NGR: SD 8587 3054. Hidden away in the woodland of Towneley Park, Burnley, Lancashire, is what at first glance looks like a tiny chapel, but it is, in fact, the now very crumbled ruins of a well-house. In the 1930s it seems to have acquired the name “Monk’s Well”. The stonework and the archway that we see there today could date from the Victorian period, or perhaps the early 1900s? It looks as though there used to be a spring issuing from the ground into the rectangular stone-trough and cistern that can be seen inside the tumbled down building, though this may have been capped off. However, there was a trickle of water still running from the ground just in front of the arch when I visited the site in early October, 2020. It would seem the water from the spring, here, was used for watering young trees back in the 18th Century but it was never used for anything else! In the 1990s it was rebuilt in the style of a Gothic folly. The Monk’s Well is reached along a path through Thanet Lee Woods, 500m southeast of Towneley Hall, close by a wooden bridge. There are two carved wooden fairies in the trees, here, and another on the wooden bench opposite.
What’s left of the Monk’s Well is now a tumbled-down collection of walling around a wellhead and, at the front a rough stone archway that is still standing, which actually looks quite solid today, though some years back this lay broken on the ground. The large rectan-gular stone-trough and the cistern (behind it) with a connecting water channel and slab-covered outflow are in pretty good condi-tion, even though stonework from the walls has fallen into them. Rain-water fills the large, deep trough nowadays and trickles out from beneath stones in front of the archway. Way back in the 18th Century one of the Towneley family, Charles (1737–1805), seemingly discovered the spring and had the water trough, cistern and outflow constructed so that he could water his young trees, and then in the Victorian period a well-house was constructed around the spring/well from rough-hewn stones; the archway maybe built onto the front of the little building at a later date? No-doubt the spring, or the water filled trough, has been used by a succession of Towneley Estate gardeners down the years. Much of the present-day landscaping of Towneley Park is the result of Charles Towneley’s work in the late 18th Century.
Headley & Meulenkamp in their book Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings (1999) say of Monk’s Well: “A pile of stones in Towneley, Park, Burnley, was rebuilt as a Gothic folly in 1992. It started life as a wellhead called the Monk’s Well, built by Charles Towneley. The British Trust for Conservation Volun-teers proposed to rebuild it at no extra cost to the local council, which nevertheless demurred, thinking of future maintenance costs. Then a happy compromise was reached — why not rebuild it as a ruin, which would need less supervision? Nice one.”
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Headley, Gwyn & Meulenkamp, Wim, Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 1999.
Woodcarvings in Towneley Park: https://landcwoodcarvers.co.uk/woodcarvings-in-towneley-park-burnley/
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.