath (part of the Centenary Way) down the hill and came out onto the road, just west of Arlecote. There was a marshy area under some trees which developed into a stream, went into a pond and the outflow was culverted under the road. I could not find any stone structure though. The area is very overgrown with brambles though. Is this the correct area please?

    • It can be difficult to find I wouldnt descend from the road above but go from the hamlet and walk the footpath through. Your location is not the correct one its further near the hamlet. This is what I write in my forthcoming book…Directions: St. Anne’s Well is best reached from the lower footpath through the hamlet of Arlescote which is below the B4086. The footpath is clearly signed going towards the hill. Pass through the gate and continue until the path goes down from the hillside above on the right. A few feet or so from this point on the left, the well will be found. Look for a muddy pool near the hedge and a rough path down. The site is very overgrown in the summer. Good luck and happy 2022!

      • Thanks ever such a lot. I will give that a go. Let me know when your book is on sale please.
        Happy New year to you as well!

  3. Hi. I have some information regarding St Anne’s well, Arlescote which I think that you will find interesting. I found St. Anne’s well in Arlescote! Thanks to your directions, an OS map and some dowsing rods. Glad that I found it. It is certainly mysterious that such an old well does not seem to have any folklore surrounding it.
    The information which I think that you will interested in is this, you remark that the St Anne’s well at Arlescote might be getting mixed up with the St Anne’s well in Knowle, with regard to stones being used to build St Anne’s church getting moved during the night, so that the builders built the church elsewhere. A little way from Arlescote is the village of Warmington. In fact Arlescote is in the parish of Warmington. The church of St Michael is actually on the hill outside Warmington. The story being that it was originally meant to be built on the village green. However the fairies had other ideas. So every night they would undo what the builders had constructed during the day. In the end the builders gave up and constructed it on top of the hill. The assumption being that the fairies did not mind them building it there. I got this information from the book, “Haunted Warwickshire” by Meg Elizabeth Atkins. I could not find anything on line about it. Also the church (understandably in some ways) was locked when I went there today. Warmington does have a heritage society who might know more.
    Anyway, thank you for your directions and I hope that this information has been of use.

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