The Holy Wells of Somerset

by J. M. Harte


     Jeremy Harte has kindly contributed to our national survey his 23 manuscript pages of notes on Somerset holy wells, including material from Somerset Folklore by Ruth Tongue, Somerset Folklore and Oral Folktales of Wessex by Kingsley Palmer, and Somerset Holy Wells, a monograph by Dom. Ethelbert Horne, published in 1923. To these have been added Mr Harte's own observations, and the result must surely be the most comprehensive survey of the subject likely to be compiled. I have summarised his work below. Each holy well is described under its appropriate parish, and these have been arranged in alphabetical order.

     Mark Valentine

 


Alford

     A mineral spring at a farm called Alford Well, about three 3 quarters of a mile from the church, was reputed to cure scurvy, jaundice, 'obstructions', and the King's Evil. It was 'sought after from very distant parts'. Horne remarks that an earlier description, of the well being enclosed in a locked shed, was still correct.

 

Ansford

     The Rev. Lewis C. Price, Rector, in a letter of May 1921, informed Horne; 'My parish contains the vestige of a holy well, which once contained water celebrated for curing maladies of the eyes. The well is known as St Andrew's Well...' He speculates the dedication may derive from the parish church or the diocesan patron, and adds that parishioners have informed him the water was used for baptism. But; 'Now, alas! The well is no longer claimed by the public, and, indeed, it has almost disappeared from sight, if it has not done so completely.'

 

Ashill

     Horne; 'A great deal has been written about this well, which is said to be chalybeate, and "which has been found serviceable in diseases of the digestive organs and scrofulous complaints". It is spoken of under various names, such as St Nipperham's, Skiverton's, Skipperton's, &c., all of which are taken to be corruptions of St Cyprion's. The well is one of those that appears to ebb and flow, and, at certain times in the year, to bubble up. It has been suggested that its popular names may be a corruption of some old words which express this...On the first three Sundays in May, the inhabitants still visit this well, drinking and bathing in its waters for their healing virtues.' Tongue says the ebb and flow is 'supposed to foretell national disaster'.

 

Batheaston

     Horne quotes a 1917 newspaper column recalling a 'lecture about six years ago where a book was produced...about the warm spring in Batheaston, which gave its name to the parish...there was a house near the spring, and... people used to come for a cure in old days.'

 

Bathford

     St Anthony's Well, rising from the south-eastern bank of Boxbrook, in this parish, was 'esteemed for its efficacy in the cure of Inflammations and Rheums in the Eyes'. It is mentioned in a 1691 source. Horne notes 'No attention seems to be paid to it now...'

 

Bishop's Lydiard

     Tongue refers to 'The Devil's Whispering Well, near (the) church. Here curses can be whispered'.

 

Bruton

     Horne; 'Lady Well, Bruton. About a mile to the north of the town was a pretty well known by the above title. In October, 1914, it had just been destroyed, for the tenant on whose land it was had filled in the whole place and conducted the water by drain-pipes to a convenient overflow. About the head of a spring were remains of masonry, which had fallen into ruin, and the water spread itself about the field and converted some useful pasture into a small marsh. This caused the destruction of this Lady Well, and all trace of it is now lost, except for the water running from a pipe which projects through the hedge.'

     Also; 'Combe-Hill Well...in the town on the left-hand side as one leaves Bruton by the road to Evercreech. The well is in a wall, and the entrance is closed with a barred iron gate, through which can be seen a flight of stone steps leading down to the water. Overhead is a groined stone roof, the ribs of which meet in a central boss. Upon this boss are carved the letters W.G., and they appear to be the initials of William Gilbert, who was prior of Bruton in 1498. In all probability, this well was merely a water supply for the town, provided by the monks at the Abbey'.

     Tongue refers to the 'General Tonic and Curative Purposes' of this well.

 

Charlcombe

     Horne '...an ancient Norman church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and the spring, known as St Mary's Well, close at hand in the Rectory garden. It is situated in a bank, now covered with ferns, and the water flows through a pipe into a small natural basin. The village people used to take away the water from this well, as it was reputed to be "good for the eyes", and the font in the church was filled from the same source.'

