NGR:- SD 74503 42170. On Well Terrace, Clitheroe, in Lancashire, stands a rectangular-shaped, walled stone structure locally known as St Mary’s Well. It is to be found just around the corner at the far end of Church Brow, close to a bus shelter, and downhill from St Mary Magdalene’s Church. There are, in fact, three wells in the Ribble Valley town of Clitheroe: St Mary’s, Hield Well and Stocks Well, though they are not used today and have not been since the mid 19th century when water started to flow through pipes, but before that, though, these wells would have supplied water to various parts of the town. St Mary’s Well is obviously the ‘church well’ taking its name from St Mary Magdalene, but, whether it was ever a holy well is not known, though it could have been originally. The well could date back to Medieval times which makes it the oldest of the three wells. St Mary Magdalene’s Church dates from the 1820s; the church there before that was 15th century, but, there is likely to have been a Norman church as far back as the early 12th century, so perhaps the well dates from around that time?
The rectangular well structure is surrounded by a wall that looks quite old and some of the coping stones are well-worn. There are two entrances opposite each other with well-trodden steps that lead down into the inner part of the well which has a raised, flag-ged bed or gangway that has a water channel running across and, opposite that, a lower, flagged area (pool) for water, and, in the centre a large square-shaped stone. But what was the stone used for; was it for someone to sit on or maybe wash clothes on? Beside one of the entrances is a small, shaped stoop stone. There is a rusty iron hole sort of thing which the water obviously flowed through, but it looks as though there has not been any water in this well for a long time. On the side of the wall there is a brass plaque which says: THIS WELL WAS ORIGINALLY ONE OF THE THREE PUBLIC WELLS WHICH FORMED THE WATER SUPPLY OF THE BOROUGH UNTIL THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE WATERWORKS ON GRINDLETON FELL UNDER THE WATERWORKS ACT OF 1854 – Soroptimist International 1992. The well is a Grade II listed building.
Even today people from the local area and beyond, you might call them modern-day pilgrims, still come to visit St Mary’s Well and maybe look over the wall into the well and try to imagine what it looked like when the pool had water in it, and was in use.
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
More local info here: https://www.visitribblevalley.co.uk/events/clitheroe-town-wells-visits-cry-out/
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.