St Wendreda’s Well, Exnining near Newmarket
by Phillipa Bryan
This well is in the private grounds of the Hamilton Stud, and permission to visit must be sought from the groom, Mr Colin Atkinson. The Ordnance Survey grid reference for the well is TL 621645.
St Wendreda was the daughter of the 7th century King Anna, one of the early Christian Kings. Two of his daughters – Etheldreda and Sexburgha – were better known saints, both being abbesses (of Ely and Minster-in-Sheppey respectively).
Legends concerning St Wendreda are that she became learned in herbs and medicine, and used her skills, together with water from the spring at Exning, to heal both people and animals. Later, she founded a community at March, Cambridgeshire, dedicated to healing; the church there bears her name.
The well became a place of pilgrimage, but was later overshadowed by the more impressive Walsingham shrine, and gradually became forgotten. It has dried up on a number of occasions, but never permanently. On the last occasion, only a few years ago, one of the local people predicted that it would flow again. It did, and now local racehorse trainers take their horses to the well for its curative properties. There is little now to see at the well, which lies amongst other springs known as the ‘Seven Springs’, but genuine enquiries are received sympathetically by the owners.
The Forgotten Saint – Saint Wendreda of Exning, Newmarket by ‘S.E.M.’ (A booklet privately published by Wendreda Enterprises).
Thanks to the Rev. Salmon of March, Cambridgeshire, whose church is the only one known to be dedicated to Wendreda, for his help in providing information.