The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Robin Hood’s Well, Helmshore, Lancashire

Robin Hood’s Well near Helmshore, Lancashire.

   OS Grid Reference: SD 77860 19544. At the north-eastern edge of Holcombe Moor and beside Moor Road, locally called Stake Lane, 1 mile south of Helmshore, Lancashire, is Robin Hood’s Well/Spring. The well is located at the side of the old pilgrim’s route that led to Whalley Abbey and which passes close to the medieval Pilgrim’s Cross, that is now nothing more than a stone-base on the moor. There are no records to say that Robin Hood’s Well ever had healing powers, or to it being a sacred spring, but it must have had some holiness attributed to it by the monks and pilgrims who visited it and drank of its waters back in the mists of time. And there is nothing that says Robin Hood the outlaw of Sherwood Forest ever visited the well, though there is a Robin Hood’s Inn down in Helmshore village. It may originally have been called Pilgrim’s Well.  To reach it walk south along Moor Lane for 1 mile from the village of Helmshore, or go up the footpath from the B6214 (Helmshore Road) near Pleasant View Farm. Follow the path across the farm track and up over the fields over the wall stiles to the rough track (Stake Lane) at the top. Go through the wooden gate on the right and the well is below the wall in front of you.

Robin Hood’s Well.

Close-up of the pool below the spring.

   The author John Crawshaw writing in Source – The Holy Wells Journal, gives us a fair bit of interesting information with regard to the well. He says that: “Situated near Helmshore, on the edge of the ancient  Forest of Rossendale in Lancashire is Robin Hood’s Well. This well is near an ancient pilgrim’s route which passes by the Pilgrim’s Cross (which was in existence in A.D. 1176), on Holcombe Moor, and goes through the town of Haslingdon on its way to Whalley. In Anglo Saxon times Whalley church was an important minster and the mother church of an enormous parish. Later, in the medieval period, several chapels-of-ease were attached to Whalley church for the “ease” of the scattered population providing access to the Mass and the sacraments

   “After the move made by the Cistercian monks of Stanlow to Whalley at the end of the thirteenth century, traffic would have increased along this route. About one mile to the north of Pilgrim’s Cross, near this pilgrimage route is Robin Hood’s Well.

Pyramid-shaped stone above the well/spring.

   “The spring issues  out from beneath a large, worn stone capping: shaped rather like a flattened pyramid with a blunt apex. This is set against a drystone wall by the side of Stake Lane. The water falls from the well-head into a small pool and the whole arrangement of stones has the appearance of great age. The flattened pyramid-shaped piece of sandstone covering the well has several worn, carved indentations upon it, one of which, near the left-hand side at the front, is a wide groove. It is possible that this was made by the wearing down of the stone by a chain securing a drinking cup at its end. However, no trace of any chain or cup can now be discerned.”

   Mr Crawshaw goes on to say that: “Though it is reasonable to assume that this well was used by pilgrims on their way to Whalley church and later, the great Cistercian abbey there. I have not been able to discover any recorded references to its original dedication: nor does there seem to be any written record reciting any healing properties attributed to the water. It is possible of course that any such references are lost or were never recorded, or perhaps the well’s reputation  in the middle-ages was merely that of a providential source of drinking water on a pilgrim’s route, where prayers were said in gratitude for the slaking of the pilgrim’s thirst.

   “I have a theory that in fact the name of the well may have been brought into use following the 16th century religious reformation. I understand the term , “the play of  Robin Hood” was used by the 16th century Lancastrian religious reformers as a derogatory nick-name to describe the rituals and ceremonies of the old English Catholic Church. These reformers had no use for pilgrimages to holy sites such as the ancient parish churches, the shrines of saints or holy wells; indeed they denounced them as being of no spiritual value.

   “One of the most famous Lancastrian reformers, John Bradford, in his Christmas sermon delivered in Manchester in 1552, threatened the people that, if the town did not “readily embrace the Word of God, the Mass would be said again in that church, and the play of Robin Hood acted there”, ¹ which did indeed come to pass during the reign of Queen Mary. I believe that this ancient spring derives its name from this time, when the practice of visiting such wells was being denounced as “superstitious”.

   “The Elizabethan “settlement of religion”, having swept away the piety and traditional Catholic practices of the old Ecclesia Anglicana, had no use for pilgrimages which, in theory at least, it had outlawed. So, following the dissolution of Whalley Abbey and the official prohibition of the old Faith, this spring on an ancient pilgrim’s route appears to have fallen into being regarded merely as a source of water by the side of a little-used moorland lane.” 

Sources of information and related websites:-

Crawshaw, John, (Robin Hood’s Well), Source—The Holy Wells Journal,  New Series No 6—Summer 1998, Pen-y-Bont, Bont Newydd, Cefn, St Asaph, Clwyd, 1998.

¹ Haigh, Christopher, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire, 1975, Cambridge University Press, Ch.11, 168.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=44289

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmshore

https://haslingdens.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/historic-water-troughs-and-spring-fed.html

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


St Fillan’s Holy Well And Chapel, Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland

St Fillan's Holy Well at Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

St Fillan’s Holy Well at Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

   OS Grid Reference: NS 38401 6899. The healing well of St Fillan lies at the edge of a wooded area 140 metres to the north-east of the ruined and roofless chapel, also named for the saint, at the east-side of Kilallan Farm, near the village of Kilmacolm in the parish of Houston, Renfrewshire. And 55 metres to the south of the holy well, beside Corsliehill Road, is the famous St Fillan’s Seat, a large rock shaped as such. St Fillan or Foelan was an 8th century saint from Munster in Ireland. The little hamlet of Kilallan (meaning the cell of Fillan) with its old ruined church of St Fillan and graveyard was a holy and sacred site and also a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages – as was the nearby holy well and rock-seat. The church was last used for services in the latter part of the 18th century. Although the church is without its roof it does still retain some interesting medieval features, and there used to be a 10th century stone here. The holy well, ruined chapel and stone seat lie just off Corsliehill Road in the vicinity of Kilallan Farm, some 2 miles to the south-east of Kilmacolm, near Houston.

   The holy well of St Fillan was almost certainly a pre-Christian spring that was used by the saint himself in the 8th century for baptismal purposes. It’s water flowed from beneath a rock in the ground and into a round-shaped brick and stone basin. Long ago the holy water apparently miraculously cured children of rickets when they were bathed there; pieces of cloth and rags being hung on trees beside the well as votive offerings, although this ceased at the end of the 17th century when the local priest filled the well with stones. The water was also used for baptisms in the nearby church of St Fillan, which now stands roofless beside Kilallan farm. The well gets a brief mention in Janet & Colin Bord’s work ‘Sacred Waters’.

   St Fillan’s Old Church at the east-side of Kilallan (Kilellan) Farm (NS 38268 68934) is now roofless but the walls you see here are still very sturdy and solid-looking. This building stands on the site of an older, medieval church, but there are still parts of this “older” building in the fabric of the walls. The doorway is said to date from 1635. In the churchyard wall there is a ancient baptismal font, or stoup, from the older church; and there used to be a 10th century stone standing inside the present edifice, but this seems to have been removed for safety reasons. In 1772 St Fillan’s was finally abandoned to the elemants. The British Listed Buildings site says of this: “Church ruin; roofless; walls and major part of gables remain; dated lintel “1635”. Later E gable, thick crowstepped W gable, with bipartite window at clerestory level. N wall with tomb of Fleming of Barochan family. Doorways in N and S walls. Moulded cornice to all but E. 3 doors to S blocked up. Stone stoup built into wall. Early gravestones in kirkyard.” Historic Scotland Building ID is:- no 12897. (See the link below*).

