The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Rosamond’s Well, Blenheim Park, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Fair Rosamund's Well, Blenheim (Photo Credit: Philip Halling - Geograph)

Fair Rosamund’s Well, Blenheim (Photo Credit: Philip Halling – Geograph)

Os grid reference: SP 4365 1647. At the north-side of the lake in Blenheim Park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, is Rosamond’s Well, also known as Fair Rosamund’s Well. It takes its name from Lady Rosamond de Clifford who was to become the lover (Mistress), for her sins, of King Henry II, although probably not ‘entirely’ out of her own choosing! Fair Rosamond, it is said, was “supposedly” murdered by a very jealous Queen Eleanor in about 1175, or was she? But back in the 12th century the well was called Everswell, maybe because it was ‘never ever’ known to run dry, even in the driest spells of weather; and in the past the water had some curative properties as pilgrims were wont to come here and partake of it in bottles – in those distant times, but in fact the well has only been named after Rosamond since the 16th century. The village of Woodstock is a quarter of a mile east of the well, while Bladon is half a mile south, and the town of Long Harborough 2 miles south-west on the A4095 road.

Godstow Nunnery Ruin (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Godstow Nunnery Ruin (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Poor Rosamond was buried at Godstow nunnery, a house of Benedictine nuns dedicated to St Mary and St John the Baptist, which is now in ruins beside the river Thames, near Oxford. It was founded by the widow Edith Launceline in 1133, dissolved in 1539, and almost destroyed during the Civil War in 1645 or 46. Today the ruin acts as a pound for local farm animals. There are only fragmentary remains of the precinct wall and chapel of abbess’ lodging, according to Frank Bottomley in his book ‘The Abbey Explorer’s Guide’, 1981. The nunnery ruins are two-and-a-half miles north-west of Oxford city centre.

Today the well looks quite neat and tidy, and is surrounded by a fence, in what is a very tranquil setting close to the north bank of Blenheim Lake – in the green and wooded grounds of Blenheim Palace. The well is actually a large square-shaped pool paved all around with flat paving stones, while at the head of the pool a high, curving wall with carvings, and a square opening for the water to issue into the pool itself; the water then flowing out into the lake. Foliage and trees grow at either side of the structure, which is soon to be restored. The water is usually quite near to the top of the pool, indeed it is never known to go down by much nor to dry up when there is a prolonged spell of dry weather. Close by is Rosamond’s Bower where Lady Rosamond, daughter of Walter de Clifford, lived before her untimely death (in strange circumstances) at the age of 35 in the year 1175 – murdered, according to the legend, by Queen Eleanor after she had found out that Fair Rosamond was her husband’s concubine. However, it is said that only the king knew the route to Rosamond’s secret bower, a sort of underground labyrinth built for her by King Henry.

Fair Rosamond was buried at the Benedictine nunnery of Godstow in Oxfordshire. In the book ‘A Thames Companion’ by Prichard & Carpenter, the authors say: “On the main stream of the river, Godstow comes next with its ruined nunnery and legend of Fair Rosamond, of which Aubrey wrote (in a manuscript note inside his copy of Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire, now in the Bodleian Library): This Rosamond, ye fair daughter of Walter Ld. Clifford, and forced to be Concubine to K. Henry ye 2d, who builded for her at Woodstock an house or Labyrinth under the ground, much wherof at this day is to be seen as also is a goodly Bath or Well, called to this day Rosamund’s Well. In the end she was poysoned by Q. Elianor, some write, and being dead, was buried at Godstow in a house of Nonnes besides Oxford. Not long since her grave was digged, where some of her bones were found, and her Teeth so white (as ye dwellers there report) that the beholders did much wonder at them.”


Photo Credit: © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.



Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1, 1986.

Bottomley, Frank., The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd (The Windmill Press), Kingswood, Tadworth, Surrey. 1981.

Prichard, Mari & Carpenter, Humphrey., A Thames Companion, (2nd Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford OX2, 1981.


