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.
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
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
HOLY WELLS & WATER LORE – new forum
All welcome !
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!
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!
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.
Robert Charles Hope’s introduction gives a clear idea of the Christian mindset concerning Holy waters. The Orthodox Church, to which England was a member until 1066, retains its deep understanding of the spiritual significance of water; it is not something which was “successfully adopted” but which has been anciently understood.
Its here as well https://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/legendaryloreofholywellshope.pdf
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you very much!!!!!
I’d like to buy a copy of your Essex Book please. Where shall I send the money?
Hello. How do I buy your Essex books please?
Hello Stephen. I may have run out of copies at the moment. I shall have a look..hopefully I’ll be repressing in the new year.
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!
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.
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?
Thanks for the comment. I am aware of the site in fact it’s mentioned twice, with a picture here https://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/boggarts-fairy-folk-ghosts-other-otherworldy-beasts-and-waterlore-an-analysis
I wasn’t aware of the tribal explanation, but to be honest very unlikely, the name Hob is a very common name for a spirit and is associated with springs countrywide. The clue is in the name of the cottages…Robin hood or robin good fellow is another spirit name. The two commonly appear together. If you read the blog piece it’ll give you some theory to why. Good to see it’s being preserved as it’s probably the only recognisable hob well in the country, the others I believe are only preserved as field name records. It is in the book, holy wells and healing springs of Kent incidentally. Good luck in any future research be interested to read about it.
Hi Stephen if you are still interested I have a copy available.
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.
Hi david I have just privately messaged you. From me is the short answer.
May I have also a copy?
Hello, How can I get a copy of your book on Essex Wells and how much does it cost, please
RE: Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire/
I enjoyed this, thank you.
Newstead: Hollinwell (SK 527 545) you write ” The origins of the name are confused; it is probably recorded in 1307 as Hollewellcraft, being part of the lands owned by Newstead Abbey”.
This is unlikely as this land was not owned by Newstead Priory. I have been to what is now Newstead Abbey and examined their maps and several since the 1100s and area owned by the Priory or the Byron family or others since never included this area. A map by Bankes R., Sherwood Forrest in 1609: A Crown Survey, shows a picture of what is probably Mosley Spring & Leen Head but it does not show Hollinwell. In 1774 John Chapman printed a map that included Mosley Spring & Leen Head as did John Carey in 1805. It was only in 1836 and the first ordnance survey map (1 inch to 1 mile) does the name Hollinwell appear and this is separate from Mosley Spring & Leen Head that is also marked.
Mosley Spring & Leen Head is a large spring that is not readily apparent being under a pond behind the 5th green. Its outflow is considerable, and more than the Hollinwell, and it has been diverted to the right of the 6th tee where its large outflow can be seen.
Hollinwell has been extensively cleaned up to reveal three springs above the sandstone framed by blocks of stone. I cannot find out who placed these stones in position but they were present in the early 1900s but it was overgrown then (photographic evidence).
If you have any reference for the name Hollewellcraft in 1307 I would be interested to know it or indeed any other information on the origin of Hollinwell.
I would like to go there when i come up to wales in dev can you tell me where st winifred well is thank you
It is in North Wales not far from Flint
The address is Plessington House, Greenfield St, Holywell CH8 7PN. The shrine is open daily throughout the year, with the exception of Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
1 October – 31 March: Sunday – Saturday 10.00 – 16.00 (No admission after 15.30)
Closed 25th & 26th December
1 April – 30 September: Sunday — Friday 09.00 – 17.00
Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Good morning. We have a planning application at Holywell, Wotton under Edge, just lodged, which will destroy the Holy Well rumoured to be Roman. I wonder if you have any information on its history. It’s been taken for granted here I think, thanks
Hi Martin. I do know the site and was working on a book on the county when I lived down Bristol way. I had a friend whose parents lived in the Manor House at Tytherington incidentally lost contact years back though…there isnt a huge amount I found about the well other than as normal it was good for eyes. However, there is quite a number of such sites in a small area such as a seven springs site (often anglosaxon) and St Mary’s Well. I would add I’ve found that sites purely known as holy wells can often be some of the oldest such springs such as Anglo Saxon coming from o.e Halig later ones received saint names.
Thank you. Where did you discover that Holywell Water is good for eyes, interesting ?. We are now looking into local records.
As a small community archaeology unit based in West Kent (Tunbridge Wells) we are currently excavating what we believe could well be a long forgotten ‘holy well’. A recent visit by a medieval stone consultant suggested the tooling of the rock features was likely medieval in date. The site has produced prehistoric material, a possible ‘Beehive’ Quern stone fragment (Iron age?) and 17th-18th C. finds. The spring no longer runs and the pond/pool has been backfilled over the past few centuries.
The work continues.
