St Francis’ Well, Conisborough, South Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS-Grid Reference – SK 5112 9880

Also known as:

  1. Town Well

Getting Here

From Church street turn down into Wellgate, the well is on the right hand site at 18 Wellgate surrounded by railings near some new properties, on a little island.

Archaeology & History

Near the castle, and although dry it is a substantial site variously called the Town well or the Well of St Francis.  This is as C.F. Innocent (1914) described it:

“Covered by a curious little building very medieval-looking  with it a chamfered plinth and steeply slanted roof”

Little is recorded of its history, but the structure more a conduit house probably dates from the 1500s at the earliest and was used as source of domestic water until the 1900s.

Folklore

Which St Francis it is, is unclear, but Alport (1898) records the local tradition which states that he was a local holy man and probably not a true saint and it is interesting that a number of churches are dedicated to a St. Francis in Yorkshire. Interestingly though, the date of creation of the well is recorded and is quite late compared to other local saints.

It is said that in 1320 -1321 the village was suffering from a particularly terrible drought and this St. Francis, said to be an old and wise man was sought for his advice. He suggested that the local people cut a willow tree from Willow Vale and then as the people sang psalms and hymns he lead them through the church and priory grounds to the site of the well. At the spot St Francis then struck is and not only did a spring arise and followed for the next 582 years (for its sadly dry now) but the tree took root.

Sadly this tree has either died or was dug up. Clark (1986) believes the story recalls a Pagan priest and that the legend was a legacy of Conisbrough’s pre-Christian past; certainly the reference to a willow indicates a water diviner.

Extracted and amended (where both sites of the town are discussed) from http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/a-yorkshire-field-trip-conisboroughs-two-holy-wells/

References:

  1. Allport, C.H., (1898) History of Conisborough.
  2. Clark, S., (1986) “The Holy well of Conisborough,” in Source, Old Series no.5.
  3. Innocent, C.F (1914-18) “Conisborough and its Castle,” in Trans of Hunter Archaeology Society.
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About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire
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