Holy Well, Baildon, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1609 3961

Archaeology & History

Site of the Holy Well in 1852

This site is all but unknown to the great majority of folk in Baildon, and even some of the local historians have let it slip from their investigative tendrils.  According to the primary Baildon historian, W.Paley Baildon, it was first known as the ‘Halliwell Holy Well’.  In his magnum opus (1913-26) of the township he relates that,

“The 1852 Ordnance map marks Halliway Banks Wood to the south of Langley Lane, with a well just below it, and a footpath from Holden Lane to the well.  Halliway, I think, is a corruption of Halliwell, the ‘holy well,’ with the special footpath leading to it and nowhere else.  Haliwell Bank occurs in (the Baildon Court Rolls of) 1490, when it formed part of the property held by William Tong of Nicolas Fitz William.”

This etymology is echoed by the great place-name authority A.H. Smith (1954).  It also caught the attention of archaeologist Andrea Smith (1982), in her investigation of twenty-five holy wells in the West Yorkshire region.

“Many wells,” she wrote, “are recorded simply as ‘Holy Well,’ or the various forms ‘Halliwell,’ ‘Helliwell’ and ‘Hollowell.’  It is possible that in these instances the identity of the patron saint or guardian of the well has been forgotten, which may be the case with the site at Collingham, now known as Hollowell.”

The well itself can no longer be seen.  When I looked for the site in 1982, I found that to the right of where the 1852 map showed it, was a waterworks lid covering the old holy waters, just in the trees atop of the field beneath a great sycamore with a number of small stones roughly encircling the site: perhaps the only possible relics of the century before when the waters would have been used.  A stone trough was situated at the bottom of Holden Lane, fed by the waters from the Halliwell and from here the course of the stream meandered down the side of Slaughter Lane, now known as Kirklands Road.  The land around Halliwell became known as Kirkfield, or field of worship.

A local resident told how during autumn and winter, the left side of the field gets extremely boggy – the region were the old stream ran from the old well, along which dowsers have found aquastats abound.  Now however, houses have been built where the waterworks lid was and is likely to be in someone’s backyard, all but forgotten.

Folklore

According to local lore, the site of this most ancient of holy wells was found in the warmest place in the Baildon district.  Whilst its geographical position doesn’t necessarily suggest this (although it did face south, into the sun), this lore may reflect some healing aspect of the well that has long since been forgotten.

Perhaps relevant to Andrea Smith’s comment about there being ‘guardians’ at holy wells is found in folklore relating to nearby Holden Lane: locals in the last century also referred to it as Boggart Lane, so called after the Boggart which was seen there in the form of a spectral hound that was said to possess large glowing red eyes and was a sign of ill omen.  Modern sightings of the spectral hound, which appeared along the road which led to the old well, are unknown.

References:

  1. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
  2. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1954.
  3. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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About megalithix

Occultist, prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
This entry was posted in Brigantia (Northern England), Holy Wells, Yorkshire, West and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Holy Well, Baildon, West Yorkshire

  1. Dave Witt says:

    You have mentioned a well at Collingham, which, reminds me of Holywell Lane in Shadwell, and, the Bingley Arms at Bardsey, I’m under the impression the route was used by monks as they travelled between York and Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds, the Bingley Arms being a former religious hostel and the named holy wells being used by the monks for refreshment, Shadwell itself (LS17), being named via the Shaded Well, all very interesting.

  2. Dave Witt says:

    Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention, Shadwell isn’t too far from Seacroft, which has a road called Boggart Hill, fascinating.

  3. You mention Halliwell as possibly meaning Holy Well, which seems likely – so what do you think it means when someone has that as a surname?

  4. megalithix says:

    Halliwell as a surname also derives from ‘holy well’ (see P.H Reaney, “Origin of English Surnames”). I’m not sure when the first example of it as a surname came into being though. I wonder which were the sites that started the surname?

  5. megalithix says:

    Dave Witt – The Collingham holy well and others in our area will all be published in the coming months. ;)
    I’m intrigued by what you say about a route used by monks. Do you think it may have been an old pilgrim route?

  6. Dave Witt says:

    The story I heard was about monks journeying between York and Kirkstall Abbey with the modern Bingley Arms being a stopping off point and various wells in Shadwell also being used by them, I have no evidence to support this but I think there is something in the pub detailing it.

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