Jennet’s Well, Calversyke, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Jennet's Well near Keighley.

Jennet’s Well near Keighley.

Os grid reference SE 0464 4185. Jennet’s Well stands beside a house at the west end of Shann Lane, almost opposite Calversyke reservoir, on Black Hill to the west of Keighley, West Yorkshire. It has variously been called St Jennet’s Well, Jannet’s Well and Jenny’s Well, but as to whom it was originally named for is now lost in the mists of time. Jennet was thought to have been a tutelary Saxon saint who was venerated at Keighley, perhaps at a church that no longer exists, but there is no record of a saint of this name here and so Jennet must be regarded as an obscure or unknown saint. Could it be the word “Jennet” meant something entirely different? Legend says the well at Black Hill stands at a Christianized place, maybe where people in Saxon times could congregate, worship and receive a miraculous cure by the waters of this little holy well, which had become a Christianized spring because a holy person had dwelt there; the spring then having the power to cure illnesses. The town of Keighley is about 1 mile away to the south-east and Braithwaite village roughly half a mile in the same direction.

Close-up of Jennet's Well.

Close-up of Jennet’s Well.

The spring of water flows out from a stone structure and into a square-shaped stone basin that looks to have some faint carvings on it which resemble those from the late Anglo Saxon period; it then runs along a stone gulley, afterwhich it apparently runs under the lane and then on into the Calversyke reservoir, close by. It obviously pre-dates the house by many hundreds of years, but may originally have been used as a source of water by the occupants and others close-by – indeed there are a few records saying the well used to supply the town of Keighley when it was brought to peoples’ homes in stone troughs from the never-failing spring at the west side of the town, according to Stephen Whatley’s ‘England’s Gazetteer’ of 1750. Local folklore says the well was the haunt of the fairy folk in times gone-by. If you are going to look at the well or take photos there [please respect the privacy of the occupants of the house]. There are two other holy wells in this area: True Well and Goff Well.


Dewhirst, Ian., A History of Keighley, Keighley Corporation, 1974.

Many thanks to the The Northern Antiquarian:

The Megalithic Portal:

Whatley, Stephen., England’s Gazetteer,  J & P Knapton, London, 1750.

Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire

Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle.

Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle.

OS grid reference: SD 8238 3946. A few hundred yards down the hill from the Pendleside village of Newchurch-in-Pendle along Jinny lane, and set into the grassy bank is Jinny Well or Jennet’s Well, a sacred spring that has been here for some considerable time from when the land was first formed in geological terms. Not a great deal is known about it today, perhaps because in our modern times with clean drinking water on tap, it has been largerly forgotten, sadly. At the time of my visit the well was looking a bit overgrown. From the top of the village Pendle Hill can be seen 2 or 3 miles to the north-west, while the village of Sabden is 4 miles further to the west and Barrowford is roughly 3 miles to the east.

The well is built into the grassy bank at the side of Jinny Lane – it’s roof is formed from a thick stone-slab and a large stone basin collects the water, which is nowadays a dirty-brown colour and “certainly not” suitable for drinking, while at the other side and also above, the structure is made out of drystone walling; the spring comes out of a small grassy hillock in the field above the well. At the front there is a horrid iron grid to collect any overflowing, cascading water. Undoubtedly, at one time long-ago the well water was used by local people because of it’s purity and, maybe it had some health-giving qualities of which we know little about today.

Jinny Well, Newchurch-In-Pendle

Jinny Well, Newchurch-In-Pendle

According to local legend, the lane is haunted by the headless ghost of a woman called Jinny, Jinnet or Jennet; and she has given her name to the well and the lane, but as to when she lived around here, again, we do not know, only the legend and name remains. Maybe Jennet still uses the well for her needs in the realm where ghosts and spirits (water spirits) preside. Jennet does not appear to have been accorded the title of ‘saint’ in this case, even though she lost her head! There are a few other wells and springs in the pretty village of Newchurch-in-Pendle, in particular there is said to be a well in the garden of St Mary’s vicarage/parsonage.