 

Chew Magna

     Horne refers to a 'Bully Well' whose waters were deemed 'good for the eyes'.

 

Chew Stoke

     Horne - 'Not far...at a place called St Cross, was, of old, a cell for four nuns, and near by was a well called St Mary's.'

 

Chilton Polden

     Horne notes there is a spring called Holy Well on the Western boundary of the parish, marked on the O.S. map, and said by a Kelly's Directory to have healing properties - but he had great difficulty in finding it in dry weather. Tongue has it as used for 'Eye Troubles'.

 

Combe St Nicholas

Palmer records an oral tradition of a well here revealed in a dream during a drought at Chard.

 

Congresbury

     Tongue refers to 'a vague tradition that on May Day, or Midsummer's Day...women used to process round the well at Southwells Farm, barking like dogs. The conger eels of the nearby Severn Sea are collected with barking, and there may be a trace here of a fisherman's (sic) cult...'. She also posits a connection with witch rites on nearby Cadbury Hill.

 

Cothelstone

     This is perhaps the most beautiful of the holy wells of Somerset. In a field to the north-east of the Manor House, and by the side of the road that leads from Bishop's Lydeard to Bagborough, is a little stone building about six feet square. Its roof, which is of stone, is covered with a growth of shrubs and ferns, and when I visited the place at the end of September 1913, the autumn tints were decorating it gaily. There is a doorway on the west side, well made, with a cut stone head. Inside, the whole floor is covered with shallow clear water, which rises about the centre and flows out under the door-stop. It then follows an underground channel for some little distance, when it comes to the surface, and forms a fairly large pond. It is known locally as St. Agnes' Well...' Horne suggests the well-house may have been inspired by an Agnes Cheyney, who wed the local squire, Edward Stowel. He uses the door head as evidence for Perpendicular architecture.

     Tongue notes; 'St Agnes' Well at Cothelstone was resorted to by lovers. This is not surprising, for St Agnes' Eve was traditionally one for love divination.'

 

Crewkerne

     Horne quotes a recollection concerning a 'Beauty Spring' here; '...it was embowered amid brambles and sting-nettles...the water was reputed to bestow beauty upon those who bathed their faces therein at sunrise on the first of March'.

     There was also a 'Pople's Well', 'at the bottom of the hill on the west side of the church' and, although it was not designated holy, some would not drink the water 'because it rose among the bodies in the Churchyard'. The Poples were an old Crewkerne family.

 

Crowcombe

     Tongue quotes two oral traditions - 'There's a Pixy Well down near the farm somewhere' and 'There was a Wishing Well somewhere down Roebuck. I can't remember about it but 'twas something to do about pins, and pixies' (1958).

 

Curry Mallett

     Tongue collected two fragments in 1961 concerning a Skimmington Well here. One tells of a labouring man crippled by rheumatism who was advised by a witch to bathe in 'Skimmington Well. 'Tis on Rock Hill, over tew hawthorn hedges...' for three mornings at sunrise. He did so and was so cured that he 'worked for years afterwards'. A second simply recollects the Well '...is where they go to dance on Midsummer Day and cure all their ills...'

 

Ditcheat

     Horne refers to a Holy Well which is '.. .a small patch of water under a hedge, on the right side of the road leading from Evercreech Junction to Castle Cary, and about half-a-mile distant from the former station,...' He notes the site looks like nothing more than a cattle drinking-place, but local tradition is clear, and the Kelly's Directory mentions '...a petrifying spring, called the Holy Well'.

 

Doulting

     St Aldhelm's Well '...is situated in the Vicarage grounds to the north of the church. The ground about it is strewn with dressed and well-cut stone, showing that a building at some past time must have stood over the spring. The water comes out under two solidly made arches, which are probably built against the face of the natural rock, which is the true source. In front...a long channel or trough, originally lined with dressed stone, extends for some yards. This looks like a bath for pilgrims to use, and it would have been within the building that enclosed the spring. A large volume of water comes from this well, and besides being the supply for the village...it forms a good-sized brook which runs to Shepton Mallet.' (Horne).

 

Dulverton

     One of Horne's correspondents describes, '...a dip well mile from the church, which has reputed healing properties, commonly called Bath water...' Being the local doctor, he sends patients there '...to bathe their eyes - I think with good effect. The water contains lime and iron...' Tongue says it was necessary to leave a red rag to effect a cure, and the well would only heal the good.

 

Dunster

     Horne; '...situated on the north-east side...about half a mile from the Priory. A small 14th or 15th-century building still stands over it, but the water is not now used. It overflows into the lane...may have been the water supply for the Priory, and it may also have filled the curious arched water trough in the southern wall of the churchyard'. The 'fontern Sancti Leonardi' is mentioned in deeds of Edward III's and Henry IV's reigns. Repute as eye water.

 

East Brent

     Horne; 'Lady Well...It is in a field some two hundred yards from the church in a straight line with the summit of Brent Knoll. The waters are still sought after, and this is one of the numberless English wells named after the Blessed Virgin.

 

East Chinnock

     Horne refers to 'a salt spring, at one time of some importance' but notes 'in October 1918, the spring, which is near Barrows Farm, and about a mile and a half from the church, had gone completely out of use'.

 

East Coker

     Tongue refers to a Holy Well used for Eye Troubles.

 

Edington

     This well is in a clump of trees by the roadside, on the left hand side as one approaches the village from the station. The water gathers in a well-made stone tank about three feet square, the top of which is level with the surrounding ground. It is covered with two stone slabs, one of which, at the date of my visit in April 1915, had been removed, and the tank was half full of decaying leaves as a consequence. The water was three feet in depth, and ran out through a stone spout. The flow was slight, and the water itself of a greenish milky colour, with a strong and horrible smell of sulphur...The spring looked neglected, and does not seem to be held in such repute...' - Horne, who then quotes an earlier source's description of '...a perpetual spring, which contains sulphur and steel...It is very cold...and has been found efficacious in scorbutick cases.'

 

Enmore

     'Holy Well. A well near Quantock Barn, in Enmore Park, famous for its healing influences on the eyes.' (Horne).

 

Fivehead

     'Swell. A well, named after St Catherine, patroness of the little church, is said to have existed here.' (Horne). Tongue adds '...a wishing well. You must go round it three times at sunrise, but if it was crawled round counter-clockwise it brought an ill wish'.

 

Glastonbury

     The well in the crypt, described by Horne as 'a circular well about two feet in diameter. The water...comes from a spring outside the building...' is called by him St Mary's-in- the-Crypt but elsewhere St Dunstan's. Horne doubts it is a holy well, but suggests it was used for the liturgical needs of the Abbey. Chalice Well is mentioned by Horne as chalybeate and staining red, and he also gives the associations with Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail. The archaeology of the well was discussed in Picwinnard magazine, issue 4.

 

Halse

     'Holy Well. Very little of this well remains beyond its name. It is situated in a withy-bed, with traces remaining of the stone walling that was once round its head.' (Horne).

 

Holford

     Horne notes a St John's Well from a place-name survey. Tongue has 'The Witches Well at Padlestone on the Quantocks' and reports an oral tradition that a '...gifted man...said the right words and threw salt in...' and drove away the witches whose haunt this had been. In 1950 she was told the well was now safe as ash trees grew round it (and see below, Kilve).

 

Ilminster

     Two mineral springs 'one at Horton, a mile and a half west, and the other at Dillington, about a mile to the north-east'. Palmer notes 'Horton...is known as Harcel well'.

 

Kilve

     'Lady's Fountain, on Kilve Common, and evidently named after the Blessed Virgin. There is also a Witches' Well in this parish, in Parleston Lane.' (Horne).

 

Milverton

     Furbe's Well was visited by Horne, but he could find out nothing about it. Tongue was told ''Tis one of they where 'ee do wish a wish' and classified it as a 'Dangerous' well.

 

Minehead

     There was a St Michael's Well in a lane also carrying the saint's name but a correspondent of Horne's reported it was dried up. Documents from the reign of Elizabeth I record a fine for fouling the water, and a judgement against some inhabitants for diverting it. Horne notes; 'The stonework of the well, which was not of any particular note, was removed in 1904 during drainage work in the lane, and there is now no trace of it.'

 

Nether Stowey

     Tongue records this as a Blind Well, 'a curative fairy well where rags are left on a tree and pins dropped in the water'. She reports a 1931 oral tradition that two brothers, when they parted, swore to meet again at this place in seven years time. Both were blinded in the intervening period, but were able to reach home, and, hearing each others' voice, each ran forward and fell in the spring; 'and it washed their sight back again. Wonderful good for the eyes 'tis'.

 

Norton Radstock

     'St Chad's Well, Midsomer Norton, situated at the spot called the Island. It is difficult to know why this spring bears the name of St Chad. Over the rocks from beneath which the water comes is an inscription recording the fact that the mother of Major Frederick S. Savage, of the 68th Regiment, who died 31st March 1866, in accordance with his wish, improved the spring and erected the memorial to him. The place does not seem to have been called St Chad's Well until the above date, and it is not so named either in the tithe map or in old deeds...' Tongue notes 'General Tonic and Curative Purposes' here.

 

Old Cleeve

     'Roodwater, St Pancras Well. This is an interesting well, with stonework of great antiquity. It has two slabs of stone over the top gable-shaped, but the stonework inside has fallen in somewhat, and is moss and fern grown. There is a never-ceasing supply of beautiful water, rising from the red sandstone. The well is in the garden of an old cottage which was once a chapel, though it has been much reconstructed. The cottage has always been known as St Pancras, and this was no doubt the dedication of the chapel of which little trace remains beyond a built-in lancet window and the doorway. I would not say that the well was dedicated to St Pancras, but I should think it was older than the chapel. It is locally known as the Holy Well. This well is situated about a mile, or a little less, to the south of Cleeve Abbey...' (Horne).

 

Over Stowey

     Horne records St David's Well, near Quantock Farm, and St Peter's Well, close to the church. Tongue mentions St David's Well 'in Seven Wells Combe' and quotes a lengthy dialect account of how a maid and a man both getting on in years finally met on St Agnes' Eve at the well, and a happy marriage resulted.

 

Pilton

     'Holy Well. At the back of the interesting old Manor House, once the property of the Abbots of Glastonbury, is a large field that has a spring in it, at the far end from the house. About sixty years ago, the spring was filled in by the owner of the land to prevent persons taking the waters. The water now comes out at no well-defined spot. The local tradition has it that pilgrims on their way to Glastonbury came hither for the water, as "it was as good as that which could be obtained from St Joseph's Well". A mile or so to the NW is Westholme House. Within the grounds, not far from the entrance lodge on the left-hand side, is a spring called St Joseph's Well. It is surrounded by a semi-circular wall, and looks as if it might have had a roof over it at one time. The walls have five long niches in them, and in the centre of the floor is a round basin, into which the spring runs. The building would probably not be more than 100 years old.' (Horne).

 

Priddy

     Horne observes that a Fair Lady Well is marked on the O.S. about 300 yards north of the old St Cuthbert's lead works, and that since the 13th century it has been a boundary mark for the limit of the Bishops' lead rights in the Mendips. It was formerly Fairwell. He notes 'there are some remains of walling at the back of the spring.'

 

Queen Camel

     'Mineral Spring...on the banks of the River Camel, just outside the village. The water comes up into a substantial stone tank and then overflows into the stream. It is a curious colour and has an unpleasant smell. If a silver coin is dropped into the water it quickly becomes black. For this reason, perhaps, it is commonly called Black Well. It was formerly reputed to cure King's Evil. Large quantities of this water are taken away in casks to be used for medicinal purposes, as analysis shows it is similar in composition to the Harrogate waters. It is reputed to be a wishing well.' (Horne).

