Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 1878 3622
Take the A658 road north out of Bradford, past Undercliffe, and downhill towards Greengates. When you meet with the large junction where Ravenscliffe Avenue turns to your right – stop! Immediately on the left-hand side of the road is where the old well used to appear.
Archaeology & History
In times past this was one of the most renowned holy wells in the region (we have at least 200 in West Yorkshire). First recorded as a holy well in 1585, specialist writer Edna Whelan remembers the waters here running into a stone trough at the side of Harrogate Road when she was young.
In 1932, local historian W.E. Preston described, “the remains of what was once a fine grove of trees leading up the hillside from the road to its source,” implying ritual commemoration and a procession to the site. Today, this grove is still evidenced by the straight footpath across the main road, leading to the infamous Ravenscliffe estate.
In 1704 a court case was brought against some locals – Mr & Mrs Richard and Sarah White (and their daughter, Mary) – “for diverting the water from its ancient channel.”
In 1867 it was described in the Object Name Book:
“A considerable and well-known spring, it has the appearance of having been a bathing place. A bank has been thrown up on the east side, and a broken wall remains on the other sides. There is no tradition about it. It is likely to have been of some note…in the days of Romanism. Large trees are ranged on either side of the approach to it, forming a grove.”
Up till 1978, Andrea Smith (n.d.) reported the well to still be “protected by local tradition,” but this is no longer possible. Yorkshire Water don’t particularly give a damn about its preservation (water is money folks!) and today it’s covered by a man-hole in the garden.
- Preston, William E., ‘Notes on the Early History of the Manor of Eccleshill,’ in Bradford Antiquary, 5, 1912.
- Preston, William E., ‘Some Local Holy Wells,’ in Bradford Antiquary, June 1932.
- Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
- Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Pocklington 1989.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian