St. Cuthbert’s Stone & Well, Waverbridge, Cumbria

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NY 215 486

Getting Here

A mile east of Waverbridge, turn down the track called Watergates Lonning. Before you reach the bottom, on the left side of the straight track is a spring of water. This is the old holy well.

Archaeology & History

Two hundred yards away across the fields to the east of this small spring of water, was once seen “a pretty large rock of granite, called St. Cuthbert’s Stane”, though it’s not featured on any modern map – and apart from the folklore-quote (below) being repeated in a couple of other sources, I can find little more about it.  The old first edition OS-map shows it right up against the walling.  Is it still there?

Folklore

In the second volume of William Hutchinson’s History of the County of Cumberland (1794), he tells that the St. Cuthbert’s Well,

“is a fine copious spring of remarkably pure and sweet water which…is called Helly-well, i.e. Haly or Holy Well. It formerly was the custom for the youth of all the neighbouring villages to assemble at this well early in the afternoon of the second Sunday in May, and there to join in a variety of rural sports. It was the village wake, and took place here, it is possible, when the keeping of wakes and fairs in the churchyard was discontinued. And it differed from the wakes of later times chiefly in this, that though it was a meeting entirely devoted to festivity and mirth, no strong drink of any kind was ever seen there, nor anything ever drunk but the beverage furnished by the Naiad of the place. A curate of the parish, about twenty years ago (c.1774), on the idea that it was a profanation of the Sabbath, saw fit to set his face against it; and having deservedly great influence in the parish, the meetings at Helly-well have ever since been discontinued.”

References:

Hutchinson, William, The History and Antiquities of the County of Cumberland, volume 2, F. Jollie: Carlisle 1794.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

About megalithix

Occultist, prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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1 Response to St. Cuthbert’s Stone & Well, Waverbridge, Cumbria

  1. annektate says:

    We visited recently after a prolonged dry period. At the grid reference we took for this well, NY 21486 48605, there is an area in the field to the east of the Watergate Lonning, which has been left unmown (where the spring rises?). Standing on the lane, looking down into the roots of the tree which drop into the modern ditch/drain, there is a stone lined gap where water from this spring may emerge in wetter times.

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