Lady Well, Ancaster, Lincolnshire

Holy well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 9840 4332

Getting Here

Lady Well, Ancaster

Lady Well, Ancaster

Park by the church, which has a Sheela Na Gig and some roman stones. Walk back to the A153 (Ancaster Cross roads), turn left and cross the road. Take the footpath which is on the south side of the A153 and bear right into the nature reserve. The well – a large pool – is on private land, but it can be seen to the right of the entrance to the reserve.

Archaeology & History

This spring was possibly known in Roman and pre-Roman times, as there is a Roman station settlement hereby.  Roman credentials have been strengthened since Time Team’s research which found that the site was the focus of a cult. There was an inscribed stone, found in the church and originally part of an archway, which says:

DEO VIRIDIO TRENICO ARCVM FECIT DE SVO DON

Translated to:

‘For the god Viridius, Trenico made this arch, donated from his own funds.”

The Time team archaeologists found a late Roman or early Dark Age burial with a similar inscription ‘DEO VRIDI SANCTO – ‘To the holy god Viridius.”  The show thought that the God was associated with agriculture, but with the proximity of the spring nearby, perhaps they missed an obvious connection.    It seems very likely that the Romans would have known of the spring as the valley beside it is thought to be a Roman raceway and the town was only a few yards away.

The spring is not mentioned historically; for example Leland (1535-43) notes a chapel and hermitage, but no well:

“The area wher the castelle stoode is large, and the dikes. In the highest ground of the area is now an old chapel dedicate to S. Marie, and there a her(em)ite.” 

Lady Well on 1858 map

Lady Well on 1858 map

In Victorian times the water was tapped as a source of water for the village and a large cistern and pipe system established.  According to Thompson (1999) in his work on Lincolnshire springs and wells, this was later removed and the well had become a boggy area, before finally being restored and clay-lined to be stocked with fish and prevent water loss.  Its water now appears to be a light greeny-blue as a result. One cannot directly reach the edge of the water as it is enclosed in fencing but it can clearly be seen from the footpath.

Folklore

No tradition appears recorded regarding it properties.  However, it appears likely that this is the spring Rudkin (1936) notes as St. Helen’s Well or Mucky Pool in the legend of Byard’s Leap, the famed story associated with a local witch as the story has association with Ancaster – although this could record another site.

References:

  1. Parish, R. B., (2012) Holy wells and healing springs of Lincolnshire
  2. Rudkin, Ethel, Lincolnshire Folklore, Gainsborough 1936.
  3. Thompson, Ian, Lincolnshire Springs and Wells, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 1999.
  4. Thompson, Ian, Saints, Churches, Holy Wells, Bluestone: Scunthorpe 2009.

Links:

  1. Holy and Healing Wells

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian 

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About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire
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