Bennett, Paul., The Northern Antiquarian, 2009.

Lyd Well, Kemble, Gloucestershire

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, an account writt...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference SO9896 9847. The ancient spring known as Lyd Well, Lydwell and sometimes the Roman Well is located in the corner of a field between the A433 (Tetbury road) and the A429 (Crudwell-Malmesbury road) about half a mile north of Kemble village. It is a short distance south of the old disused Thames and Severn canal, beside an area of trees and bushes and an old wind-pump. The name ‘Lyd’ is Old English and means ‘loud well’. In the dry, summer months it is difficult to find, but in a long wet spell of weather it is in full flow. This is now considered by historians to be the source of the river Thames, rather than at Thames Head 1 mile to the north-west where the water has given up the ghost and where all there is to be seen today is a small circle of stones on the ground and a hidden stone gulley close by. Even the reclining statue of ‘Old Father Thames’ had to be re-located from Thames Head to St John’s lock at Lechlade due to vandalism, in 1974; and a bit further north-west is Seven Springs on the river Chun, another possible source of the Thames? with at least 5 of the springs still evidently flowing into a large 8 foot-high stone-built pool. Here a latin inscription on a stone tablet claims that this is the actual true source: HIC TUUS O TAMESINE PATER SEPTEMGEMINUS FONS. The other problem being that there are several springs in this particular area just to add to the confusion, some of these are said to be at least 14 foot deep, and even as much as 30 feet deep in some cases.

Cirencester (Corinium Dobunnorvum) Roman town and the Fosse Way are another 3 miles due north-east of Lyd Well and, so the theory is that Roman soldiers would have known this spring and may have even placed offerings into the water; certainly they would have drank of the once clear, cold water after a long march along the nearby Roman road, a short section of the Fosse Way linking up with Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in the south-west of England and running in a north-easterly direction towards Lincoln (Lindum), which is now the section of the A433 road between Kemble Airfield and Cirencester. A number of objects of Roman antiquity have been found in the Thames. To the Romans the river was referred to as Tamesa or Tamesis – this being the first recorded account in ‘Commentarii De Bello Gallico’ the written work of Julius Caesar’s exploits in Britain in the early days of the Roman Empire (55-54 BC). But in the Celtic Age the river was probably a derivative name for Tame and Isis (Tameisis) old pagan gods or a single river divinity of myth and legend. The first ‘real’ record of Lyd Well comes from ‘The Doomsday Book‘ of 1086 AD.

Statue of Father Thames, alongside St John's L...

Old Father Thames,  Lechlade, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The spring called Lyd Well emerges from a large circular hole covered with an iron grate and flows out into an even larger stone-lined pool which is often overflowing or ‘positively gushing’ with water; the quickly flowing water then heads along a water course that gradually gets more and more noticeably like a stream and, after some miles forming something more like a river in one’s eyes towards Cricklade. In wet weather the gushing, thundering water is quite forceful and very loud – hence the name Lyd Well. Long ago the water was clear and, probably drinkable, but this is not the case today and it’s “not” advisable to drink it. I don’t know whether the water ever had any healing qualities, apart from being cold and crystal clear to drink when one was very thirsty – maybe up until the 17th century or earlier than that at least.

In the 16th century John Leland the noted royal antiquarian came to view the sources of the Thames and, later in the late 18th century William Combe also viewed these river sources and wrote about them in his celebrated work ‘History of the Pricipal Rivers of Great Britain’ (1794). No doubt other notary people from the last two hundred years or so have also tried to find the true source of the river Thames.


Prichard, Mari & Carpenter, Humphrey., A Thames Companion, (2nd edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1981.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1986.

Combe, William., History of the Principal Rivers of Great Britain, John & Josiah Boydell, London, 1794.

Walsingham, Norfolk

English: The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference TF9360 3678. Walsingham the famous English ‘Marian’ shrine and pilgrimage centre in north Norfolk is actually made up of two villages, Little and Great Walsingham, some 5 miles north of Fakenham and 20 miles east of King’s Lynn on the A148. In the grounds of the Augustinian priory ruins at Little Walsingham just south of Holt road, founded in 1153, 1162 or 1169? by Geoffrey de Favarches, are two holy wells that were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Walsingham), but today these have, sadly, become wishing wells. Geoffrey de Favarches, son of Richeldis who had visions of the Virgin Mary in 1061, having visited the Holy Land had vowed to build a religious house on his land at Walsingham when he returned to England. He did not go back on his vow. Geoffrey was also associated with endowing Castle Acre priory in Norfolk, which had been founded earlier in c.1090 by William de Warenne, Earl of Suffolk.

The two healing wells are located just a short distance to the east of the turreted monastic archway, all that remains of the priory church (east side gable end), now a rather forlorn looking ruin standing all alone, but which in earlier times was a very grand religious house that had strong links to the shrine of Our Lady (which had stood at the north side of the priory church) and the healing wells. There are other ruins here, notably the west end of the refrectory, dating from around 1300, and other ruins including gatehouse and frater. To add to the religious buildings, a Franciscan friary was established in 1347, as a hospice for poor travellers, under the patronage of Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Clare, despite much opposition from the Augustinian canons of the priory who thought this would be a distraction for pilgrims coming to their house. Walsingham priory was dissolved in 1538 even though King Henry VIII had himself earlier visited the ‘Catholic’ shrine and left a candle burning there! – the friary was abandoned at the Dissolution in the same year, although some ruined walls from that building are still visible including guest-house and church, but today these stand on private land.

It was here in 1061 that the lady of the manor of Little Walsingham, Richeldis de Favarches, who had earlier been married to a Norman lord, had at least three visions, one of the Virgin Mary on her own who instructed her to build a replica of the holy house (Santa Casa) at Nazareth, one of St Mary with baby Jesus and another of St Joseph. This was done and a chapel and wooden shrine were established two years later. During the middle ages Walsingham became something of a place of pilgrimage and, this even more so in later centuries when kings, queens, the nobility and also the poor and disabled came to the Slipper Chapel, at Houghton St Giles, on what was the best known of the pilgrim routes to complete the 1 mile journey to the Roman Catholic shrine itself without shoes (barefooted). The Slipper Chapel fell in to ruin in 1538, but was restored by the local Catholic community in the 1890s; and later in 1914 it became the National Catholic Shrine to Our Lady – to where thousands of pilgrims come every year from all over the world. The Slipper Chapel houses a very lovely statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

During the 14th and 15th centuries Walsingham had become known as ‘little Nazareth’ and even the ‘English Holy Land’- such was the fame of the place at this time in history. In 1931 an Anglican shrine was established near the priory ruins and a well was discovered where the foundations were to be built – this well was rather ‘curiously’ found to be connected up to the two healing wells, and so it too has curative properties. Today it is a renowned place of pilgrimage for Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics and, the Orthodox Churches, both in this country, and in Europe. According to the author David Pepin in his book Discovering Shrines And Holy Places, “For many twentieth-century pilgrims the annual pilgrimage to Walsingham is a highlight of the Christian year”. And it still is in the 21st century.

The two circular healing wells, with a larger square-shaped pool between them began to flow “again” at the instigation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, having been dried up for some considerable time; they were almost certainly pre-Christian, pagan springs. Our Lady instructed the saintly and, wealthy widow, Richeldis, to build a shrine and chapel that would represent the holy house at Nazareth; from which time the water in the two stone basins, close-by, became ‘effacious with healing qualities’ that would miraculously cure such ailments as: stomach problems and headaches etc. There also existed a chapel of St Lawrence at or beside the healing wells, but this has long since vanished. The small Romanesque entrance with a round-headed doorway and nice carvings was re-erected here in the 19th century but it originally stood eleswhere as part of the priory buildings. The two wells are covered with decorative iron lids and the larger bathing pool is often covered over. Also at one time a worshippers stone stood between the wells to allow pilgrims to sit and perform their usual water rituals.