 

Rode

    Tongue records a Puck Well resorted to for eye troubles.

 

St Catherine

     'The well is close to the church in the gardens of St Catherine's Court. In the lowest of the terrace walls is a square opening, and the water flows from this down some mossy steps into a stone trough. Within the opening is an ancient lead cistern, and if the wall was built in Elizabethan times, as it is stated to have been, and the cistern was then enclosed within it, this well may be almost in its primitive condition as regards its source. It appears to be visited by a good many persons in the course of the year, and is always known as St Catherine's Well.' (Horne).

 

Selworthy

     'St Agnes' Fountain, which is shown to visitors...At my visit there I did not find the water had any local repute, but my enquiries were not very thorough.' (Horne).

 

Shapwick

     Horne notes that the parish church was rebuilt by the monks of Glastonbury in the 13th century, on a different site; a Holy Well, with a small building, was on the original site. This 'pump room' with a bath was still standing in September 1914; 'a poor-looking affair, with a fire-place, without a window, and about fifteen feet square. It was put up in 1830 or thereabouts.' The bath was 8 feet in width and 2 feet deep, but dry when Horne visited, 'as the land all round about having been drained, the old spring was diverted, and hence it no longer exists as a holy well.' Horne speculates that the well may have been connected with St Indract(us) and 7 companions, pilgrims to Glastonbury, who were martyred at Shapwick c. 700.

 

South Cadbury

     Arthur's Well and Queen Anne's Well were described and located in 1882. Bennett, in 1890, describes an echo between them, and calls King Arthur's a wishing well, where the King's horses drink. A 1913 poem says that a sleeping army will be seen after washing your eyes with the well water.

     Horne; 'King Arthur's Well...is situated at the north-east angle outside the enclosure. The well is in a bank, and an alcove-shaped stone is behind it. Round the rim is a modern cut stone edging, and a wooden lid closes it over. In May, 1915, it had been recently repaired, and it was full to the top with black-looking water. The origin of its name is obvious, and I could not find that any virtue was supposed to lie in the water, or that it was "used for the eyes"...Queen Anne's Well...appears to have been diverted, and it now runs into a reservoir, close at hand. It is within the enclosure, higher up the hill than the last-named. Over it at the back is a fluted hood-shaped stone, and some care seems to have been spent over this decoration. Within the well there was but little water when I visited the place in June, 1915. Its popular name is Queen Anne's Wishing Well. It is obvious that no-one would take the trouble to call a well after such an uninteresting personality as Queen Anne and considering the large number of St Anne's Wells there are in the country, there can be little doubt that this was its original dedication...near Sutton Monthis Church, on the south slope of Cadbury Castle, is yet a third well, called a wishing well...'

 

Stocklinch

     Palmer; 'Stocklinch Ottersey used to have a well supposed to have curative properties, thirty yards or so from the church.'

 

Stogumber

     'Harry Hill's Well. There is a tradition in the village that some time in the 16th century a man named Harry Hill was cured of leprosy by using the waters of this spring...' (Horne); '...for a short time in the early 19th century regarded as a curative spring for leprosy.' (Tongue); '...where they make a famous ale with water from a medicinal spring...' (Hutton).

 

Stogursey

     'St Andrew's Well. In this village we have a holy well of some dignity. It is at the crossway leading to the castle from the street, and a canopied niche has been built over it, containing a carved figure of...its patron saint. Besides this spring there is one of considerable interest in the parish having a somewhat unusual dedication. At Wick, St Sativola's Well is situated close to the great barrow there. St Sativola is known under the English form of her name as St Sidwell. The field in which the barrow lies is called Barrow Sidwells, and no doubt refers to the never-failing spring which rises within a stone's throw to the westward of the tumulus and in the same field. Within living memory Stoke Courcy women used to bring their children to this well to be washed, if suffering from any ailment of either skin or eyes, and this healing reputation is still known...' - Horne, who then notes that a spring adjacent to tumuli in the parish of Charlton Horethorne was called Sigwell, and notes a suggestion that the pre-Christian name in these cases could have been derived from the Celtic Sidhe. Tongue says St Sidwell's, Wick was used by sailors to cure scurvy after long sea-voyages.

 

Stoke St Michael

     Horne describes a big pool formed by a 'great spring of water rushing out from under a rock, in a most picturesque fashion' near Stoke House; it is known as St Dunstan's Well but with no surviving traditions or repute. The spring is really the emergence of an underground river which begins in an adjoining valley, works a paper mill, then "dives into the hillside...for three-quarters of a mile" before surfacing to form the pool. Tongue says 'It is regarded as uncanny.'

 

Swainswick

     St Alphage, Lansdown. This well is situated on...the opposite side of the road to the old cricket ground. A steep path, which looks as if it was once made with cobblestones, leads down from the road to the bottom of the field. The water issues from a bank and falls into a Roman coffin. This...was brought from Northstoke about forty or fifty years ago, by a farmer who wanted to make a drinking place for his cattle...A mile from this well, on the road to the Monument, is Chapel Farm. This was originally St Laurence's Hospice for pilgrims on their way to Glastonbury. It is not uncommon to find a holy well by frequented pilgrim tracks, and this is a good example...This is probably the only well in England dedicated to this saint.'

     'St Winefredes Well, Sion Hill, Lansdown. In certain title deeds relating to the property on which St Winefred House now stands, a "well called St Winefred's Well" is described...' Horne goes on to say it 'has been covered in and its exact position is doubtful. The water is said to be of a hard brackish nature...' and he quotes Peach's Historic Houses in Bath that from 1730 to 1780 'women with superstitious hopes of maternity' took the waters of this well.

 

Taunton

     'At Wilton, anciently Welltown, near Taunton, was formerly a noted spring called Fons George, or St George's Well, to which the afflicted were accustomed to resort, and which tradition reports to have worked many marvellous cures...to the south of the church of St George at Wilton is a spring which was probably the noted fountain' (Horne). 'Reputed to be another Pilgrims' well' (Tongue).

 

Wanstrow

     'Holwell in Cloford parish. The name is probably a corruption of Holywell...There are numerous springs, but at the present day no one well has any special name so far as I could discover.' (Horne).

 

Watchett

     St Decuman's Well. 'Pagan robbers are said to have murdered him in his cell, and on the spot a great spring of water appeared, which is running to this day. The holy well is in a field at the west end of the church, and the water comes out between great stones set on end, having a third forming a roof on the top of them. As the water runs down the sharply sloping field it flows into a number of stone basins, one below the other. The water is still sought after by the inhabitants, or was when I saw this curious spring in September, 1914.' The full legend states that after his decapitation, St Decuman's body carried his head to the well, a not uncommon miracle in hagiographic accounts.

 

Wedmore

     Horne notes two wells, one near the area known as the Guildhall, called Sunset Well, used for skin diseases and eye complaints up to 100 years previous (i.e. 1822); and the other a spring 'on the hillside above Latcham...still used for medicinal purposes'. Picwinnard magazine, issue 4, has a description of the use of water from the latter (Dunnicks Well) for 'weepy eyes'.

 

Wellington

     At Rockwell Green, Horne notes a 'Holywell Lake' in a cottage garden opposite Holywell Inn, the word lake having its old meaning of a small stream or river. In September 1913 it had been enclosed in a cement box 'neat and ugly', older stones having been removed. Horne comments that until 1770 the place was called Holloway. The spring is 'unusually powerful' and overflowed from its box to form a large stream.

 

Wellow

     'St Julian's Well...is situated in a valley to the north of the parish church and not very far distant from it. The water runs out of the hillside and falls into a basin, apparently formed of masonry, but so overgrown and inaccessible by reason of the swamp around the spring, that it is difficult to examine. The fine old Manor house in the village was once the property of the Hungerfords and they possessed a family ghost. It was said that when any calamity was about to happen to them, a 'fair white lady' would appear beside St Julian's Well...the water was used in the font at the Parish Church...(also) dedicated to St Julian.' Tongue states the well is now in a cottage garden and also mentions the White Lady.

 

Wells

     Horne - 'The ancient city gets its name from the water that springs up in large volume in more than one place. One great spring is at the SE corner of the Lady Chapel...within the garden of the Principal of the Theological College...in the form of an uneven shaped pond...the water...comes up with considerable force, and blows up clouds of sand with it. The place where the water breaks through appears sometimes to be at a greater depth than at others...from this circumstance the place used to be known as the "Bottomless Well". The overflow runs under the garden path, and then through an open channel, finally disappearing under the boundary wall. In the wall, over this spot, is a stone-faced niche, in which is said to have been a statue of St Andrew. The open channel may have been a bath for pilgrims...The water that comes from the Cross in the town is from the Bottomless Well, and was given by Bishop Beckington (d. 1465) to the inhabitants, on condition that each year on the anniversary of his death they visited his tomb and prayed for his soul.'

     Horne notes another spring which is locally presented as being St Andrew's Well, 'in the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, beside the moat into which its waters fall' but believes the former example is more probably the original. He comments that no traditions of pilgrimages or healing attach to the waters of either.

 

Wembdon

     Horne records a 1464 report to the Bishop concerning a St John's Well, to which 'an immense concourse' of people have resorted to find help from 'various bodily diseases', and have been 'restored to their pristine health'. The Bishop's mandate orders a full account of those cured, but the result of this is not known. Horne adds that it is now 'nothing much to look at...like an ordinary draw well, being a deep hole in the ground, covered at the top with a flat stone with a circular hole in it. It is situated in some garden or allotment grounds, and is not easy to find.'

 

West Coker

     To the south-east of this village is a hamlet called Holywell. The well itself is a plentiful spring, the water coming through a pipe and falling between some great stones...squared and dressed...some of them being large steps...they may have been part of a building in former times.' Horne, who adds that no tradition adhering to the water had survived, though an old lady used it for making tea. She also gave him directions to a spring 'good for the eyes' across the moor, but these were so vague that he did not seek it out.

 

Weston-super-Mare

     Tongue records an oral tradition concerning a spring on the foreshore between here and Steepholm, covered by tides, but once a supply of 'fresh, sweet water' to cottagers, who in return were to throw back their first catch at fishing. (1920).

 

Whitstaunton

     Palmer records a story that Henrietta Maria wished successfully for a child at St Agnes' Well here; a woman murdered by a monk on the well steps was supposed to haunt the Manor House or a nearby copse, as a Grey Lady. Tongue says it 'was famous locally for The ability to cure sprains and knit broken bones, and was used by the Taunton schoolboys after playing-field injuries.' Horne saw it in 1915 when it was 'closed in and covered with a wooden door' the water being piped to discharge into a small stream. There was a visit by the Somerset field club to the villa site and well in 1883. The water is said to be warm, with 'certain healing qualities'.

 

Wincanton

     At Horwood Common rises a mineral spring, the water whereof is used by many as an alternative for purifying the blood of scorbutick taints' (Horne, quoting Collinson).

 

Whitham Friary

     'St Dunstan's Well...probably the....well mentioned in an 18th century copy of a Perambulation of Selwood...' it is 'situated in the hedge, on the left, just before the bridge at St Dunstan's Gate is reached, as approached from Witham. Repairs have been made of late, as to its top and cover. The well is marked on the Ordnance map.' (Horne). Tongue notes it as healing epilepsy.

 

Yatton

     Horne notes two springs, called Bishops' Well and Holwell, situated near each other, about mile east of the village, both 'formerly accounted efficacious in consumptive maladies'. Rivulets from each flow into the river Yow. Few remains and no reputation were found by Horne at his visit.

 

Yeovil

     Horne, quoting Collinson - 'Near the town is a pool, the water of which is green and supposed to receive that tincture from some latent veins of vitriol; there is also a chalybeate spring, which is reckoned to contain more steel than most others of like nature.'

 

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Text J. M. Harte (1985)

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