St Fillan's Seat beside Corsliehill Road, Kilallan, Renfrewshire

St Fillan’s Seat beside Corsliehill Road, Kilallan, Renfrewshire

   A little further to the south-east of the ruined chapel, beside the road and opposite the farm building, is a large flat rock of ancient origins that is locally called St Fillan’s Seat or Chair at (NS 38419 68937). Legend records that the holy man sat here and baptized the local children. We don’t, however, know a great deal about the life of the saint other than he was born in (c703) and was a monk at Cluain Moescna, Co. Westmeath, but in his youth (c717 AD) sailed from Ireland to Scotland and was accompanied by his mother, St Kentigerna, and his uncle, St Comgan. We know that Fillan buried his uncle on the Island of Iona. His father was said to have been Feriach. There are though another 14 saints called Fillan, Foelan and Faelan. At least two of these came to Scotland between the 6th and 8th century AD. This has undoubtedly led to confusion, but St Fillan of Kilallan was abbot of Glendochart, Perthshire, and died in 776 AD. His feastday is generally 9th January but sometimes 19th Jan, whereas the other St Fillan was a disciple of St Columba – probably at Pittenweem – in Fife. He died in 593 AD  and is honoured on either 20th or 25th June.

   The author Donald Attwater in his work ‘A Dictionary Of Saints’, adds more to the information but, perhaps, adds to that confusion regarding the 8th century St Fillan. He says that: “Fillan was abbot of a monastery near St Andrews; was a solitary in Perthshire, and was buried in Strathfillan, also in Perthshire.”

Sources and other related websites:-

Attwater, Donald, A Dictionary Of Saints, Burns & Oates, London, 1958.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Paladin, London, 1986.

MacKillop, James, Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/sc-12897-killellan-kirk-and-churchyard-houston#.WE3p5C975jo

https://canmore.org.uk/site/42250/kilallan-st-fillans-church-and-churchyard

https://canmore.org.uk/site/42246/kilallan-st-fillans-well

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_and_Killellan

http://houstonvillage.co.uk/history/

http://www.guard-archaeology.co.uk/news13/kilallanNews.html

                                                                                       © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.

 


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St Helen’s Holy Well, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, Wales

    OS grid reference: SH 48238 62224. St Helen’s Well, also known as Ffynnon St Helen, is located close to South Road at Coed Helen, in the area called Hen Waliau (a Roman walled enclosure), which is about ½ a mile west of Llanbeblig parish church, Caernarfon. Sadly, the well has become ‘overlooked’ and ‘forgotten’ beneath a canopy of trees almost next to the main railway line that runs through a secluded cutting. Long ago a Medieval chapel called Capel Helen stood close to the well, but today all signs of that are virtually gone. The well is located on private land close to a large house. Further along the lane there is an iron gate and, from here a path runs along a raised bank beside the railway line and passes by the well. Permission “may” be needed to visit the holy well.

     The well and its associated ancient chapel were dedicated to the 4th century St Elen of Caernarfon, a Welsh princess who was the daughter of Eudaf Octavius of Ewyas in western Herefordshire, and Aurelia Carausia. She was to figure strongly in the celebrated 14th century Mabinogion Tales. In these “tales” she marries the Roman general Magnus Clemens Maximus (Macsen Wledig) after he dreams about her while stationed in Rome. He then sets out (c 383 AD) to find this beautiful young woman and, after crossing the mountains of Snowdonia, he finally finds the woman of his dream. And so begins the well-known story of Helen and Maximus. But much confusion has arisen over time because Helen and Maximus had a son called Constantine (Custennin Fendigaid), and because of that confusion has arisen with Helen of Caernarvon being mistaken for St Helena of Constantinople (d 330 AD) and her son Constantine the Great – the first Christian Roman emperor.

    According to legend, Elen (often referred to as Elen Luyddog – Helen of the Hosts), had earlier led an army into north Wales where her father owned large areas of land, one of these being Caernarvon. Another legend states that Maximus, now made emperor in the west (including Spain where he was born), gives his wife Helen the Roman fortifications of Caerleon, Caernarvon and Carmarthen, as a wedding gift. Later, Helen and her sons Constantine and Publicius accompany Maximus to Gaul, but shortly after his return to Rome Maximus is “defeated and killed by the Emperor of the East, Theodosius” (Ashe, Geoffrey, 1976). His death probably took place at Aquileia, northern Italy (388 AD). The family later visit St Martin at Trier, according to St Gregory and St Sulpicius Severus, before travelling back to Wales – St Helen is then credited with introducing a new form of Celtic (Gaulish) monasticism into south-east Wales.

