The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Finn’s Well, Haggate, Lancashire

Finn’s Well, Haggate, Lancashire

OS grid reference: SD 8671 3582. Finn’s Well or Finsley Well is now rather forgotten, but it is still flowing. It can be found 1 mile to the south-east of Nelson town centre on Higher Causeway (at Marsden Heights) just before the village of Haggate. Walk along a track that goes along the eastern edge of Nelson Golf Course. The well is just at the edge of the golf links close by a wall. A farmhouse called Finsley used to stand where the rough trackway is, but this was demolished in the 1980s. The golfcourse was opened back in 1921 and is a privately run course. The well or spring, because that’s what it originally was, now mingles in quite well with the green links and bunkers of the golf course, having been recently restored to look like it is part of the place, or rather a delightful little pond at the edge of the fairway, perhaps!

The well is roughly oval in shape and edged all round with stonework. It measures about 70 feet in circumference and 20 feet across. There are two inlets, one, the main inlet issues with a steady, constant flow of water, while another inlet is largerly dry. At the opposite side there is an outlet which keeps the water-level the same all the time, even during very wet spells of weather and dry spells of weather. The depth of the water is not more than 6 inches at any time. Obviously the spring was used by the inhabitants of Finsley farm and other farms close by, but that no longer applies today because many of these buildings have gone. But I have no doubt the spring has been here for many hundreds, if not, thousands of years. It was probably the abode of a Norse chieftain or landowner by the name of Finn – the place-name Finsley probably means ‘Finns Hill’ or ‘the hill where Finn dwelt’. Many villages around here have Scandinavian names: Harle Syke means ‘Defensive ditch of Jarl’. Jarl being a Norse earl. Scholefield just north-east of the well is yet another Scandinavian name: Skali-feld meaning ‘Summer pasture or dwelling’. Haggate is thought not to be a Scandinavian place-name; it simply means: ‘hawthorne trees by the gateway’ (Hack Gaeta).

Finn’s Well, Haggate, Lancashire

The well has on more than one occassion been referred to as St Helena’s Well due to the fact that a farm or house called ‘St Helena’ stood close by a stone trig point that is in a somewhat sorry state. The trig point is number 54621. However, that building stood about a quarter of a mile to the west and was probably not connected with “this” well, despite the saint’s name often being associated with holy wells, and the building originally called St Helena was demolished in recent times. There is no Roman site in this area, although there have been some Roman coin finds at nearby Catlow and Castercliff Hillfort.