Monthly Archives: August 2021
Frog and toads not unsurprisingly you might think are associated with springs. Two old English words O.E frosc meaning frog or O.E paddock for a ‘toad’ and their derivations can be found across the country.
In Essex there are a number of Freshwell derivations which suggest from Frosc. The earliest being a Freshwell mentioned in 1086 in Great Sampford, Freshwell in the 13th century and another in Saffron Walden first mentioned in 1605. In Panfield there was a Froshwell mentioned in 1586 and Upminster a Frogwell.
There seems a strange conglomeration of such sites in Essex and elsewhere it is more common to find toads. In Staffordshire, Padwalle first mentioned in 1481in Longnor and Padwell in Barborough, as Padwell (1830) and Edwalston and Wyaston a 1314 Padewalle. In Leicestershire there is a Paddock Well noted in 1638 in Church Langton, Leicestershire and Padwell in Fulstow (from the 1840 Tithe map) and Tadewell a 13th century mention in Ferriby. Kent’s Birling has a Puddle Well noted in 1837 and a Tadwell in Minster in Sheppey (noted in 1840). There are surely others but why?
The obvious answer is that frogs and toads live in springs. However, they do not or rather very rarely. I’ve never seen one in a spring or well – perhaps the rarity offers a reason but it may be deeper than that. Toads in particular have supernatural connotations and a clue may be found in the Frogwell at Acton Burnell in Shropshire which folklore suggests the well was a guardian. Did people visit these wells to utilise the frogs for magical practices or was the frog seen as some sort of harmful creature.
Another possible source is that these animal represent totem animals which specific prehistoric groups associated with – akin to the spirit animals of first nation groups such as in the USA and Canada. This might explain the frequency of them in areas such as Essex perhaps.
In Charles Hope’s 1893 Legendary lore of Holy wells St Patrick’s Well Patterdale is the only site mentioned twice in both Cumbria and Westmorland:
“PATTERDALE: ST. PATRICK’S WELL: St. Patrick’s Well is situated near the chapel in Patterdale.
PATTERDALE : ST. PATRICK’S WELL: As Saint Patrick passed down this beautiful valley he is said to have founded the church and blessed the well. Thus we have St. Patrick’s church and St. Patrick’s well to this day, the ancient name of the valley being Patrickdale.
For many centuries the Holy Well was used for the purposes of baptism.- — Rev. J. Wilson.”
St Patrick in Cumbria?
As Hope notes St Patrick passed by but how? A local tradition tells that he was shipwrecked off the south Cumbria coast and the local people here looked after him. The earliest reference appears to be Nicolson & Burn in their 1777 The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, who say:
“so called probably from St Patrick, to whom the chapel seems to be dedicated… and nigh unto the chapel is a well called St Patrick’s well”.
The Rev W.P Morris wrote in 1903
“During his short stay here he caused a church to be built (probably of wood) and that he also baptised a number of the inhabitants at a well, and the district was afterwards known as Patrickdale”
Is it a back derivation?
The name was recorded as Patrichesdale, meaning ‘Patrick’s Valley’, in 1184 but equally this apparently refers to a twelfth-century landownwer and at some point the saint was attached. Certainly by 1787 the name had stuck as it appears as St Patrick’s Well appears on Clarke’s map of the Lakes. So despite attempts of topographers and cartographers it probably has very little to do with the saint. There is a record of a cappella de Patricdale in 1348 which may have confused the issue.
However, in his Confessio St Patrick states that he was brought up in Britain in a place called Bannaven Taburniae. Here his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest and from here he was kidnapped by raiders and sold into slavery. This Bannaven Taburniae has not been identified but of course it could be in Cumbria. The evidence being that the saint was taken to Ireland suggesting a west coast location and looking at the name it could be Birdoswald on Hadrian’s Wall or Glannoventa where substantial bath house ruins remain near Ravenglass which is even nearer. So it is possible.
The well today
The well is one of the most substantial in Cumbria being a small stone building with a pointed roof akin to a small chapel made of grey stone with a slate roof. The well was dry when I visited but apparently it is more often full of water especially in the spring and summer. Fr John Musther’s in his 2017 Springs of Living Water states that the water had healing properties. The constructor of the well is not known but it is evidently some local estate owner. The Rev Morris stated that it was constructed in the 18th Century to satisfy the “idle curiosity of visitors” and did not think it was in the correct location. Dry or otherwise if you can manage the road and the visitors it is a delightful find in the Lake district.
The hydrolatic history in this small village is very interesting with two hydros and a number of noted healing springs. The first noted by Binnall (1940) was St. or Sir William’s Well (SK 349 637) but this is perhaps not a holy well at all. The name may have changed at the Reformation although local historian Mr. Banks, believes it was probably named after a local benefactor, the saint prefix being as an error of the ordnance surveyors. Its only mention is in reference to the conversion of the school in a 1830s Charity Commission report. It has now been culverted away and was at the junction of Malthouse Lane and the land leading up to the hillside, probably when the houses were built here in the 1970s.
More significant is Cripton Well (SK 345 638) which lies on Cripton Lane and was said to have health giving properties and indeed despite an area surrounded by other springs was much frequented by the hydro residents. It arises beneath some old moss covered stonework and first fills a small circular basin. Its water was said to never run dry and produces a considerable flow joining a small brook. Does its name refer to St. Crispin or local family?
There is a field name recording Nan’s Well, first in 1842 Tithe Award when it is noted as Nan’s Well Close. Nan is often a vulgarisation of St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. This would apparently be the same as the Old Woman’s Well (SK 348 627) noted in 1900 on the O/S map. The name may also record a pagan deity (there are similarly dedicated wells especially in Yorkshire). The O/S still shows the site but marked as a spring. However, field work failed to locate the exact site as the area has become mudded by cattle and lost.
The Chalybeate Spa (SK 343 633) still exists being found as a rather muddy area along a footpath just at the edge of Marsh brook. There is very little to see but a ferruginous deposit in some of the puddles where the footpath crosses the brook on a stone slab. It is a very insignificant site no even discernable as a spring. It was drunk for medicinal purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries, the site being noted by Short (1734). A local legend states that it ran faster at night than day. Whether there was any structure here is unclear it does now look very appetising!
Confusingly another spring called Bath Spring (SK 344 644) was used in the early 1700s and a house was established nearby now Bath House Farm. The venture appears to have been unsuccessful and what apparently was the spring is an inaccessible boggy hole.