Butler, Lionel & Wilson-Given, Chris., Medieval Monasteries of Great Britain, Michael Joseph Limited, London, 1979.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1986.

Reader’s Digest., Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, (2nd Edition), Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Pepin, David., Discovering Shrines And Holy Places, Shire Publications Ltd., Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks, 1980.

Bottomley, Frank., The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, 1981.

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Our Lady’s Well (Ladyewell), Fernyhalgh, Lancashire

By Andrew Henderson

OS grid reference SD 55612 33622. Our Lady’s Well (Ladye Well) at Fernyhalgh can be reached along a narrow country lane (Fernyhalgh Lane) to the east of the A6 and M6 motorway, some 4 miles north of Preston. Fernyhalgh is a hamlet situated between the villages of Broughton and Grimsargh, with pleasent countryside on all sides. The holy well of Our Lady is in the garden of the 17th century Ladywell House which houses a Roman Catholic chapel and retreat centre. It is located at the side of the secluded Fernyhalgh Lane that runs south for about ½ a mile from D’Urton Lane. The entrance to the well and shrine is through a little gate almost hidden at the side of the retreat centre building.

There was a chapel on this site way back in 1348 and possibly a shrine dating back to the 11th century. The spring itself is obviously a Christian one, with it’s dedication to Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary, and possibly a pre-Christian spring. According to the legend, in about 1471 a merchant sailing across the Irish sea was caught in a terrible storm; afraid that he was going to drown he prayed to the Virgin Mary and vowed that if his life was saved he would undertake some work of devotion to Her. Soon the storm cleared and he found himself washed-up but safe on the Lancashire coast, but he had no idea where he was. At that moment a heavenly voice spoke to him and told him to find a place called Fernyhalgh and there build a chapel at a spot where a crab-apple tree grew the fruit of which had no cores, and where a spring would be found. He began to search around for this sacred place but no-matter how much he tried he could not find it.

The merchant found lodgings in Preston and, was about to give up altogether, when he overheard a serving girl at the inn. She started to explain why she was so late on arrival. She went on to say that she had had to chase her stray cow all the way to Fernyhalgh. The merchant asked her if she could take him to this place. In a short time he discovered the apple tree with fruit bearing no cores and beneath it a spring and also a lost statue of the Virgin and child. He set about building a chapel close by in memory of Our Lady and soon pilgrims were visiting the holy well and receiving miracles of healing. However, during the time of persecutions in the reign of King Henry VIII and through to that of King Edward VI the well was abandoned and left derelict, and the chapel itself was sadly demolished.
Lady Well, Fernyhalgh

Lady Well.

The holy well of Our Lady was, however, fully restored in the late 17th century and a new chapel (the Martyrs Chapel) was built in 1685 when persecutions towards Catholics had eased. Again the place became a place of pilgrimage and many miraculous cures were being recorded there. The chapel (which is upstairs in Ladywell House) was used by religious sisters as a place of retreat and is still used today; it houses some of the relics of the English Catholic martyrs. Today, it is a renowned Roman Catholic pilgrimage centre and Marian Shrine, with thousands of visitors coming from far and wide.

