AMONGST the slender remains of this once celebrated seat of mediaeval devotion are two small circular basins of stone, a little to the north-east of the site of the Conventional Church (exactly in the place described by Erasmus in his Peregrinatio Religionis Ergo), and connected with the Chapel of the Virgin, which was on the north side of the choir. The waters of these wells had at that time a miraculous efficacy in curing disorders of the head and stomach; but the waters have no such quality now. There has been substituted, however, another of far more comprehensive virtue. This is nothing less than the power of accomplishing all human wishes, which miraculous property the water is still believed to possess. In order to attain this desirable end, the votary, with a due qualification of faith and pious awe, must apply the right knee, bare, to a stone placed for that purpose between the wells. He must then plunge to the wrist each hand, bare also, into the water of the wells, which are near enough to admit of this immersion. A wish must then be formed, but not uttered with the lips, either at the time or afterwards, even in confidential communica[93]tion to the dearest friend. The hands are then to be withdrawn, and as much of the water as can be contained in the hollow of each is to be swallowed. This done, his wishes would infallibly be fulfilled within the year, provided he never mentioned them to anyone or uttered them aloud to himself. Formerly the object of desire was probably expressed in a prayer to the Virgin. It is now only a silent wish, which will certainly be accomplished within twelve months, if the efficacy of the solemn rite be not frustrated by the incredulity or some other fault of the votary.--Brand, Pop. Ant., ii. 370-371.


This was the object of by far the greatest number of pilgrimages. Eight crowned heads we know came here specially--Henry VIII. among them, who walked the last two miles barefoot--some few years before the Reformation, when the same image was burnt at Chelsea, only a few years before he, on his death-bed, in his agony commended his soul to the protection of that same Lady of Walsingham whose image he had destroyed. The king's banner, at least, was hung up before it in gratitude for a victory, and its shrine literally blazed with silver, gold, and jewels, brought as offerings to what was thought the Virgin's favourite English home. There were relics, of course, such as the coagulated blood of the Virgin, and an unnaturally large joint of the Apostle Peter's forefinger; while another attraction was the "Wishing-Well." Evidences of miracles were ever at hand, such as a house not built by hands, which was placed by Divine power over the wells; and a wicket-gate, less than an ell square, through which a knight on horseback, pursued by his enemies, was safely conveyed by the Virgin Mary, to whom he called in his due need.

The milky way in the heavens is said to have got its name from its showing the way to where the Virgin's blood was exhibited; and the road to the shrine, viâ Newmarket, Brandon, and Fakenham, was long known as the "Walsingham Way," or the "Palmer's Way," as was also that to it from Norwich viâ Attlebridge.--History of Norfolk, W. Rye, 172, 173.


Dedication.--St. Withburga, virgin, dau. of Annas, King of the East Angles; sister of St. Etheldreda, foundress of Ely; born at [94] Holkham, Norfolk, cir. 630, founded a convent at East Dereharn, destroyed by the Danes 974.

Emblem.--Church in hand, and two does at her feet. (Burlingham, St. Andrew, and Barnham Broom, both in Norfolk.)

She founded the first church in Dereham; in her representation at Burlingham on screen, the base of the church in her hand bears the words "Ecclia de est Dærham" She, and her convent, were sustained by the milk of two does, which came to the bridge over the stream, about a furlong distant, daily. At her death, she was buried in the churchyard at the west end of the church., cir. 742, and her tomb became reputed for the cure of disease, mental

[Illustration: St. Withburga's Well. (Photograph)]

and bodily. Dereham was then subject to Ely, and the abbot was desirous of moving the body of the saint to the side of St. Etheldreda; he, therefore, rifled the tomb, and conveyed the body by road and river (pursued by the men of Dereham when the theft was discovered) to Ely, on July 8, 974 (? 947). To compensate Dereham for the loss of its saint, a miraculous spring rose from the spot where the body had lain in the churchyard--a spring of the purest water, gifted with many healing virtues--(Gesta Abbatum et Episcoportim Eliensis, etc., etc.). The ruins of a chapel still remain around the spring (which still runs), the walls [95] rising to the height of five to six feet. Upon these foundations the enormity was perpetrated in 1793 of building a " bath-house," under which a square basin was formed of brick, to enable the townspeople to use it as a bath. It was a hideous structure, con-taining two dressing-rooms, from which the bathers descended to the pool by steps. This building was destroyed some twenty-five years ago, and the foundations of the chapel again laid bare. The square basin still remains, full of water, which can be let off at pleasure; and when empty one sees the pure water trickling into the basin from three or four sources. It has never ceased to run in the remembrance of the parishioners; and however sharp a winter may be, the pool when full and stationary has never been known to contain a particle of ice. The ground enclosed by the chapel walls is laid out as a garden, and is kept as bright as possible with roses, forget-me-nots, and old English flowers; while the following inscription is inserted over the pool in the chapel wall:

"The Ruins of a Tomb which contained the
Remains of Withburga,
Youngest Daughter of
King of the East Angles,
Who died A.D. 674.

The Abbot and Monks of Ely stole this precious Relique, and translated it to Ely Cathedral, where it was interred near her three Royal Sisters, A.D. 947."


