Phoebe Palmer.

The Antiquary (Volume 31) online

. (page 64 of 67)
Online LibraryPhoebe PalmerThe Antiquary (Volume 31) → online text (page 64 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in Cromwell's time" {The Diary of Abraham
de la Pryme, Surtees Society, 1870, p. 142).
In Ball's Social History and Antiquities of
Barton-upon-Humber, 1856, p. 68, it is- also
mentioned : " At the end of Newport, on
what was called ' the Colony,' was St. Catha-
rine's Well, and the road from thence to
Finkle Lane was named Catharine Street."

St. Christopher's (otherwise Sancaster)
Well, at Denton, is believed to have been a
holy well, and it is still held in honour for
its curative virtues. High George, or Eye
George, on Manton Common, is probably a
saint's well also. It is yet resorted to for the
alleviation of certain ailments, and the water
is considered so beneficial that within a few
years of the present time people have taken
the trouble to come from Sheffield for the
purpose of carrying some of it away in bottles.

St. Helen's Well, which furnished Louth
Park Abbey with water by means of a cut
called Monks' Dyke, was formerly orna-
mented with flowers and branches on Holy
Thursday, a festival already mentioned as
having a special connection with water-lore.
Aswell, at Louth, was also similarly adorned



LINCOLNSHIRE WATER-LORE.



369



on that day. The ceremony of well-dressing
seems to have been observed at different
periods of the spring and summer seasons in
various districts of the British Isles. In
county Leitrim, for example, " Garland Sun-
day," which was the day for placing flowers
round wells, fell as late as the last Sunday in
July {Folk-Lore, v. 193); but the celebrated
well-flowering at Tissington, in Derbyshire,
which is the best known instance of the
custom in England, takes place on Holy
Thursday. The connection of well-dressing
with Church festivals is clearly an adaptation
of a pre-Christian cult to ecclesiastical exi-
gencies. As the sentiment of reverence
towards water -springs could not be done
away with in its entirety, it being impossible
to annihilate this and many other time-
honoured preconceptions from the minds of
converted idolaters, the old faith was at least
modified and adapted to the new creed as
far as was possible. Heathen temples, after
some little management on the part of the first
Christian teachers, became churches, and in
ike manner pagan holy wells were trans-
formed into objects of quasi-sacramental
reverence, by putting them under the
guardianship of saints in vogue among the
exponents of the newly-introduced cult.

How long it is since well-dressing died out
at Louth is uncertain. It still took place in
the first three decades of the eighteenth
century, but the oldest inhabitants of the
town have now no traditional recollection
of it. Neither St. Helen's Well nor Aswell
appear to have a medicinal reputation at
present ; yet the town-crier, then aged about
eighty, told Mr. R. W. Goulding, of Louth,
in the year 1894, that when he was a
youth, a man was in the habit of going to
Aswell every morning. He sat on the edge
of the spring, and held his feet and legs in
the water. This man had been on board a
packet when the boiler burst, and had
received severe injuries. It was said that he
held his legs in the water to strengthen them.

Another St. Helen's spring, "famous in
days of old" (Abr. de la Pry me, p. 129),
rises in the parish of Wrawby. An old man
brought up in its vicinity says that its true
name is St. Anyon's Well ; but Abraham de
la Pryme knew it, as most people now know
it, by the name of St. Helen, to whom, for

VOL. XXXI.



some reason yet to be explained, springs
seem to have been frequently dedicated,
both in England and abroad. Possibly the
mother of Constantine was exalted to the
position once occupied by some goddess
whose name resembled hers in sound, or
whose characteristics were sufficiently like
those attributed to her to allow the substitu-
tion of the one for the other.

A well, which is said to have formerly
borne the name of St. John's Well, flows at
Bottesford, where the Knights Templars
once had a preceptory, which afterwards
passed into the possession of the Hospital-
lers. There is a Lady Well at West Keal,
and a well dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin
existed outside the city of Lincoln when
little St. Hugh was done to death. Into this
well the boy's body was thrown, and it was
" through the might of our Ladie," according
to one account of the murder, that it was
permitted to speak, and so reveal its ghastly
fate to the bereaved mother. In the Anglo-
Norman narrative, " Jopin le Ju," who is held
to be the instigator of the crime, is dis-
covered, barbarously put to death, and finally
hanged on a high hill outside Lincoln, near
Canwick, because the child's corpse refuses
to rest where it is first hidden by the Jews,
and is subsequently pitched head-first down
a well outside the city, where it is discovered
by a woman going to draw water. A little
later the body works a signal wonder, giving
sight to a blind woman who handles it, and
afterwards touches her eyes with her hands
(J. O. Halliwell, Ballads and Poems respecting
Hugh of Lincoln, 1849). Whether this in-
stance of restoring sight was supposed to
have any connection with the water may be
doubted ; in all likelihood the miracle was of
the extempore order, occurring as the result
of special circumstances. Sacred wells are,
however, imagined to be extraordinarily suc-
cessful in preserving or giving back the vision.
Judging from the frequency with which legend
insists on the astonishing effect of certain
springs on the blind, maladies affecting the
eyes must have been grievously common
during the period in which well-lore assumed
its permanent form.

