Some Wells in the South and West – 4

by James Rattue

St Barbara’s Well, Cucklington, Somerset     (ST 756 273)

Seen on a gloriously sunny Summer’s day.

     The village is perched on the lip of a long hill and looks out across the Somerset Levels for miles. The well is about 200 yards from St Barbara’s Church; take (I think) two right turns from the church and the well is in a concrete and redbrick building on the left. The spring is well-known in the village and is acknowledged by the historical note on the church door. The building is a 20th century structure with a white concrete roof and a brick trough conducts the water under the road. The building itself was locked, and covered with thorns. Home describes it as a spring on a hill; he also claimed that St Aldhelm used it for baptism.


Physic Well, Horwood Common, Wincanton, Somerset     (ST 728 279)

Seen 24th February 1987.

Situated beneath the floor of the living room of Physicwell House, on the right as you travel from Cucklington to Wincanton. I was very kindly shown the well by the elderly owner of the house and his daughter, who told me they have had several visitors, including local papers and the BBC. The water has been analysed and found to contain a combination of salts similar to that of the Vichy springs. I was also shown a room where a pool with steps used to be, where people coming from far and wide to sample the waters would bathe. When the boards covering the well were removed, a circular shaft a few feet deep was revealed, with rough-bricked walls. A thick crust of crystallised salts covered the water, the colour of which was quite strongly green. It is encouraging to know that a famous and ancient spa is safe and well. As recorded in Source 2 (First Series), the well was used to cure general disorders and scurvy.


Shad Well, Wincanton, Somerset      (ST 711 289)

Seen 24th February 1987.

   Impossible to miss on the left side of the B3081 as you go from Wincanton towards Bruton, just on the edge of the former town. The well has quite a grand structure, consisting of two arches and a pillar, with a large alcove behind, containing stone benches, a dry font-like arrangement on the left hand side and the actual well on the right. The whole thing is reminiscent of Upwey Well in Dorset. The date 1859 is carved above the pillar beneath a grotesque gargoyle-like head. The water drips from beneath a funnel-shaped piece of stone into a small basin, both being thickly covered by mosses. The impressive state of this well, and its commemoration in the name Shadwell Road, suggests it must be considered a ‘noted’ well at the very least. However, I have found no references to it and do not know the derivation of the name. Is it perhaps from ‘St. Chad’s’? This is only a guess.


St Mary’s Well, Bruton, Somerset      (approx. ST 666 350)

Seen 24th February 1987.

The site of this well is not easy to pinpoint on the 1:50,000 map and, just as the map reference is only approximate, so my directions are somewhat vague. The well is on the left side of the minor road running from Bruton to the little village of Lamyatt, and before the road forks at Wyke Champflower. The water has been channelled into a neat and pretty drinking-trough of sorts, and gushes out with great force from a lip into a small pool below, before running along a gully and under the road. There is a small lay-by for cars.

This is only a tentative suggestion for the site of the well, though one of which I am reasonably convinced. When I read the account of the well in Source 2 (First Series), my grandmother cried ‘I know where that is’ and proceeded to tell us how she used to stop by the site on the way from Lamyatt to Bruton and drink the water. At that time (the 1930s and 40s) it was still ruinous and marshy, with watercress growing all around. This marsh has apparently been drained and the water led off via both the well and a small pipe which is situated down by the roadside. The only doubt is that Horne, referring to Lady Well, says the site is ½ mile north of Bruton, whereas this site is to the west. This may be a mistake by Horne, but without further details it is impossible to tell.


Alford Well, Alford, Somerset      (ST 609 316)

Seen 24th February 1987.

The actual site of this famous healing well is not known for certain. The site I was shown lies just to the south-east of Alford Well Farmhouse, reached by a small road over a bridge on the left of the B3153 as you travel from Ansford/Castle Cary towards Ilchester and Yeovil. The well lay under an iron cover in the farm garden; it proved to be a circular-shafted structure several feet deep with fairly clear water. ‘We had the water analysed a while back,’ the owner told me, ‘and it was none too pure.’ The real Mineral Well may have been concreted over beneath one of the sheds, but nobody is sure. This site looks as though it approximates to a ‘Chalybeate Well (disused)’ shown on an old O.S. map in Castle Cary museum. As reported in Source 2 (First Series), the well Horne saw was ‘enclosed in a locked shed’ and was reputed to cure scurvy, jaundice, obstructions and the King’s Evil.


St Sativola’s Well/Sigwell, Charlton Horethorne, Somerset     (ST 639 237)

Seen 27th July 1987.

There is no easy way of reaching this site as it lies out in the wilds away from villages or marked roads. It may be best to take the road to Blackford from Charlton Horethorne Church and then the left fork (not the tiny road leading to a footpath); at the crossroads, turn left and continue uphill. At the next junction, on the opposite side of the road, there is a rough track leading between a farm and a field. You must proceed along this on foot; parking is a problem, since although the track is a public footpath you are not advised to stop here. Follow the track through a little wood (you will have to crouch slightly) and take the right fork. Just before a red-painted gate into a farmer’s field, you will find on the left, half-buried in the bank, a small drain-cover and behind it a concrete water board marker; an odd thing to find out here. This is only my estimation of the siting, and it hardly seems worth the ordeal of getting to it. I got thoroughly lost and had to be rescued by my family, so the map reference is not exact. A lady living in the farm nearby told them there is an actual spring along the right fork and on the right, but we were unable to find it. Perhaps someone else can do better. As Horne noted, there are tumuli nearby on the brow of a hill, and a hamlet north of the place is called Sigwells.


St Andrew’s Well, Corton Denham, Somerset     (ST 636 225)

Seen 27th July 1987.

  Situated by the side of the main street running through the village, below the hill on which the Church stands, and to the right of a cobbled path leading up to it. The water emerges from a metal tap beneath a small arch set into the garden wall of the adjoining house. From here it pours down a metal chute into a rectangular stone bath in the centre of which is a block of what looks like rough-hewn stone. The source is clearly up the hill, nearer the church. This is a pretty little spring whose significance is at least hinted at by its proximity to the Church, and its elaborate decoration. Sadly it was impossible to guess the age of the structure. I have found no documentary corroboration of the site, but then the authorities often overlook even noticeable examples.

Text & Illustrations © James Rattue (1988)

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