Thanks Nigel be very interested to learn more and see the structure. What makes you think it is a holy well by the way?
It’s set within a series of stone cut features generally aligned E-W and high elevation within the immediate landscape. A stone cut channel (medieval) has been cut from the spring head into a man-made stone cut ‘pond’. There is no local historical context relating to it. There is no evidence of it being associated with settlement activity either. We also have evidence for post holes, beam slots and post pads indicating a possible timber structure. Our best guess is a former medieval chapel site? The evidence for much earlier human activity has been established with a series of lithic assembledge (probably late Neolithic to early Bronze age)
Is there any Holy Wells in hampshire ?
I am interested in all your books
Love all your comments & history give thanks & praises I visit Caesar well often & the water is amazing if u have any more knowledge of exactly where the source of he rain water starts I would much appreciate it thanks kind regards mike…..
I would like to bring to your attention the possible destruction on the ancient spring at spring bottom in Charlton kings. This spring has been free to use for generations and has been officially been granted public access in 1987 when I was 10 years old and I joined in signing the petition when it looked like the demolition of the last remaining untouched parish cottage in C.K was to be demolished.
This spring is of a type found in the Cotswolds that have been in use for over 2000 years.
The spring is the reason for the name of the charming ford being called spring bottom and this ford would have been the most suitable crossing point of the river Chelt in ancient times.
Thanks that is a shame. I am aware of the village and spring. I’ve shared this in the larger forum of a facebook site dedicated to springs and cced in some locals – hopefully something can be done. We’ve been successful before. What is the direct threat?
I have been told that I have stage 4 lung cancer. I don’t intend to die soon as I have living and purpose to complete.
Where can I find water to help me nurture and restore the life that is in me.
I live in London, was born in Blackheath, my parents came from Derbishire, I grew up in Carlisle, the Lake District and Dumfreishire. I have lived in Somerset and Tonbridge Wells. I also have friends in Devon and a brother in Sunderland.
Very sorry to hear that Geraldine whilst I cannot support the use of holy wells and their water over using medicine to treat the cancer; there arent many wells that directly claim a cure or ease this bar St Colmcille’s well in Ireland and St Winifred’s well in Wales. But it as much about faith in the water and its purity perhaps. Best wishes to you.
I’ve been beginning to understand the allure of springs and holy wells and
came across your website. It is an excellent resource and has granted me access to some wonderful springs. Your website appears to be the leading authority on holy wells and
springs in the UK. However, as a newbie, I wonder where I would fit into this franchise and how I could contribute to this field as I would like to do more than follow Andy’s maps.
It appears you have an established community already. Do you water cultists hang out? Do you have perpetually water-wrinkled skin? I would be interested in being involved in any well restoration work in the Midlands area-I live in Birmingham and work as a hydrogeologist.
All the best,
Hi Harry thanks for the comment and compliment. Surprisingly, there are always more sites to find. When Jeremy Harte did Holy Wells of England I thought he’d completed the task of detailing all the holy wells but 13 years on that’s certainly not true! Andy’s maps might feel like he’s found them all but I can tell you they are not and new sites reveal themselves especially if they havent been recorded on the internet yet! 🙂 There is always more research to be done. Indeed there is quite a group, the largest a facebook group, check the blog links, although ironically some of the main researchers arent on it! I have often mooted a midlands group being based there myself
This is so wonderful – thankyou for putting so much loving energy int your work for us all.
I live in Hebden Bridge , Calderdale, surrounded by so much nature – wondering if you might know where there are any holy wells or springs nearby –
I’m interested in holy wells as they feature in a novel I’m writing and springs as I want ti find natural spring water sources to drink from .
Thanks Clara there are a few interesting sites – quite a number lost it appears like the Holy well and the Spa Well at Todmorden. Depends how far you wish to travel of course – at Colden there is the new edge chalybeate spring and Robin Hood’s Well at Helmsmore. The most interesting one I feel is the Cat well at the Cat’in’t’well pub at Wainstalls near Halifax with the stone nearby painted white each May Day!
I was wondering , the Elizabeth Well in Bisham., did you ever contact the owner? I would like to get access to the well to clear it up a bit . I was wondering if they were ok with visitors? There are bullocks in the field and it’s dangerous to try to get to the well as they charge . If you have any information please let me know . I would very much like to help this well/spring. Thank you.
Hello thanks for the email. I did a while back but that was back in the 1990s and it may well be a different owner; I remember ringing them I have sadly long lost the phone number! Sorry not be more help and hope you manage to find them.
Your work is awe-inspiring! I am currently working on a book of the holy wells in County Donegal, Ireland and that is just one county! It has been half a year thus far and I have visited and photographed around half of them. It’s a lot of work indeed so I can only imagine and amire the amount of work you have had to do.
Thanks for shharing this
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