Rediscovered/Restored: Thornton’s holy spring

Tucked below the church in Thornton -in -Craven is a delightful little well. This is an octagonal well house over the doorway reads:

“Quod Publicæ Saluti bene vortat H: RICHARDSON RECTOR Fontem hunc salutiferum et perantiquum Tecto munivit Anno Æræ Christianæ MDCCLXIV.”

Which translates as:

“That it might prove a benefit for the health/salvation of the community, H. Richardson, Rector, built a covering for this health-/salvation-giving and most ancient font/spring, in the year 1764 of the Christian era.”

The Holy Well at St Mary the Virgin, Thornton-in-Craven

The church website informs us of the origin of these lines:

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, told in John chapter 4 (especially vv.4–15), offers the best context for understanding this holy well, and what it means. The subject of their dialogue is water – gradually, as she speaks with him, the woman begins to grasp that there is a deeper meaning to what Jesus is telling her. The first text is taken from his words, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ Moments later, she makes what is her first tentative confession of faith, ‘Lord, give me this water.’ – Domine, da mihi hanc aquam. The second text comes from the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. The gift was for everyone, ‘but only the servants knew’ of its miraculous and spiritual origin. There is nothing magic about the water from this well (though it may have healing properties) but faith and knowledge will (perhaps gradually) offer much more.”

This might have been the first time – or at least recorded – that this well had been restored. Its restorer, Henry Richardson whose well by the church website is described as:

“well was a highly imaginative work, combining a deep respect for Christian history with an Enlightenment scientific enthusiasm. His use of Latin is deliberately subtle: there is but one word in Latin for both ‘font’ and ‘spring’ and but one word for ‘health’ and ‘salvation’: he offers us, therefore, both a healthful spring and a saving font. The little building is an octagon surmounted by a circle – the two classic, symbolic shapes for a font.”

The older history of this well is unclear, but it is claimed to be Saxon but certainly there was church here in the 1150s but beyond that nothing is known, although considering the dedication of the church to St Mary it could also have been similarly dedicated.

The Holy Well at St Mary the Virgin, Thornton-in-Craven

© Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Restored

In 2006, the community won a lottery grant to carry out the work on the well house, and to provide the curving path for wheelchair access, plus the paved area around the well and the low wall/seating area. Since its restoration early July there is an annual celebration at the well and sprinkling has been done at the well

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on November 19, 2018, in Yorkshire. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Good to learn that the well has been restored so fittingly and is still in use for sacred purposes.
    Thank you for the interesting post, I enjoy finding out the history of these places.

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