The holy well stands within a rectangular enclosure with steps descending down; the well itself being a small square-shaped basin overlooked by a statue in a stone-niched surround of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. The well and shrine were restored to what we see today between 1905-1954 by the religious sisters, and it is still very well cared for by volunteers in the local Catholic community, with flowers usually adorning the well-shrine during the Summer months. Coins are sometimes thrown into the well although ‘it is not’ regarded as a “wishing well”. Visitors are always welcome and, you don’t have to be a Catholic, everybody regardless of what religious persuasion they might be can visit the well and shrine.
Edward J. Popham, writing in 1988, says of this place: “To the north of Watling Street road and near to Preston is a place known as “Fernyhalge”. The name is a combination  of two Anglo-saxon words, namely “ferny” meaning ancient or old and the word “halgh” which means shrine. In the Prologue to Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, he states that in the spring people  go on pilgrimage to “ferna halwes” (ancient shrines). Why the Anglo-saxons called this place an “Ancient Shrine” is unknown; but they must have had a good reason for doing so. The most reasonable explanation  is that on this site once stood an ancient shrine to a Roman Goddess; but that after the King of Northumbria was baptized at York on Easter Day in A.D. 627, the site was converted into a shrine to Our Lady. It is generally accepted that the shrine of Our Lady at Glastonbury is the oldest Marian shrine north of the Alps; but it is quite possible that the Shrine of Our Lady of “The Ancient Shrine” at Fernyhalge may be older. This shrine was regularly and frequently visited by Catholics in Penal Times. Their faith in Mary was undoubtedly a source of their courage and fortitude.”
Sources and related websites:-
Bord, Janet & Colin Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, 1986.
Popham, Edward, J., (assisted by Margaret Panikkar), The Osbaldeston Saga, 1988. With illustrations by Andrew Henderson.
Popham, Edward, J., Where Shall We Go In The Ribble Valley, The Salford Catholic Truth Society, 1993.
Fields, Ken, The Mysterious North, Countryside Publications, 1987.
With thanks also to The Northern Antiquarian.
                                                            © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

The Mousse Fountain, Aix-En-Provence, France

English: Fountain on the Cours Mirabeau' in Ai...

The Mousse Fountain, Aix-en-Provence, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 43.526901. Longitude 5.449895. About midway along the tree-lined Avenue Cours Mirabeau at the corner of the Rue Clemenceau in the town of Aix-en-Provence, dept of Bouches-du-Rhone, France, stands the now famous hot thermal fountain and spring The Mousse Fountain, which is also known as ‘La Fontaine Deau Chaude’ and ‘Fontaine sur le Cours Mirabeau’. There are three other famous fountains close by: Fontaine de la Rotonde (19th century) in the Place de General de Gaul at the west end of the avenue is probably the largest, while Fontaine of the Nine Cannons (17th century) stands halfway between the two, while at the eastern end is the 19th century Fontaine du Roy Rene, but there are other fountains in the town. The seaport of Marseilles is approx 20 miles to the south and Pertuis is 10 miles to the north on the E712 highway.

The Mousse Fountain is a naturally-formed thermal spring with its source at nearby Bagniers from where it travels deep underground to “spring-up” on the Avenue Cours Mirabeau in Aix-on-Provence. But the fountain’s shaped basin dates from more recent times – 1734 to be precise. The huge round boulder sits in the basin and is covered in moss and foliage – this probably dates from the dawn of time in geological terms. From this the fairly hot, steaming water issues through various orafices from which people can drink the water; whereas people with certain “diverse ailments” can use the water in the basin. The hot water here can, apparently, cure all manner of ailments such as nervous disorders, stomach disorders, rheumatism and some gynaecological conditions, but the water is quite hot and is known to reach a temperature of 94 farenhite or more. Sometimes a strange thick foam gathers on top of the water and is locally referred to as “mousse”, from which the name is derived, though this is said not to be in any way harmful to humans.

The Romans under Gaius Sextius made good use of the hot thermal springs when they invaded this part of Gaul back in 121 BC after driving out the Celtic-Ligurian tribe from their settlement at Etremont just north of the town – the town at that time being on the Via Aurelia which linked northern Spain with Gaul. In the medieval period the thermal springs were a great potential for the town with pilgrims coming from all over the country to partake of the healing waters and, in more recent times this has largerly continued, mainly because Aix-en-Provence became a thermal spa-town, with hot water baths (giving a water temperature of upto 97 farenhite) that were built upon Roman foundations on the Rue du Bon Pasteur and, which again are said to be very effective for numerous diseases and bodily disorders.