    Ffynnon St Helen was still in use up until the 1920s when local people visited it in order to be healed and they would take away bottles of its curative water, which was described as being plentiful (Hughes & North, 1924). The well stood on a raised area of land and its water was contained in a slate cistern with a flight of modern steps leading to it. Today not a great deal survives of the well’s original structure. But the water is still flowing somewhere beneath the well, certainly the sound of running water can still be heard along-side, though no structural remains are visible (Berks, Davidson & Roberts, 2005). The well site was often said to be ‘overgrown and generally abandoned’. There are apparently another five holy wells named after St Elen in Caernarfonshire! Unfortunately, we don’t know what ailments, conditions and diseases were cured by the water from Ffynnon St Helen, and we will probably never know. Over the years Roman coins have been dug up in the vicinity of the well.

    The author Francis Jones in his respected publication ‘The Holy Wells of Wales’, says of Ffynnon Helen that it is: “On the outskirts of Llanbeblig village, near the river Seiont. The ground has been raised round the well, which is now approached by a flight of modern steps: the water is still taken away in bottles for use as medicine: there is said to have been a chapel called Capel Helen near the well. St Helen is listed in ‘Lives of the British Saints’ by S. Baring Gould & J. Fisher, 1913.”

    There are at least three churches dedicated to St Elen in Caernarfon, and there are a few others named for her in Monmouthshire and west Glamorgan, while her sons have church dedications at Llanbeblig near Caernarfon and Welsh Bicknor (Llangystenin), in Hereford-shire; and the Roman road system called ‘the Sarn Helen’ is often attributed to her, although she probably had ‘no’ real connection with it,  but this might be why she is sometimes called ‘Helen of the Legions’. We learn that Helen and Maximus had other sons and daughters who are not quite so well-known: Annun (Eunan), Antonius, Dimit, St Ednyfed, Gratianna (Graciana), Severa and Victor (Gwythr). St Elen is thought to have died sometime between 390-400 AD, and she is venerated by the Church In Wales and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Wales. Her feast-day is observed on 22nd May.

Sources:

Ashe, Geoffrey., The Quest for Arthur’s Britain, Paladin, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

http://www.cofiadurcahcymru.org.uk/arch/gat/english/gat_interface.html

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Helen_of_Caernarfon

http://www.geni.com/people/St-Elen-Lwyddog-of-the-Host-of-Britain/377649183480004232

http://www.traditionalharp.co.uk/Caer_Feddwyd/articles/Elen.htm

Jones, Francis., The Holy Wells of Wales, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1992.

Spencer, Ray., A Guide to the Saints of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1990.


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St Helen’s Well, Eshton, North Yorkshire

St Helen's Well, Eshton, North Yorkshire.

St Helen’s Well, Eshton, North Yorkshire.

     SD 9309 5704. St Helen’s holy well stands in a walled and railed-off enclosure beside Eshton Lane, tucked in between the water-works and a wooded area, about halfway between Gargrave and Rylstone – in what is the district of Craven, north Yorkshire. Skipton lies a few miles to the east. The holy well has been a sacred site, not just since the late Roman period, but ‘long’ before that. However, almost certainly it had been ‘a sacred place’ in the so-called Dark Ages when the well/spring was dedicated to St Helen, the wife of Constantius Chlorus and mother of the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire Constantine the Great, who was converted to Christianity in 312 AD. St Helen, also known as Helena, died in 330 AD; she was much honoured in the west where her feast-day was celebrated on 18th August. A number of churches and holy wells were dedicated to her in the north of England and a few in the south and south-west of England.

St Helen's Well at Eshton.

St Helen’s Well at Eshton.

    In the Anglo-Saxon age and later the Medieval period it became a place of pilgrimage and healing; the water of the well having the miraculous ability to cure diseases and ailments of the body.Today the well is still ‘a sight to behold’ with the water gushing forth (often with gusto) into the circular-shaped pool – although the carved stones that apparently lie in the pool are very often well below the mud and water-level! An ancient cross was found opposite the well in the 18th century, but then it went missing, though later pieces of this were deposited in St Andrew’s church at Gargrave.

