Some Wells in the South and West - 3
by James Rattue
All Saints' Well, Thorney Hill, Hants. (SZ 197 997)
Seen 1st February 1987.
The neo-classical chapel of All Saints lies immediately west of the road which runs through this long, straggling village to Burley. In the centre of the churchyard is the Well, which has a stone surround, a four-strutted metal arch above it (one strut broken when visited) and a concrete cap. The water, however, is still nearby in a broken-down old stand-pump next to the Chapel; if the top and handle are removed - they too are broken and not connected to the rest - the water can be found, filling the shaft.
I have used the name 'All Saints' Well' as being convenient. The Chapel is not more than 250 years old but since it was sadly locked I was unable to discover if it replaced an older structure. However, there is little doubt in my mind of the site's sanctity. In the next field there is a tumulus which forms an excellent equilateral triangle with a tumulus on Bisterne Common (SU 185 017) and Slap Barrow (SU 207 020), of sides about 2 km 245 m in length. This may, of course, be a coincidence. and it is true that none of the tumuli is visible from any other. Nevertheless, the Well may have been involved with some ritual incorporating geometry and religion. The site, amid the gravestones, looking out across the New Forest moors and heaths, certainly has an 'atmosphere' of quiet sanctity and loneliness.
Eye Well, Burley, Hants. (SU 223 032)
Seen 1st February 1987.
This well is situated in the garden of the northern-most house at the junction of Mill Lane and Bisterne Close, east of Burley village. I spent ages trying to find it in the boggy wood behind the houses until, on a whim, I walked up the road to find the most likely candidate staring me in the face. The Well can be easily seen over the garden wall but as nobody was - around at the time I was unable to check whether or not it is dry. It does stand at the head of a stream which feeds both the Ober Water (as does St Mary's Well, Burley Street, see Source 6 [First Series]) and the bog in the wood. The Eye Well is a circular structure with a surmounting metal arch, very neat and well cared for.
This well was, as the name suggests, used for the cure of eye disorders, though it seems to have lost its reputation; a local horsewoman to whom I related the tale in the hope of finding out the well's location said 'that's a pretty tall story'. The owners, too, are probably unaware of the well's significance but it is marked on a pamphlet describing a walk in East Burley, seen in the newsagents', but not worth the money. The area where the well stands was apparently once called Heaven's Gate.
Abbot's Well, Hilltop, Beaulieu, Hants. (SU 396 031)
Seen 24th May 1987.
In Source 6 (First Series), under the heading 'Abbot's/Monk's Well' , I described what I now know to be in fact Monk's Well. A distinct Abbot's Well is shown quite clearly on a map of the New Forest I have since seen. This is a few yards away from Monk's Well, lying on the left side of the road which leaves the B3054 as described previously. Abbot's Well is just below the track which leads to Monk's Well, and is at the head of a gully; the sound of rushing water is clearly audible. Unfortunately the well can only be clearly seen from within the gully itself, which is about four feet below the surrounding bramble-infested woodland. The water cascades with great force from a pipe set into a neat brick surround, then rushes away down a channel a few inches deep and disappears into a field beneath a wire fence. Although it looks suspiciously as if it may be an overflow of Monk's Well, the two are evidently separate features.
St Mary's Well, Exbury, Hants. (SY 422 997)
Seen 24th May 1987.
Situated in Exbury Gardens, in the southern half of the grounds, at the head of a system of beautiful ponds. The best route is to take the path south from the entrance, across the bridge and main lawns, and straight on past the House. From the larger, northern pond the Well is visible up a small channel gloriously bedecked in multicoloured plants.
The spring issues from beneath a bank of grasses and flowers at the top of which is a seat for visitors. The water flows out into a pool, over a miniature cascade, and along a tree-lined avenue until it reaches the main pond beneath a bridge. The water then enters a pretty pool through a water-spout and cascade, and finally empties into the Beaulieu River. I was told on our last visit that the water was channelled from a neighbouring field.
The Gardens, laid out by the Rothschilds in the early years of the century, also contain St Catherine's Well (see Source 6 [First Series]); both wells may of course be part of the 'improvements', but no doubt they are based on tradition. St Mary's is marked on the l:25,000 O.S. map. Entrance fees are of course payable to see the Gardens.
Iron's Well, Fritham, Hants. (SU 229 148)
Seen 19th April 1987.
This is situated at Eyeworth Pond in the New Forest. Fritham is a small straggling village north of the A31(T). From the Stony Cross-Nomansland road, turn left at Fritham House and continue straight on through the trees beyond the village (Ryeworth is clearly marked). Park at the pond and continue on foot along the path on the east side. 100 yards or so after a gate you will see a stream of red water on the left, between path and pond beneath the trees. This appears to be all that remains of Leper's or Iron's Well; nobody who might confirm the site was around, but the spring seems to be the only thing of its kind in the vicinity.
The water emerges from a tiny bank under a tree-branch and cuts a path through the red-stained leaves and sludge, gurgling down to feed a stream which empties into Eyeworth Pond. The area was very boggy when visited. P. Evening mentions the well in New Forest Walks: 1, Northern Area - 'A spring... alleged to have curative properties. It has long fallen into disuse but in years past its waters were considered a remedy for sore eyes, bad legs, and other numerous ailments including mange in dogs. It was at one time called Leper's Well and there is a vague tradition locally that a lazar house stood nearby, but this has not been proved.'
This is a most forlorn spot. Eyeworth, though out-of-the-way, and unpublicised, was thronged with Easter tourists (and tribes of pigs, it seems) who naturally gave the Well not a second glance.
Text & Illustration © James Rattue (1987)
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