Presumably, sight, in its relations with
light and with the heavenly bodies, was
associated with water at a very early stage of

3 B



37



LINCOLNSHIRE WATER-LORE.



man's career as a myth-maker. In compara-
tively recent clays Odin was said to have
pledged one of his eyes for a draught from
Mimer's Well, the spring in which wisdom
and wit lay concealed under that root of the
great world -ash which stretched towards
Jotunheim a belief explained by the hypo-
thesis that Odin's eye stands for the sun,
which sinks into Mimer's fountain, the utter-
most sources of the sea, in search of the
secrets hidden there. Whether this supposi-
tion is a perfect explanation of the legend or
not, the story still indicates that, to the mind
of the old Scandinavians, the faculty by
which light and darkness are distinguished,
and the organ which gives the faculty play,
were linked with traditions relating to water,
the heaven-given fluid, whose cult is insepar-
ably connected with that of the two great
luminaries.

At Lincoln there is a valuable chalybeate
spring, apparently connected with what was
once " Monk's Abbey," which is dedicated to
St. Mary Magdalen (Rev. J. Conway Walter,
Lincoln Diocesan Magazine, iii. 15). Its
waters are said on high medical authority to
be equally important with those of Tunbridge
Wells, and it is popularly esteemed for its cures
of " bad legs " and other physical troubles.

There is also (or formerly was) a St.
Michael's Well at Stow, the village believed
to occupy the site of the Roman Sidnacester,
and to have been the seat of the first Lincoln-
shire bishopric, before the incursions of the
Northmen brought ruin on Eastern England.

At Scampton an iron-spring retains the
name of St. Pancras's Well, though the
chapel, which is said to have stood near it at
one time, has vanished.

The town of Bourn, as its name indicates,
is blessed with the possession of Bourn Eau,
otherwise Bourn Well Head or Peter's Pool,
a pond of crystal-clear spring-water over-
flowing in a large stream, just as it did,
without doubt, when Hereward the Wake,
" Lord of Brunne," and his Norman adver-
saries were contending heart and soul for the
mastery of the fen country. This pool was
probably put under the protection of St.
Peter for the reason that he was one of the
patrons of theneighbouring abbey and church.

St. Trunnion's (Trunyon's or Trannion's)
Well at Barton-upon-Humber was probably a



well of note in the days of its prosperity,
though now it seems to be forgotten. In the
year 1697, as Abraham de la Pryme recounts
(p. 132), "a great old thorn tree call'd St.
Trunyon's tree, under which that saint had
an altar and religious rites," grew not far from
Barton ; and about 1820 St. Trannion's Well
was still known, while a thorn in the open
field of the parish was spoken of as St.
Trannion's tree(Abr. de la Pryme, 132, note).
Mr. W. S. Hesleden, the Barton antiquary,
mentions, in a communication to the Gentle-
man's Magazine, 1822, Part I., pp. 3-6,
" that a thorn-tree stood some years ago "
within the lordship of Barton, and not far
from the parish of Burnham, "denominated
St Trunnion's Tree," and he also notes that
a spring of water on the west of the town,
adjoining the Castle Dikes, "bears the like
name of St. Trunnian's." In Ball's Social
History and Antiquities of Barton-upon-
Humber, 1856, p. 68, there is also a state-
ment that " in the old enclosures to the west
of the town was a spring of clear water called
St. Trunnion's Well, and in a field in the
West Acridge a very old thorn, called St.
Trunnion's Tree, which wasstanding in 1726."

