Alkborough’s enigmatic Kell Well

Sometimes there is a site which should be a holy well and is certainly significant but despite being recorded as a holy well by some authorities I cannot find any support for this view. The first record of the site is from  Abraham de la Pryme, following his visit in 1697 wrote in his diaries:  

“This day I was at a place called Kell Well, near Alkburrow, where I got a great many pretty stones, being a kind of the astroites or starr-stones. There is many of them also at Whitten, on the cliffs, and in Coalby beck. The country people have a Strange name for them, and call them kestles and postles, which somewhat sounds like Christ and his Apostles.'” 

Despite the lack of firm records of its age. The surrounding land has certainly been occupied for millennia. At Kell Well there have also been found Neolithic flint arrowheads and a  stone axe head, flint arrowheads and other finds and as such is the oldest prehistoric remains in a village brimming with fascinating relics. In the grounds of nearby Walcot Hall was found a Bronze Age beaker and a pot of Roman coins suggesting a Romano-British settlement there. Indeed, a geophysical survey of Walcot Hall in 2003 did show the remains of a Romano-British ladder settlement.

Other remains linked to the local Iron Age tribe Corieltauvi who became Roman civitas and 1st to 4th A.D century pottery shreds have been found in fields south of Countess Close A view exposed in William Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum; Or, An Account of the Antiquities, and Remarkable Curiosities in Nature Or Art, Observed in Travels Through Great Britain (1776) which suggests that Alkborough’s name comes from this Roman settlement deriving from Aquis such as Buxton’s Aquis arnemetia. Now this might suggest that there was a Roman cult here associated with the spring (either this or the Low wells near the church). However, the agreed origin is from  personal name Aluca or Alca and Old English berg referring to a hill such as ‘Alca’s hill’. Indeed the earliest record is in the Domesday book as Alchebarge.

Trimmer and Andrew Guide and Handbook to Winteringham & District (1912) note that:

“The waters of the spring were thought to have petrifying qualities but these seem to be lost; the water is certainly chalybeate, and most people who visit the well..(make a wish) after drinking the water.”

There is some confusion here because it is certainly still petrifying and there is no sign of chalybeate iron rich waters. It is also confusing whether it refers to to wishing as a custom or just a reflex! However,  one piece of folklore which is perhaps significant. It is said that by drinking its water it would keep the drinker in the village for the rest of their life. This folklore motif is perhaps records of a ritual at the well to confirm loyalty. Considering that the name of the well derives from O.N kell or keld for ‘spring’ perhaps from the Saxon settlement time.  Lincolnshire is poorly recorded in their folklore so sadly there is probably more about it we don’t know. 

The present stone work appears to be fairly modern but the action of calcification is already apparent and the flow considerable. Small fossilised sections can be found in the stream and it is evident from this ebay site that people still associate the site with those ancient crinoids.

Today walking along the cliff path, through the woods and down towards the spring one can imagine the generations which have come here to venerate the spring and its hard water.

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on March 19, 2022, in Lincolnshire, Well hunting and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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