On the boundary of the parishes of Southwood and Moulton, Norfolk, is a pit called, in the Act of Parliament for enclosing the parishes, "Callow Pit"; but, by the inhabitants, Caller Pit. Its antiquity is evidenced by the fact that a hollow tree, evidently of some centuries' growth, is still growing in it. Formerly it was constantly full of water; but, since the extension of drainage, in dry summers its waters frequently fail. The village tradition states that an iron chest, filled with gold, is engulfed in Callow Pit. Many years, ago two adventurous men, availing themselves of an unusually low state of the water, determined to obtain the treasure. Having formed a platform of ladders across the pit, they were so far successful that they inserted a staff through the "ringle" (in plain English, the ring) in the lid of the chest, and [96] bore it up from the waters; and placed the staff on their shoulders, preparatory to bearing off their prize on their temporary bridge. Unluckily, however, one of them triumphantly exclaimed: We've got it safe, and the devil himself can't get it from us. Instantly the pit was enveloped in a "roke" (reek, or cloud of steam), of a strong sulphurous smell; and a black hand and arm--no doubt belonging to the personage thus gratuitously challenged--emerged from the water, and grasped the chest. A terrific struggle ensued: one party tugging to secure, the other to recover the prize. At last the contest ended by its subject parting, being unable to bear the enormous strain on it. The chest, with the treasure, sank beneath the water, never again to be seen by mortal eye; while the bold adventurers--who had not, indeed, met with the reward due to their daring--carried off nothing but the "ringle," which they placed on Southwood Church door, which it still serves to close; and where the incredulous may convince himself of the truth of the legend by beholding it. A "headless horseman" still rides at midnight from Callow Pit to a place called Cantley Spong, distant about a mile.--Notes and Queries, 1 S. xii. 487.


A similar story to the above is told of the "Silver Well" at Shouldham in West Norfolk.


There is a Norfolk legend which brings out the connection between pools, bells, and the under-world very clearly. Tunstall church in that county having been destroyed by a fire, which yet left the bells uninjured, the parson and churchwardens quarrelled for the possession of them, and meantime the Old Gentleman watched his opportunity and walked off with them. He was, however, found out and pursued by the parson, who began to exorcise him in Latin. So in his hurry he made his way through the earth to his own abode, taking his booty with him. The spot where he disappeared is now a boggy pool of water, called Hell Hole, on the surface of which, in summer-time, bubbles are constantly appearing. These, the folks say, are caused by the [97] continual sinking of the bells through the water on their endless journey to the bottomless pit.--Shropshire Folk-lore, p. 75.

Another Version.

Tunstall Church, situate about eight miles from Yarmouth, had been destroyed by fire, which, consuming the timbers of the ringing chamber, caused the bells to fall, happily uninjured. One would have thought that the parish priest would have been glad at their preservation, and taken steps at once to reinstate them in their old position, but instead, that worthy designed them for his own covetous purposes. In this, however, he was not alone, for the churchwardens had also laid their heads together, agreeing to sell the bells and share the spoil between them. Their plans being discovered, an angry altercation ensued when the parties met next time in the church. Each strove to get possession of the bells, and the quarrel grew fiercer, and words waxed high, when lo, a gigantic black form, the identity of which there was no disputing, appeared on the scene, and instantly seized the bells and made off. Priest and wardens, forgetting their dispute, started in pursuit, and seemed to gain on the infernal thief, when he vanished from their sight, diving straight through the earth and taking the bells with him. Where he disappeared they saw but a dark pool of water, while the bubbles rapidly rising to its surface, not only on that day, but for many days and years after, showed that whatever became of the devil, the bells at least were descending the bottomless pit. The pool obtained the name of Hell Hole, and the clump of alders above it was long known as Hell Car.--East Anglian Handbook, 1885, p. 71.


To the west of Wereham Church is a well called St. Margaret's, much frequented before the Reformation. Here, on St. Margaret's Day, the people regaled themselves with ale and cakes, music and dancing. Alms were given, and offerings and vows made, as at other sainted or holy wells.--Excursions in the County of Norfolk, 1829, ii. 145.


From a very early period there was an open common well for the use of the citizens a short distance from the public street ; [98]the Court of Mayoralty, in 1547, granted the parishioners of St. Laurence a lane from the High Street to the well, together with the said well, on condition that they erected a door at the south end of the lane, to be kept open in the daytime and shut securely at night. Evidently, there had been some serious if not fatal accident, or these conditions would not have been enjoined. of Robert Gibson, a beer brewer, is recorded under April 26, 19 Eliz. (1577): This day it is also agreed by consent of this assembly that Robert Gybson shall have the little entry that goeth out of the street to St. Laurence Well, etc., with this proviso, that the same Robert shall, at his proper costs and charges, in a con-duit or cock of lead, bring the water from the said well up into the street for the use of the common people, and for the main-tenance of the same conduit or cock wherein the water shall be conveyed, etc. He erected an elaborately-adorned affair on which he caused to be inscribed the following doggerel lines recording the service he had done to his neighbours, though, at the same time, he gained some personal advantage:

"This water here caught
In sorte as yowe se,
From a Spring is broughte
Threskore Foot and thre.

"Gybson hath it soughte
From Saynt Laurens Wel,
And his charg this wrowght
Who now here doe dwell.

"Thy ease was his coste, not smal,
Vouchsafed wel of those
Which thankful be his Work to se,
And thereto be no Foes."

Gibson died in 1606, and was buried in the chancel of St. Laurence's Church. There is an indenture, dated August 30, 1594, in which allusion is made to this well, "commonly called St. Laurence's Well for 300 years."--Norfolk and Norwich Arch. Journal, x. 185. There is a sketch of this well in Norfolk Architectural Etchings, Plate XI.