The cult of St. Trunnion seems to have
been observed at Horncastle, as well as by
the Humber side, for in the will of James
Burton of that town, June 9, 1536, there is a
bequest "to sainct Tronyan's light vihV/.";
this light being in Horncastle Church, where,
as appears from the will, there were at least
twenty-three such lights dedicated to altars
and images. Who St. Trunnion was has yet
to be settled with certainty. It has been
maintained that his name is a variant of
Ronan, Ruan, or Rumon, a bishop and con-
fessor of Irish birth, who lived no one quite
knows when, and who died in a solitary cell
he had chosen among the shades of a certain
Cornish forest. It has also been suggested
that Trunnion is a mispronunciation of
Ninian or Ringan, and St. Trinion's Church
in the Isle of Man is said to have been in
reality dedicated to that apostle of the Picts
(Denham Tracts, 1892, i. 202); although
there is also a theory that the word is
derived from St. Trinian or Tranin, a Pictish
bishop ordained by St. Palladius ; or, again,
from the Latin Trudo.

" St. Tronian " is mentioned more than



LINCOLNSHIRE WATER-LORE.



37i



once in literature. Mr. Lancelot Sharpe, the
author of a letter addressed to Mr. W. S.
Hesleden at Barton-upon-Humber, in 1832
(which letter is now in the possession of the
latter's niece, Miss Nicholson, of Kirton-in-
Lindsey), begins by saying, " Of St. Tronian
I know little more than when I had the
pleasure of seeing you ; but all I know I
will now communicate." He afterwards con-
tinues : " The first place in which I find mention
of this saint is in Heywood's play of The
Four T.'s (Collier's edition of Dodsley's Old
Plays, vol. i., p. 55), where the Palmer is
introduced narrating his pilgrimage :

At Saynt Toncomber and Saynt Tronion :

At Saynt Botulph and Saynt Anne of Buckston."

" Mr. Steevens," he continues, " in a letter
to the printer of the St. James's Chronicle,
points out the following mention of St.
Tronian, in Geffry Fenton's Tragical Dis-
courses, 4to., 1567, fol. 114^.- 'He returned
in haste to his lodgynge, where he attended
the approche of his hower of appointment
wyth no lesse devocyon, than the Papistes
in France performe their ydolatrous pilgrimage
to the ydoll Saint Tronyon, upon the mount
Avyon, besides Roars.' Regarding St. Ton-
comber, he professes to be unable to add
anything. Note by I. R. (Isaac Reed) in
loc. ibid."

Mr. Sharpe then goes on, "The next
passage is in Appius and Virginia (Collier,
vol. xii., p. 375). It is true the saint is not
mentioned as plainly as in the preceding
passage, but he is, no doubt, intended :

Nay, soft, my maisters : by saincle Thomas of Trunions
I am not disposed to by of your onions."

In conclusion, Mr. Hesleden's correspon-
dent points out that as in the first quotation
given by him St. Tronion's name stands just
before St. Botulph's a favourite saint in Lin-
colnshire, who gave his name to Boston, where
his shrine was the Barton Tronian may be
meant. Proof is wanting, however. The
saint may have had other well-known sanc-
tuaries besides that near the southern shore
of the Humber. De la Pryme, it ought to
be noted, does not speak of St. Trunnion's
Well, but only of his tree. Nevertheless, it
is possible that he was acquainted with it,
for he alludes to a spring in Barton Fields
"that always rises and falls with the river



Ank (Ancholme) . . . though the well is two
or three yards perpendicular above the river,
it being on the top of the would" (p. 142).
Among the many other named - wells he
mentions is Jenny Stanny Well, near Hibbald-
stow Fields, which at the present day is
reported to be haunted by a ghost, some-
times described as a woman carrying her
head under her arm. This spectre is sup-
posed to be Jenny Stannywell, who once
upon a time drowned herself in the water.
At least two other well or pond ghosts of
the feminine sex are known in Lincolnshire,
but so far as is recorded they carry their
heads in orthodox fashion.

Many Lincolnshire towns and villages have
a local celebrity for their springs springs
which are of no mere mushroom notoriety
like the modern Woodhall Spa. Ashwell at
Kirton-in-Lindsey has, like the Halliwell at
Scotter, the By-Well at North Kelsey, the
holy-well at Mavis Enderby, and many other
springs beyond the limits of the county, the
quality of giving those who drink of it an
irresistible desire to live in its neighbourhood.
Caistor, among its many wells, possesses an
outflow of water supposed to cure diseased
eyes ; while the rag-wells at Kingerby and
Nettleton-Top have, or till lately had, special
virtues. Some fifty or sixty years since, or
a little earlier, another rag-well was to be
seen in one of the parishes near Burton-upon-
Stather in the north of the county, but it is
now uncertain whether this spring was Kell-
Well at Alkborough or not. Kell-Well in
times past ran freely out of the living rock,
" a delightsome sight for to view," but it is
at present forced to find a straight and narrow
way through an unpicturesque iron pipe set
in a brick facing. Before it suffered this
barbarous constraint it was widely known
through the surrounding country, where
natural objects presenting some approach
to the romantic in appearance are memorable
from their great rarity.

