Nykerpole - Wiltshire Holy Wells - At the Sign of the Black Cat
Nykerpole, Mildenhall

Here be dragons

Nykerpole is a very obscure well. Indeed, it is now not a well at all, but a mediaeval place-name, recorded first in 1272, indicating a well now lost, at Mildenhall near Marlborough. Nevertheless, I include Nykerpole here because, like Puckwell, the place-name recalls a legendary well-dwelling creature.

Mildenhall (pronounced Mine-all) was Roman Cunetio. Two Roman shaft-wells have been found in the area, one of which contained a Saxon burial, the remains of a female skeleton with a knife, pins, buckles and beads. Black Field is the site of the Roman settlement, and Roman ghosts have been seen here. (Wiltshire 1984, 25-6) Nickamoor Field lies just west of Black Field beside the River Kennet. A placename of the sixteenth century, Nicapooles Croft, may refer to this very field, or to another associated with it. Centuries have passed, and we will probably never know the exact location of Nykerpole, the nicor-pool of Anglo-Saxon times which gave its name to Nicapooles Croft and Nickamoor Field. (Gover 1939, 499) The nicor was a great water-dwelling monster of the dragonish or sea-serpent type: two nicras are described in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem of the early eighth century. Nowadays the nicor lingers most notably in the Knucker Holes of Sussex, great deep pools of water in whose bottomless depths lurked the Knucker itself. (Simpson 1973, 37-42) But it is clear that, centuries ago, Wiltshire too had its Knucker which perhaps, like its Sussex cousins, would come crawling up out of its pool to terrorise the people of the gentle Kennet valley.

Location

Nicamoor Field is at SU 214694, SO 1:25 000 Sheet 1186. Footpaths run either side of the River Kennet. 

References

Gover, J.E.B. et al. (1939). The place-names of Wiltshire. Nottingham : English Place-name Society.

Simpson, Jacqueline (1973). The folklore of Sussex. London : Batsford.

Wiltshire, Kathleen (1984). More ghosts and legends of the Wiltshire countryside. Melksham : Colin Venton.

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