    The authors John & Phillip Dixon in ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’ (Volume One), say that: “The practice of regarding water, and in particular a well, as having sacred and healing qualities is well attested among the Celtic peoples. Holy wells have their origins in the pre-English period and many occur on a number of Roman sites in West and North Yorkshire. With the coming of Christianity the pagan deities to whom the wells were dedicated were converted and replaced by a Christian saint — St Helen was especially popular in those early times.

    “St Helen was the mother of Constantine the Great and said to be of Northern British origin, an ancestor of Coel Hen Godebog — the post-Roman overlord of Northern Britain who came down in legend as ‘Old King Cole’. After her conversion to Christianity she made an energetic and devout pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and founded several churches in Palestine.

    “Her popularity began to crystallize about seventy years after her death after the story went round that she was privileged to discover the cross of Christ on the site of the Passion. She is usually depicted wearing a crown and holding a long T-cross” (John & Phillip Dixon, 1990).

    It was Geoffrey of Monmouth who ‘claimed’ that St Helena was a British princess and of the family of Old King Cole, but she was, according to David Farmer in his work ‘Oxford Dictionary of Saints’, born at Drepanum (Helenopolis) in Bithynia. Maybe Geoffrey had genuinely mistaken Bithynia for Britain, or that he hoped and wanted her to originate from Britain! Her son Constantine the Great did, however, have strong associations with Britain, particularly the city of York, known as Eboracum to the Romans.

St Helen's Well at Eshton in North Yorkshire.

St Helen’s Well at Eshton in North Yorkshire.

    The water issues from a hole low down in the bank below the railings and flows into a circular shaped pool. At the front and sides of this pool (in a curved formation) there are a number of shaped stones that make up the outer perimeter of the sacred pool. Just in front of the point of entry for the water coming in there are ‘said’ to be two carved stones that resemble Celtic stone heads, but these are often covered by thick mud – and therefore not often visible – unless you feel around for them with your hands! The water goes out into a more modern drain at the side of the wall entrance. In the past devout people used to hang coloured rags on the branches of a tree, though this seems to have ceased now. There are records of a chapel existing in Chapel Field, close to the holy well but this has gone. In the 18th century an Anglo-Saxon cross was discovered opposite the well (John & Phillip Dixon, 1990), but this then to disappeared. It’s thought the carved stones in St Andrew’s church, Gargrave, are from “this” site opposite St Helen’s Well. According to John & Phillip Dixon the cross was very similar to the ones in Whalley churchyard, dating probably from the 11th century.

Sources:-

Dixon, John & Phillip., Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume One) Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Farmer, David., Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2003.

 


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Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone), Cefn Bryn, Reynoldston, Gower, Wales

Maen Ceti (Arthur's Stone) illustration.

Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone) illustration.

    OS grid reference: SS 4914 9055. On the south-facing ridge of Cefn-y- Bryn, overlooking the village of Reynoldston, on the Gower Peninsula, stands the Neolithic burial chamber known as Maen Ceti, but more commonly known as ‘Arthur’s Stone’. Maen Ceti means just that – ‘The Stone of Ceti’. This well-known ancient, megalithic chambered tomb, with its huge capstone is variously known as a cromlech, a dolmen and a quoit, but they all mean the same thing in reality – a burial chamber. It is located 300 yards to the north of the main road that crosses Cefn Bryn – between Reynoldston and Cillibion  – ¾ a mile to the east of Reynoldston village.  There are many footpaths criss-crossing the 609 foot-high Cefn Bryn Hill, which is locally called ‘the common’, but at least two of these moorland paths head to Maen Ceti from the road; the ancient monument can quite easily be seen once you start to climb up onto the ridge itself. The village of Llanrhidian is a further mile to the north of Maen Ceti.

Plan of Maen Ceti (Arthur's Stone).

*Plan of Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone)

    The monument is a double chambered tomb that consists of a huge capstone, a glacial boulder of millstone grit measuring 12 feet across, which is supported on four small up-rights, with a large part of the capstone having fallen to the ground at the side and another bit partly lying beneath the capstone, and there are six other small stones lying around the monument and beneath it, which presumably were up-rights that “now” don’t support the great stone. Maen Cetti burial chamber is 8 feet high and dates from the Neolithic – 2, 500 BC, or maybe earlier. The capstone weighs as much as 25 tons, or it used to do, so it would have been ‘a great fete of strength’ on the part of the builders of the monument.

    “The raising of the huge stone onto its supports has also be summed up in ancient records as one of ‘the three arduous undertakings accomplished in Britain, the old proverb: Mal gwaith Maen Ceti – ‘Like the labour of the Stone of Ceti” supports that fact, according to Chris Barber ‘More Mysterious Wales’. The burial chamber has taken a battering from the elements on the high ridge of Cefn Bryn, being very exposed to high winds and driving rain, ‘causing the capstone to split in two places – though this feature is often put down to other things in legend including King Arthur’s sword Excalibur and, even St David, who took a dislike to the pagan stone. Long ago a large mound of earth and stones covered the burial chamber, but nothing much of that remains – although there are traces of a ring cairn.

    Barber in ‘The Ancient Stones of Wales’, says that: “It is marked as Arthur’s Stone on the first Ordnance Survey map of 1830 and later editions.” He says that in its Welsh name “It is first mentioned in a Triad of the 10th century.” And that: “There are over 70 literary references to Arthur’s Stone and it is better documented than any other prehistoric stone monument in Wales.” Maen Ceti is “one of the wonders of  the ancient isle of Britain” (The Gower Society, 1989).

    We know, however, that Maen Ceti pre-dates King Arthur and St David by thousands of years, but it is always a good thing to have a British king and a Welsh saint on-board. According to the legend: “When one day King Arthur was walking in Carmarthenshire he felt a pebble in his shoe and plucked it out and threw it into the air; it landed in Gower and became the capstone of Maen Ceti.  So does the historical Arthur become inflated to gigantic stature” (Jacquetta Hawkes, 1973).

Arthur's Stone near Swansea (depicted c 1840 by Henry G. Gastineau - Wikipedia)

Arthur’s Stone (as depicted c 1840 by Henry G. Gastineau – Wikipedia)

    Beneath the ancient monument there is “said” to be a spring called Ffynnon Fawr which apparently ‘ebbs and flows’ with the tide, although the sea is several miles south of Maen Ceti. However, one other legend says that the stone “goes down to the sea to drink on New Year’s Eve” (The Gower Society, 1989). Maybe St David, patron saint of Wales, ’caused the spring to flow when he came by here in the 6th century. In a sense then St David had attempted to Christianise the pagan stone, though of course, we know the spring was here long before Christianity was established in Gower. About 500 metres to the south-east there is, though, a holy well called Ffynnon Fair (St Mary’s Well), which was for a long time one of the main sources of water supply for the Gower. Chris Barber ‘Mysterious Wales’, tells us more about the myths and legends:

    At midnight on nights of the full moon maidens from the Swansea area used to place cakes made of barley meal and honey, wetted with milk and well kneaded, on the Stone. Then on hands and knees the girls would crawl three times around the stones. This was done to test the fidelity of their lovers. If the young men were faithful to their sweethearts they would appear. If they did not come, the girls regarded it as a token of  their fickleness, or intention never to marry them. The water (of Ffynnon Fawr).….. used to be drunk from the palm of the hand and one had to make a wish at the same time. On nights with a full moon a figure wearing shining armour emerges from under the stone and makes his way to Llanrhidian. Those who have seen this  mysterious spectre claim that it was King Arthur.”

    Arthur’s Stone (Maen Ceti) is regarded as one of the most magical stones in Wales, according to Bill Anderton ‘Guide To Ancient Britain’, and he goes on to say that: “the holy well (Ffynnon Fair) along Cefn Bryn, as well as a number of standing stones, are all involved in a complex of ley lines. And says Anderton: “The name Arthur is probably a corruption of a more ancient word, yet it is the same Arthur who was supposed to have split the capstone with his sword.” There are other ancient burial tombs, cairns, hill-forts and earthworks in this particular area.

Sources:-

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, W. Foulsham, & Co. Ltd., Slough, Berkshire, 1991.

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1987.

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey., The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1987.

Hawkes, Jacquetta., A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal, London, 1975.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cefn_Bryn

*The Gower Society, A Guide To Gower, The Publication Committee of The Gower Soc., (orig. prepared 1965. Edt. 1989).