Two of the most frequently patronized
springs in the county rise within a few feet
of each other in a narrow plantation by the
roadside on Healing Wells Farm in the parish
of Healing, near Great Grimsby. According
to the description of Mr. John Cordeaux, of
Great Cotes House, one of these wells is
strongly impregnated with iron ; but the other,



37 *



/ I\COLNSHIRE \VA TER-LORE.



which is supposed to be pure water, is without
any yellow tinge in the mud. From it, how-
ever, bubbles are frequently coming to the
surface and breaking. Between the two
springs grows a large thorn, and the bushes
around them are hung with rags. Several
squared stones lie about, and by the non-
chalybeate spring is a large stone tank which,
it is suggested, may have been a bath. The
situation of the springs is quite concealed
by dense undergrowth, but they appear to
be much visited for medical purposes, the
footmarks round them bearing evidence to
the favour in which they are held.

Mr. Cordeaux visited them not long since
for the purpose of discovering whether pins
are ever dropped into them, but the bottom
of the water in both cases was too muddy
and full of leaves to allow accurate examina-
tion. It is said, however, that large numbers
of pins have been found near the curative
waters at Kingerby.

The twin wells at Healing are popularly
credited with influencing totally different
maladies. According to one account, the
iron spring is chiefly of benefit in diseases
of the eye, and the other in skin diseases.

F S , a middle-aged man, who grew

up in an adjoining parish, states that when
he was a lad, one spring was used for bathing
and the second for drinking. The latter was
considered good against consumption, among
other forms of sickness, a belief which may
have some relationship with a Devonshire
superstition mentioned by Mr. Vaux {Church
Folklore, p. 303). " At Morchard Bishop,"
he says, " in North Devon, a cup of dew
collected in the churchyard on May morning
was formerly thought good for a person in
consumption." What the special gift of the

bathing well was F S cannot say.

He often plunged his feet into it when a
boy, but he does not venture to assert that
it had any great power in reality, although
" folks used to come for miles," and the
gipsies, who called the place Ragged Spring
or Ragged Well, frequently visited it.

At the present time, if the opinion of a
resident in Healing is to be accepted as
correct, the inhabitants of that village use
the springs " for medicinal purposes, and
not for any superstitious notion, and they
often take away bottles filled with water."



The same authority adds, "They continue
to attach pieces of rag to the bushes near
. . . but their purpose in so doing I do not
know." A gentleman who hunts with the
Yarborough pack every winter, also says that
he notices the rags fluttering on the shrubs
and briars each season as he rides past
There is always a supply of these tatters,
whether used superstitiously or not, and
always has been since his father first knew
the district some seventy years ago.

Among the other health-giving waters of
the county Craikell-Spring, a now vanished
rag-well at Bottesford, was once greatly
esteemed. In the last century it bubbled
up on the verge of what was then a patch
of the still remaining wild woodland of the
district, and was visited by sufferers from eye
or skin diseases. Its celebrity gradually
decayed, but occasional resort was had to
it till, within the memory of middle-aged
people, it was diverted from its natural course,
and carried away by a subterranean conduit.
Nearly a hundred and fifty years since, ac-
cording to the tradition transmitted by a
woman who died lately in her ninth de-
cade, " folks used to come in their carriages
to it," and people yet living have heard how

Mrs. H 's mother, "who had gone stone

blind," received her sight by bathing in it.
Less than fifty years ago a sickly child was
dipped in the water between the mirk and
the dawn on midsummer morning, " and
niver looked back'ards efter," immersion at
that mystic hour removing the nameless
weakness which had crippled him in health.
Within the last fifteen years a palsied man
went to obtain a supply of the water, only
to find to his intense disappointment that
it was drained away through an underground
channel which rendered it unattainable.

In most, if not indeed all, countries of
Europe, the element which fertilizes the soil
in the form of showers, dews, and running
streams is intimately connected with ideas
of love and maternity. This fact explains
why the Maiden-Well at North Kelsey should
be visited by unmarried women on St. Mark's
Eve, St. Mark's being a holy-day as insepar-
ably linked with the practice of amorous
spells and other superstitions of pre-Christian
origin as Hallow E'en itself. A young servant,
who was a native of Kelsey, informed W



LINCOLNSHIRE WA TER-L ORE.



373



F not many years ago that girls coming

to the spring with the view of divination
must walk, towards it backwards, and ^o
round it three times in the same manner,
each girl meanwhile wishing the wish that
she may see her destined sweetheart. After
the third circle is complete, the inquirer
must kneel down and gaze into the spring,
in which she will see her lover looking up
out of the depths. In Berry a closely
analogous custom is known (Laisnel de la
Salle, Croyances et Legendes du Centre de la
France, i. 96). With respect to the necessity
of walking backwards round the Kelsey
Well, it is curious to find that among the
natives of Old Calabar, water drawn with
the back towards the river or spring is used
in certain cases as a charm (R. F. Burton, Wit
and Wisdom from West Africa, 1865, p. 344).

A spring at Burnham, near Barton-upon-
Humber, was till the middle of this century,
if not still more recently, regarded as effica-
cious in removing the curse of sterility from
married women. A letter addressed to Mr.
Hesleden in the year 1851 testifies that the
water then maintained its reputation. The
writer, a gentleman-farmer at Burnham, in-
forms the antiquary in answer to his inquiries
"relating to the character of the Burnham
Spring," that " so far as report goes there is
no doubt, and there are instances where
many a one has given the fountain devoutly
her blessing." He afterwards proceeds to
relate, with some degree of raillery, that in
two cases which occurred within his own
knowledge, drinking water carried from the
spring was supposed to have had the happiest
effect, although in the second instance four-
teen years of married life had been passed
in a childless condition.

Several Scotch wells were formerly believed
to have this singular power, and two Manx
wells, if not more, are similarly gifted.
Several other instances in the United King-
dom might be quoted, and it is also known
that springs connected with the idea of
maternity are to be found on the mainland
of Europe. According to Rochholz (Drei
Gaugottinnen, pp. 127, 128), the would-be
mother visiting St. Verena's Well at Baden
should plunge a leg into the freshly flowing
water in order to bring about the realization
of her hopes.



In Hans Christian Andersen's story, The
Storks, unborn children are represented as
lying in a pond, " dreaming far more sweetly
than they will ever dream hereafter," until
the hour when the storks carry them to their
parents. It is noticeable, too, that long
tresses of women's hair, and other votive
offerings, used to be hung in a chapel dedi-
cated to the Trinity at the holy well near
Roe, in Bornholm (H. Marryat, A Residence
in Jutla?id, ii. 344), for Greek mothers used
to cut off their hair, and offer it to the
divine Hygeia, before their lying-in, and
for the health of their child, in consequence
of which custom, according to Pausanius,
many of the temple statues of the goddess
were scarcely recognisable on account of the
mass of hair wound about them (Rochholz,
Deutscher Glaube und Brauch, i., 183). A
closely-allied superstition probably accounts
for the Portuguese Fonie do Leite at Ponte
da Barca, a score of miles to the north of
Oporto. Fonte do Leite means " Milk
Spring," and Mr. Crawfurd, the author of
Round the Calendar in Portugal (1890, p.
81), mentions that "women yearly lay by
its side offerings of bread and wine and flax
and oil." He does not, however, explain
the object with which these gifts are pre-
sented. The nature of the conception under-
lying the custom may be guessed at, never-
theless, for remote Japan furnishes another
instance of a milk-spring. The Athenceum,
November 10, 1894, published a review of
Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, by Lafcadio
Hearn, containing the following passage :
"In a sea cave near Matsue is a drip of
water from a high ledge known as Jizo's
Fountain of Milk, at which the souls of
dead children drink, where milkless mothers
come to pray for their babes' sustenance, and
mothers who have more than they need ask
that the overflow may be taken from them
and given to the dead children." A well
once possessing similar properties exists in
Brittany, for Emile Souvestre remarks in his
Derniers Bretons, 1854, i. 59 : " II y a peu
d'ann^es que la fontaine de Languengar,
placee sous la patronage de Saint Honor
(dont les reliques y avaient dte trempees)
avait la propriete de donner du lait aux jeunes
meres qui buvaient de ses eaux. Un in-
cre'dule osa en porter a ses levies par dension,



374



BOOK-HUNTING AND ITS VOTARIES.



aussitot ses seins se gonflerent comme ceux
dune femme, et ce ne fut qu'a force de
prieres et de mortifications qu'il put mettre
un terme a cette etrange punition."

It is a curious fact that so far as is yet
known the Lincolnshire "blow-wells" have
no picturesque folklore attached to them.
These wells, which are popularly supposed
to be unfathomable, though in reality they
are springs from the underlying chalk rising
to the surface of the ground where the super-
incumbent strata are sufficiently adapted for



Online LibraryPhoebe PalmerThe Antiquary (Volume 31) → online text (page 64 of 67)