About Holy wells and healing springs

About Holy wells and healing springs

Hello. I have spent over 30 years visiting many ancient and mysterious antiquities, but it is the holy well and its allied mineral spring or spa that I have found the most interesting, mysterious and perhaps least studied. My aim has been to record and rediscover such sites and are slowly working through various volumes of ‘In search of England’s holy and healing wells’ county by county. I have already published seven volumes of these researches:Holy wells and healing springs of Essex, Holy wells and healing springs of  Hertfordshire, Holy wells and healing springs of  Nottinghamshire , Holy wells and healing springs of Derbyshire , Holy wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire, Holy wells and healing springs of Kent and Holy wells of Middlesex and the city of London. If you click the titles you will be directed to Amazon where you can purchase these or alternatively drop me a line and I’ll send them off. More details on my essential reading page. The monthly details of my searches will be detailed in this blog. I have naturally been visiting springs in other countries and will detail these in the blog as well. Hope you find my accounts interesting and please feel free to contact me, make comment and suggest sites.

Definition of a holy well according to Wikipedia:

“A holy well, or sacred spring, is a small body of water emerging from underground and revered either in a Pagan or Christian context, often both. Holy wells were frequently pagan sacred sites that later became Christianized. The term ‘holy well’ is commonly employed to refer to any water source of limited size (i.e. not a lake or river, but including pools and natural springs and seeps), which has some significance in the folklore of the area where it is located, whether in the form of a particular name, an associated legend, the attribution of healing qualities to the water through the numinous presence of its guardian spirit or Christian saint, or a ceremony or ritual centred on the well site. In Christian legend, the water is often said to have been made to flow by the action of a saint, a familiar theme especially in the hagiography of Celtic saints.”

This blog will describe any water supply thought to have healing, mysterical, mysterious and unusual properties, legends and folklore tradition and thus includes springs and wells, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers

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St Winifred’s Well on a frosty December morning.

  1. Just come across this and I am very pleased to learn that you are willing to share the results of your long interest in holy wells; thank you and good luck for further explorations as there are so many sites and stories to be found many of which are at risk of being lost and forgotten

    • Hi Terry
      Sorry for the delay. Thanks for the post. Your work on Devonshire work precedes you. Excellent book and website…hope to something on Devon wells soon. Hope you keep reading. All the best Ross

  2. HOLY WELLS & WATER LORE – new forum

    http://holywells.boardhost.com

    All welcome !

  3. Hi Ross.
    Some interesting info about the well in Kilburn you were interested in. I just came across it via a Kilburn facebook page.
    Doesn’t sound like the kind of water ‘d like to put my lips to!
    http://tinyurl.com/og49aah

    • Hi Matthew.
      Are you the chap who I asked at the library? Didn’t find the well but where it might have been which is a big shame! Thanks for the link appreciated…I don’t think many of those mineral springs were great…Bath is an acquired taste!

  4. Interesting that holy wells and sacred springs cult was successfully adopted by Russian Orthodox church. Nowadays thousands of pilgrims visit the sacred springs and holy wells in Russia. Most of them are looking for the spiritual magic healing and curing of various illnesses.

  5. Hello Ross. Tanks for your blog, it has interesting subjects. I’m Spanish, living in Lincolnshire at the moment, and wish to visit some holly wells here… I’m interested in your guide of Lincolnshire, but it’s unavailable in Amazon. Could you please send it me? You can do it to: marialeguerra2000@hotmail.com Thank you very much!!!!!

  6. Hello,

    I’d like to buy a copy of your Essex Book please. Where shall I send the money?

    Bets wishes

    Stephen

  7. Hello. How do I buy your Essex books please?

  8. Hello
    Here in Cosgrove, Northants we have a well called St Vincent’s but I can find out very little about it – mostly anecdotal from older people in the village and the fact that it was protected by Act of Parliament at the Inclosures of 1767 and then when the Grand Junction Canal ploughed straight through the village in 1795. Our information is at http://www.cosgrovehistory.co.uk/doc/well/well.html.
    We would be very grateful for any further insights!

    Wendy Page

    • Hello thanks for the message. I am familiar with the well, and have visited it – albeit in the summer and hadn’t seen the basin, so your photos are very interesting (I’d be interested should I do a piece on the well to use one to compare if that was permissible). There’s not that much on the well – a common theme in this research. Indeed, its lack of detail suggests that despite the name it is not actually a holy well. The earliest reference is indeed the 1767 Enclosure Act and is first described by Bridges (1791) who states:
      “on a green or common adjoining to the town is St Vincent’s, corruptly called Finche’s well; a mineral water, resembling in its quality that of Astrop (a well known spa), and of a like efficacious nature in the cure of disorders”.
      However, at this period of time a number of springs, especially those which were being developed as potential spas, where also hagiologised being given a saintly appellation to suggest both a great age and pre-Reformation importance and hence its water had supernatural qualities. The name may well have been simply Finche’s Well, could that be a local family name? Interestingly, neither Morton (1712) not Short (1740) both who were keen to list holy wells refer to no site called St. Vincent’s Well, but do refer to a chalybeate spring in the parish. Seems likely they are one and the same! Furthermore, Vincent is not a dedication one comes across in holy wells across the country which generally falling into the categories of either being based on local saints or biblical saints – Vincent is neither – nor is your parish church so named, usually holy wells either share their dedications or retain pre-reformation church dedications. Beeby Thompson in his Percularities of wells and springs, an obscure set of articles in the 1910s (of which have a photo I can forward you are interested) records:
      “The well site is surrounded with a circle of iron railings, and is about 7 feet in diameter, a gate admitting to it; the well itself is approximately circular, some 3 feet across and 20 inches deep… It comes up perfectly clear and bright, but has a slightly inky taste due to iron.”
      Hope that helps.

  9. Hi there,

    I like the idea of tracking the wells.

    just to let you know that I live in Chislehurst in Kent and there is a wood behind where I live in St Pauls Cray, Orpington. There is a pond there that was thought to have been used by sunworshippers by a tribe of people called the hoblingers, however some say the hobgoblins and it is said there was a bronze age settlement there. My next door neighbour actually has the well in her garden of her house ‘Hobbs Well’ and the lane at the back of my and her house is actually a road that was used by canterbury pilgrims leading to old Robin Hood Cottages where there was an inn there. It is a very spiritual place for me but recently a group of people called ‘Friends of Hoblingwell’ have been changing this into a park with steps and pond widening etc. They plan to do some archaeolgical work there, I actually have a video of my neighbour talking about the well and how ancient earthworks were found around the pond. She has also found old artefacts in her garden.

    It seems there isn’t much known at all about the area, although I’ve tried to find information in the libraries. Maybe this would be of interest to you too.

    What is the name of your book please?

    Many thanks

    Lisa Winton

  10. Hi Stephen if you are still interested I have a copy available.

  11. David Hutchinson

    Hello, does anyone know where and how I might get a copy of the Holy wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire? Any help would be much apreciated as it seems to be sold out everywhere.

  12. Hello, How can I get a copy of your book on Essex Wells and how much does it cost, please
    Malcolm Lees

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