 

  


The Ebbing And Flowing Well, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

   OS grid reference SD 8039 6538. The Ebbing and Flowing Well is, perhaps rather annoyingly, located at the side of the busy B6480 (old Clapham road) out of the village of Giggleswick, about two-thirds of the way up the steep and ‘often very busy’ Buck Haw Brow, opposite Settle Golf-course. It’s about 1 mile north-west of Giggleswick and one-and-three-quarter miles from the town of Settle. The rocky and tree-covered Giggleswick Scar, formed from the South Craven Fault, towers above the curious holy well, which has long been famous for its abilities to “ebb and flow” though this does not occur as much as it used to do – due probably to the mining that now takes place over and on top of the scar, or some other atrocity. I should point out here that ‘it is quite dangerous to stand and view the well’ as there is a constant flow of vehicles rushing past the site and, it is therefore very difficult, if not dangerous to attempt to take photographs – so please “be warned” and do please stay very safe.

   The well has been famous over the centuries for its strange and curious ability to ‘ebb and flow’, indeed so much so that in the past local people have tried to dig down below the well in order to find out ‘why it does this’, though probably without actually establishing what causes such a thing to take place, if it really does, and now on rare occasions. We take the word “ebb” to mean flow back, fall, drain and subside, and the word “flow” to mean issue forth, pour forth, pour outward, refill and well-up. So is that what the well does? When the well does flow it flows under the road to emerge in a wet, muddy mess, on the opposite side of the road and, sometimes flows over the road itself, but mostly it simply wells-up to fill its square-shaped stone chamber, and then without much warning drains-away and ‘goes back’ into the limestone scar – probably from one of the deep caves that is undoubtedly linked-up with the well somewhere along the way. Author Brian Spencer in his book ‘The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, says of this strange phenomana:

“On the rare occasions that the well functions, it rapidly drains, and then after a pause refills itself. This is due to a unique double chambered cave somewhere behind the well which causes a sudden syphoning effect inside the hole and temporarily cuts off the flow of water.”

   In the much acclaimed tome ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britains’, by Reader’s Digest, we are given a more Folklore-ish angle to this:

“Near to Giggleswick Scar is an oddity of nature, the Ebbing and Flowing Well. An explanation for its behavior is that a nymph who was being chased by a satyr prayed to the gods for help. They turned her into a spring of water, which still ebbs and flows with her panting breaths. 

The 17th-century highwayman, John Nevison, is said to have evaded capture by letting his horse drink at the well. The water gave the horse strength and Nevison escaped by leaping from the top of a cliff, still known as Nevison’s Leap.”

   In the past a few historians have tried to associate the Ebbing and Flowing Well with a local north-country saint – in this case St Alkelda – who is still venerated at the church in Giggleswick and, also at the church in Middleham, north Yorkshire, where she is said, according to the legend, to have been murdered by two Danish women in c 800 AD, or maybe in the 10th century so say some. Alkelda was an Anglo-Saxon princess and also a ‘devout’ Christian. One day she was approached by two pagan women who murdered her with a ‘thick scarf’ which they pulled tightly around her neck; this terrible crime probably took place where the church of Sts Mary & Alkelda now stands, or ‘maybe’ beside the well that is also named for her; and the church houses some fragments of a 15th century stained-glass window which depicts the saint’s martyrdom.

   The church of St Alkelda at Giggleswick apparently still uses water from the Ebbing and Flowing Well in its baptism services and, “a 19th century stained-glass window depicts the spirit of the well in the form of an angel hovering above the waters. This is a Christianised version of the pagan water-spirits, called undines”, according to author Bill Anderton in his work ‘Guide To Ancient Britain’. But did St Alkelda even exist because her name could simply be a corruption of the Old English words ‘Hal Keld’ (Halig Keld) – meaning “holy well”. The renowned author Jessica Lofthouse explains this in her book ‘Lancashire Countrygoer’, she says:

“Ghikel was probably a Norseman whose “wick” or farm was here. Also the ebbing and flowing well, not so far away, was a “gugglian” or bubbling spring: the wick by the gurgling well could be a derivation. But who caresor whether or no there was a Saxon Princess martyred at the hand of pagan Danes to give St. Alkelda’s its name. Or was the well where the Celts worshipped a spirit of water, later sanctified as a holy well, and as the “helig keld” did it give the first church its unusual name?”

   Authors Janet & Colin Bord in their renowned work ‘Sacred Waters’, have little if anything to say about the well only that: “Sadly the well no longer ebbs and flows.”

Sources:

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham, Slough Berkshire, 1991.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1986.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/925879   © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/ebbing-flowing-well-giggleswick-north-yorkshire-holy-well/

Lofthouse, Jessica., Lancashire Countrygoer, (second edition), Robert Hale, London SW2, 1974.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths And Legends Of Britain, (Second Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Spencer, Brian., The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, Hunter Publishing Inc., Edison, NJ, USA, 1986.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


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St Chad’s Well, Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire

St Chad's Well, Near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire.

St Chad’s Well, Near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire.

   St Chad’s Well is located in a boggy field with reed beds, just east of Tinedale Farm, 1 mile south of Newchurch-in-Pendle. From above Hoarstones, Fence, go north along the country lane, then at the very top walk along the straight farmtrack with a sign for Rigg of England and Tinedale Farm. After a while take the second wall-style leading into the field. At the centre of this, often boggy field where the power cables intersect, look for a large area of reeds, here hidden away is the largerly forgotten holy well. It is covered by two flat stones, together measuring 3 feet across, while the well-basin is roughly 1 foot in depth, and is lined at one side by brickwork (which looks recent). There is a layer of mud at the bottom, but the water is quite clear ‘upon cupping’ one’s hands in the water, though probably ‘not drinkable’ today!

St Chad's Well near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook.

St Chad’s Well

   According to local legend St Chad, a 7th century Anglo Saxon saint, who became Archbishop of York, came to this area during his travels in the north of England. However it is more likely one of his many disciples came here and dedicated the well to his master. It is though, as we already know, a pre-Christian well/spring. I am not aware of any cures happening at this well, though I’m not saying they didn’t happen here long ago. I am told that the water was used by local farms in the area of Tinedale, according to a gentleman who is a member of ‘The Pendle Forest Historical Society’. The well is “now” only marked on old maps of the area. Regarding St Chad, who died in 672 AD, one or two historians have ‘suggested’ albeit tenuously, that the village of Chatburn, near Dowham, is named after the well-known northern saint, though there does not appear to be any credible link with the saint to the actual place.  However, the name is usually taken to mean Ceatta’s Stream in the ‘Old English’ form – meaning Ceatta/Ceada (a personal name) and burn (a stream); the two other forms of Chad’s name are, of course, Ceadda and Ceatta! 

   The local author/historian John A. Clayton informs us in his excellent book ‘Burnley And Pendle Archaeology – Part 1 – Ice Age to Early Bronze Age’, that: “in 1978 a small stone bust, possibly of the Romano-British goddess Sulis/Minerva, was discovered near to the well.” And he says: ‘This, along with Roman pottery recently found by [himself] in nearby Sabden Fold, strongly suggests that the ridge-top site [above the holy well,] sitting as it does on a major ancient trade route, was of importance in the Roman Iron Age.” The ridge-top site which Clayton alludes to is called ‘Standing Stone Height’.

    The well stands close to an ancient trackway, which apparently pilgrims used in order to get to Whalley Abbey, 4 miles to the north-west. Tinedale (Tynedale) farm is “said” to be haunted, and it was associated at the beginning of the 17th century with the Pendle Witches, who met at Malkin Tower, a scant ruin to the north of the farm – between the farms of Bull Hole and Moss End, according to the late John Dixon in his work ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way’. Tinedale farm dates from 1750 but the original building was of 1600. In this area, too, we are told ‘the ancient fire festival of Beltaine’ used to take place – long ago back in the mists of time.

Sources:

Clayton, John A., Burnley And Pendle Archaeology – Part 1 – Ice Age to Early Bronze Age, Barrowford Press, 2014.

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob., Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Farmer, David., Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2004.

http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/map/place/Lancashire/Chatburn