Sacred Well: OS Grid Reference – SD 35569 36707
To get here, leave Staining village along Mill Lane, turning right at the windmill along Smithy Lane. Walk along Smithy Lane, then 2-300 yards past a derelict piggery on the left go into the gated trackway on the right, and Bull Meadow is to the south-east, a boggy area at the western end of OS parcel 356. Be prepared to cross barbed wire fences.
Archaeology & History
Like the Staining Wrangdomwell or Fairy Spring recorded elsewhere, knowledge of this site owes its historical survival to the writings of Blackpool cleric, Rev. William Thornber (1803 – 1885), who wrote in 1851 about the now forgotton ‘Teanla’ or Hallowe’en bonfire cairns of Hardhorn:
“…but here adjoining the cairns are attached two wells, the one celebrated as Fairy or Wrangdomwell, and the other, issuing from a huge oblong mound of stones, as Bel spring or vulgarly Bull spring, in the Bull meadows, evidently bearing the same name as Beltain Meadow in Blackpool. Here on this Hardhorn oblong cairn, ceremonies were observed for the purpose of obtaining health to the herds of the farmers of the township – to free the wheat-land from tares, weed &c. – to bring good luck to the votaries, and to enquire into the secrets of futurity.
The ceremony was thus:- first, large fires were lighted, two or three families joining at a circular cairn, the ashes of which were carefully collected. Then the white stones, which at first, had circled the fire were thrown into the ashes, and being left all night, were sought with anxious care at sunrise, when the person who could not distinguish his own particular boulder was considered fey, i.e. some misfortune would happen to him, during the course of the ensuing year¹.
As a finale, the stones recognised were thrown, as an offering, on the oblong cairn to the god or saint who presided over it, and the well, and thus, such collections were made in a succession of years, as to astonish the curious. The water of the wells also had a sovereign virtue for healing the disease of men and cattle….”
The healing procedure at the wells is transcribed in the description of the nearby Fairy Well. Mr Thornber continues:
“The site of the large circular cairn (at Bull Meadow) is not now easily to be distinguished, since Mr. Fisher, the proprietor of the field, has carted away upwards of twenty loads of the refuse that composed it, but the soil around it is burnt red and black. This farce was carried on in its pristine glory long after the reformation; for rational Christianity (sic), which had been almost lost previously, progressed but slowly in the district of the Fylde. Even the waters of Marton Mere (SW of Bull Meadow),…were held sacred.”
Perusal was made of the Schedule to the 1839 Tithe map which revealed a ‘Bull Meadow’, owned and occupied by William Fisher, and from this, its location was able to be identified on the OS map.
Like Wrangdom Well, half a mile to the north-west, the Bull Spring issues from an area of swampy ground, and the exact place of issue was hard to pinpoint when this writer visited in December (see photo the right). The oblong cairn—if indeed that is what it is—can still be identified, about 2 feet above the marsh, it is firm to stand on but not easy to distinguish owing to the amount of vegetation.
¹ Writing in the January 1883 edition of the The Folk-lore Journal, the Reverend Walter Gregor describes ‘ristin the halla-fire’ a broadly similar Scottish ritual carried on in the Fraserburgh area up to the late 18th century.
- Thornber, William, ‘Traces of the Britons, Saxons and Danes in the Foreland of the Fylde,’ in Proceedings and Papers of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Liverpool 1852.
- Tithe Map & Schedule Transcript – ‘The Township of Hardhorn with Newton’ Surveyed by Thomas Hull in 1838, with Schedule dated 1839.’
Acknowledgement: My thanks to the staff of the Local Studies Department, Borough of Blackpool Library Services for their assistance.
© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian