Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – SJ 607 941
In the old Hundred of West Derby in what was once Lancashire (them there political types shifting boundaries for their own greasy deeds) still remains to this day the trickling remains of old Oswald’s sacred spring, close to the Hermitage Green, which is thought to have gained its named after just such a hermit living hereby and who, no doubt, frequented or looked after this holy well for both refreshment and spiritual sustenance.
Named after the once-pagan King of Northumbria — who was later patronized and regressed to the cultus of a saint — the well was said to be close to an ancient palace, which was later moved when the King regressed into christendom. The well itself was said to have been created through the tradition that the very Earth here possessed healing powers so renowned that people came from many miles to collect and take it for its sacred and medicinal qualities. In Henry Taylor’s (1906) magnum opus he told:
“A writer in The Antiquary twenty years ago (vol.3, p.261) described it as having a very modest appearance for so famous a spot, looking merely like a hole into the hillside. The writer goes on to say, “Passing through a small cottage garden, a well-trodden path leads to the well, which is merely a fosse, as described by Bede, and, situated as it is at the bottom of a tolerable declivity, derives its supply from the drainage of the upper ground rather than from any spring. The water is not very bright, but the well is substantially walled inside, and two or three deeply worn steps lead to the water.”
“The Venerable Bede gives an account of numerous miracles which took place at St. Oswald’s Well. He says: “After which period Oswald was killed in a great battle by the same Pagan nation and Pagan King of the Mercians who had slain his predecessor Edwin at a place called in the English tongue Maserfield in the 38th year of his age on the 5th day of the month of August. How great his faith was towards God, and how remarkable his devotion, has been made evident by miracles since his death; for in the place where he was killed by the pagans…infirm men and cattle are healed to this day. Whereupon many took up the very dust of the place where his body fell, and putting it into water did much good with it to their friends who were sick. This custom came so much into use, that the earth being carried away by degrees, there remained a hole as deep as the height of a man… Many miracles are said to have been wrought in that place, or with the earth carried from thence; but we have thought it sufficient to mention two, which we heard from our ancestors.””
Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian