Chattle Hole - Holy Wells - At the Sign of the Black Cat
Chattle Hole, Boyton

The Devil's Cauldron?

Chattle Hole lies beside the river Wylye in woodland between Corton and Boyton south of Warminster. Once perhaps this was indeed the deep, cauldron-shaped hole with a spring at the bottom, of which earliers authors write, but now it seems little more than a semi-circular depression in the great bank above the river.  The area is clogged with beech-mast and other debris, and if there ever was a spring at its base it has dried up or become buried. 

The derivation of the name Chattle Hole is difficult: the place-name volume for Wiltshire offers no explanation. Goddard suggests a derivation from cetel, an Old English word meaning cauldron. (Goddard n.d., 115)  More likely, I suspect, is a derivation from the ubiquitous name chadwell, meaning cold spring. We have seen how -well suffixes often contract to -le; the consonant t is simply d unvoiced, and Chaddle could easily change to Chattle in ordinary speech. In Wiltshire dialect the two are in any case almost indistinguishable.

Whatever the derivation, local tradition makes this a Chapel Hole, and it may be that the story has been created, as so often happens, to explain a name which nobody now understands. Noyes tells us, "the people say that here a chapel was once, and that the devil caused the earth to open and swallow it up." (Noyes 1913, 203)  In April 1995 I mentioned this story of the chapel to the local man who lives in the bungalow just across the road from Chattle Hole. He told me, "They say when they were building it, every morning when they came back they found all the stones had been moved to the bottom of the slope." This tale of the moving of the stones during the construction of a church or chapel is another recognised folklore type: we find it again in Wiltshire at Limpley Stoke, where this time the Devil moved the stones from the bottom of the hill to the top, to where Limpley Stoke church now stands.

Location

ST 943400 OS 1: 25 000 sheet 1220.

Chattle Hole is in the woodland between the river Wylye and the B3095. There is no right-of-way to the Hole, but it is possible to creep through the hedge by a great ash-tree and follow a narrow path along the slope to where the ground begins to shelve away down to the river.  This is all that is left of Chattle Hole.  The river-bed is quite firm at this point and the river shallow, so it is quite practical to wade out to look back at the Hole.  Take care at the very edge where the mud is soft.

Oral Sources

Stones moved at Chattle Hole. Mr. Smith, Corton, April 1995. (aged c.70)

References

Goddard, C.V. (n.d.). Wiltshire and general folklore and tales : notes of beacons, gibbets, holy wells. [Manuscript notebook in collection of Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Devizes]

Noyes, Ella (1913). Salisbury Plain : its stones, cathedral, city, villages and folk. London : Dent.

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Wiltshire Holy Wells

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