Holy Well, Watnall, Nottinghamshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 499 456

Getting Here

Holy Well, Watnall

Holy Well, Watnall

A stone’s throw from Ikea and found off the B600 main road.  Travelling to Greasley from Watnall, take first turning on the left after Royal Oak Wood.  Travel up Trough Road, past the woods where it is best to park, then walk up Trough Lane and the well can be found on the right hand side, opposite a house called The Springs.

Archaeology & History

I am of the opinion that the ‘holy’ element of this well is a romanticism of the 1800s, but there is a possible record in the ‘The Manor of Bevall in the County of Nottingham’ document, commissioned by the Honourable Dame Elizabeth Capell in 1653Amongst the records it appears a number of times as:

‘Holy Well Furlong 2 lands bounded with John Richards west and William Hickton east’.

Plaque at the well

Plaque at the well

Front of the well

Front of the well

A 1724 Capps Survey of Watnall Cantelupe notes that Joseph Richards had some lands lying in a close called the Flatts or Holliwell, which understandably relates to ‘Holy Well’.  There is also note of a Holwell Croft field name in the 1500s at Greasley, which again may describe this site or another and such suggests that it derives from O.E. hol, meaning ‘hollow’, a common misconception when identifying prospective holy wells. Jeremy Harte (2008) in his English Holy Wells suggests that those sites called ‘Holy Well’ are pre-Medieval in origin so perhaps this site is one of the most ancient in the county.

The sacred waters

The sacred waters

On my first visit to this site I was told by an elderly man that he was baptised there (or water used from it used for his baptism), before attempting inexplicably in trying to discourage me from finding it (due to his wariness of me I failed to discover the nature of his baptism or of what denomination).  According to locals in the lane the plaque and present state of the well dates from the 1980s and was done in partnership with the local council.

The house opposite is called ‘The Springs’ was this name of the well before the ‘present’ name and so it is ‘modern’ holy well per se, although I think the 18th century survey is significant.

The well itself, is enclosed in a stone recess with a rusty iron gate with a dove affixed on it bearing the legend Holy Well. It is approached by a path walled along both sides which are adorned by a wide range of gnomes and garden ornaments..almost so you could be pixy led!

Folklore

A plaque near the well’s entrance has a local piece of folklore recorded. This relates that a local boy who lived opposite was very ill and bedridden. A local priest called for water to be drawn for the boy from the well. This was done and the boy became well.

Interestingly it’s the only legend of this type—one which records a cure—in all the Nottinghamshire holy wells.  It is a shame one cannot find a date or check its provenance, a fact supported by local history author Mr. John Lee.  The use of priest is significant.  Does the story may indicate the Catholic revival in holy wells in the 19th century?  However, the only Catholic associations locally are that of Hilltop at Greasley for there was, and is, only a Methodist chapel in Watnall.

Extracted from Parish, R.B (2008) Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire

Interested in holy wells and healing springs – http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com

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About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire
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