Category Archives: Merseyside

The Devil in the Well…The Monk’s Well Wavertree

“ Qui non dat quod habet, Dæmon infra vide 1414.”

“He who here does nought bestow, The Devil laughs at him below”.

So reads the inscription on the Monk’s Well, a very surprising survival of an ancient well in the urban sprawl of Liverpool. The well consists of a sandstone structure surmounted by a cross. The well although dry and the pipe very worn,  itOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA has been converted into a flower bed, which has probably hidden the steps down under the arch to the water.

The name Monk’s Well derives according to Moss’s Liverpool Guide (1796) because there was:

 “an old monastic looking house…inhabited by some religious order, who might thus request alms towards their support”.

The 1768 Wavertree Enclosure Act notes that the owner of Lake House was annoyed that villagers were crossing his land to reach the water and such that a:

“through tunnel, channel or stone gutter, lately laid and made … to carry and convey water from the said well or basin into another … lately also made, erected and built, in the highway or road adjoining”.

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This improvement may have lead to the local belief of secret tunnels, significantly leading to Childwall Abbey or Priory. The name is significant of course ‘child’ probably deriving from Old Norse keld for spring and may have been an earlier name for the spring.

Baines’s 1825 Lancashire Directory of 1825 states that:

“Here is a well at which charitable contributions were anciently collected, bearing the following monkish inscription in antique letters.”

Of that legend it was a belief locally that all visitors should on taking its waters, give alms. If they did not the Devil who was chained to the bottom of the well laughed and presumably some misfortune befell the person although that is not stated. The well was also said to be a pin well so perhaps pins were given as an alm once the monks moved away?

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Interestingly, when Hope (1893) with his Legendary lore of holy wells visited not only was the cross lost, but only the following inscription was visible ‘Deus dedit, homo bibit’. Which means ‘God gives and man drinks’.  This was apparently, was added at that time and can be seen above the original inscription.

A pump was installed in 1835 by the Select Vestry and they also ordered the constable to lock it up during church services on Sundays so that gossiping women would not visit the well instead. When piped water arrived in the 1850s the well fell into disuse. The site was at risk when a local building firm demolished nearby Monkswell House but happily its importance was recognised and it did not disappear under some semis! In 1952, the  structure became one of the first of Liverpool’s Listed ‘Buildings’ and is easily found following the road which leads off to the left near the old lock up ( itself worth a visit and another remarkable survival ) off the B1578 road out of Liverpool. Turn the corner from North Drive into Mill Lane and you will see it.