The Strangewell, Cuddington, Buckinghamshire
by Caroline Wise
In Source 2 (First Series), there were plenty of lists of holy wells in various counties, but often no indication as to whether they were still there, or what condition they might be in. So, on August 17th 1985 I set out with Alan Cleaver, John Merron, Boyd Lees and Clive Harper to see what had become of the well mentioned at Cuddington, Bucks.; ‘In the Southern part of the Parish, on the brow of a hill just below Dadbrook House, is a medicinal spring…(that) was formerly of some celebrity. The water is received in a stone reservoir, near the highway…’
We scoured the roadside but there was no well in sight. I asked at the farm opposite Dadbrook House as we could get no reply at the House. The lady at the farm told me ‘there’s nowt like that round here’. John, Boyd and I were happy to settle for a rather dingy pool in the corner of a corn field flanked by the garden of Dadbrook House and the road; but suddenly Clive disappeared into the overgrown hedge, beating it with his stick. Muffled shouts came from the bushes. Clive had found the well!
He had heard water running, and had found the top of the stone reservoir in the hedge. We hacked away the brambles and found a square stone basin, covered in earth. After cleaning the top, we saw a lip for the water to flow from, which of course it began to do, for the first time in ages. Magically, there was a hazel tree in the hedge, growing over the well – hazel is of course associated with water lore and water divining. Boyd was brave enough to plunge her hand in the icy water and bring out the mud at the bottom, which was carefully checked for offerings (which would have been replaced once inspected) – but there was none. She found the opening where the water entered the basin from the Earth. It was a wonderful feeling, discovering something that had been hidden for so long.
The following Wednesday, we all went back to finish cleaning the well and the area around it. We left a plaque naming it the ‘Strangewell’ after the folklore group that Alan runs. As it had been rediscovered around the time of one of the dates given for St Helen’s day, we rededicated it to her. This was especially appropriate as it is on a roadside, and Helen is the force that guards the highways, and is one of our oldest deities. I don’t know how many years there has been a road or track there, but at some time in its history, the well must have been a blessing for travellers.
After leaving flowers and a corn dolly, we all drank some of the water. A lady walked past, and she was surprised and delighted to see the well. She told us that she had been born in the village, and in her fifty-odd years had never known of the well, even though she had walked up the road nearly every day. When her daughter was young, she often used to pick flowers growing wild in the same hedge. This lady was on her way to meet her daughter and grand-daughter from a bus. Five minutes later the three of them came by, and all were excited about the discovery. The elder lady offered to keep any eye on it and regularly place fresh flowers there – a well-guardian turning up as soon as the well was restored. It was a nice synchronicity that the first local people to see the well were a maiden, a mother, and an elder lady – three aspects of the Goddess of wells and springs!
Text © Caroline Wise (1986)
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