There is a well here known by the above name, formerly much frequented. The bushes around it were at one time literally covered with rags and tattered pieces of cloth.


Brand states: I have frequently observed shreds or bits of rag upon the bushes that overhand a well in the vicinity of Newcastle-on-Tyne, which from that circumstance is now, or was very lately, called the rag well. This name is undoubtedly of long standing. Probably it has been visited for some disease or other, and these rag offerings are the reliques of the then prevailing popular superstition. It is not far from another holy spring at Jesmond.--H. of Newcastle-on-Tyne, i.339.


There is a holy well here, said to have as many steps to it as there are articles in the creed. It was recently enclosed for a bathing place, which was no sooner done than the water left it. The well was always esteemed of more sanctity than common wells, and therefore the failing of the water could be looked upon as nothing less than a just revenge for so great a profanation. But, alas ! the miracle's at an end, for the water returned a while ago in as great abundance as ever. Pilgrimages to this well and chapel at Jesmond were so frequent, that one of the principal streets of the great commercial town aforesaid is supposed to have had its name partly from having and inn in it, to which the pilgrims that flocked thither for the benefit of the supposed holy water used to resort.--Ibid.; Brand. Pop. Ant., ii. 380,n.



St. Mark's Day is observed at Alnwick by a ridiculous custom in connection with the admission of freemen of the common, alleged to have reference to a visit paid by King John to Alnwick. It is said that this monarch, when attempting to ride across Alnwick Moor, then called the Forest of Aidon, fell with his horse into a bog or morass, where he stuck so fast that he was with great difficulty pulled out by some of his attendants. Incensed against the inhabitants of that town for not keeping the roads over the moor in better repair, or at least for not placing some post or mark pointing out the particular spots which were impassable, be inserted in their charter, both by way of memento and punishment, that for the future all new created freemen should on St. Mark's Day pass on foot through that morass, called the Freemen's Well. In obedience to this clause of their charter, when any new freemen are to be made, a small rill of water which passes through the morass is kept dammed up for a day or two previous to that on which this ceremonial is to be exhibited, by which means the bog becomes so thoroughly liquefied that a middlesized man is chin deep in mud and water in passing over it. Besides which, not unfrequently, holes and trenches are dug ; in these, filled up and rendered invisible by the liquid mud, several free men have fallen down and been in great danger of suffocation. In later times, in proportion as the new-made freemen are more or less popular, the passage is rendered more or less difficult.

Early in the morning of St. Mark's Day the houses of the new freemen are distinguished by a holly-tree planted before each door, as the signal for their friends to assemble and make merry with them. About eight o'clock the candidates for the franchise, being mounted on horseback and armed with swords, assemble in the market place, where they are joined by the chamberlain and bailiff of the Duke of Northumberland, attended by two men armed with halberds. The young freemen arranged in order, with music playing before them and accompanied by a numerous cavalcade, march to the west end of the town, where they deliver their swords. They then proceed under the guidance of the moorgrieves through a part of their extensive domain, till they reach the ceremonial Well. The sons of the oldest freemen have the honour of Taking the first leap. On the signal being given they pass through [102] the bog, each being allowed to use the method and pace which to him shall seem best, some running, some going slow, and some attempting to jump over suspected places, but all in their turns tumbling and wallowing like porpoises at sea, to the great amusement of the populace, who usually assemble in vast numbers. After this aquatic excursion, they remount their horses and proceed to perambulate the remainder of their large common, of which they are to become free by their achievement. In passing the open part of the common the young freemen are obliged to alight at intervals, and place a stone on a cairn as a mark of their boundary, till they come near a high hill called the Twinlaw or Tounlaw Cairns, when they set off at full speed, and contest the honour of arriving first on the hill, where the names of the freemen of Alnwick are called over. When arrived about two miles from the town they generally arrange themselves in order, and, to prove their equestrian abilities, set off with great speed and spirit over bogs, ditches, rocks, and rugged declivities till they arrive at Rottenrow Tower on the confines of the town, the fore-most claiming the honour of what is termed "winning the bound-aries," and of being entitled to the temporary triumphs of the day. Having completed the circuits the young freemen, with sword in hand, enter the town in triumph, preceded by music, accompanied by a large concourse of people in carriages, etc. Having paraded the streets, the new freemen and the other equestrians enter the Castle, where they are liberally regaled, and drink the health of the lord and lady of the manor. The newly-created burgesses then proceed in a body to their respective houses, and around the holly tree drink a friendly glass with each other. After this they proceed to the market-place, where they close the ceremony over an enlivening bowl of punch.--Hone's Every-Day Book, ii., 249. H. of Alnwick, 1882, 304-309- Dyer's Brit. Pop. Customs, 201, Bohn's Ed.


There is a medicinal spring about five miles from Alnwick, known as Senna Well.


About a mile and a half north of Wooler, in Northumberland, on the flanks of the Cheviots, near to an ancient British hill fort, [103] called the Cup and Saucer, is a copious spring of water locally known as Pin Well, or the "Wishing Well." The country maids in passing this spring dropped a crooked pin, button, or money in the water. There is a belief that the well is under the charge of a fairy, and that it is necessary to propitiate her by an offering of some sort.


Somewhere on the Tweed there exists still a belief amongst the superstitious in the power of fairies, who are supposed to affect the produce of the fisheries; it is the custom of these persons not only to impregnate the nets with salt, but also to throw some of that commodity into the water for the purpose of blinding the mischievous elves, who are said to prevent the fish from falling victims to the snares laid for them. This practice was observed near Coldstream as late as 1879, and strange to say the net, when drawn to land, instead of being empty, as usual, contained three fine salmon.


Sir Walter Scott, in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, relates a story of the Spirit of the Tweed compelling the lady of the Baron of Drummelziel to submit to his embraces; so that on the return of her lawful lord from the Holy Land, he found his fair lady nursing a healthy boy, whose age did not correspond to the date of his departure. The lady, however, was believed, and the child, to whom the name of Tweedie was given, afterwards became Baron of Drummelziel, and the chief of a powerful clan.--Denham Tracts, 1851, p. 18.


The author of Rambles in Northumberland gives a tradition concerning the river Wansbeck: The river discharges itself into the sea at a place called Cambois, about nine miles to the eastward; and the tide flows to within five miles of Morpeth. Tradition reports that Michael Scott, whose fame as a wizard is not confined to Scotland, would have brought the tide to the town, had not the courage of the person failed upon whom the execution of this project depended. This agent of Michael, after his principal had performed certain spells, was to run from the [104] neighbourhood of Cambois to Morpeth, without looking back, and the tide would follow him. After having advanced a certain distance, he became alarmed at the roaring of the waves behind him, and forgetting the injunction, gave a look over his shoulder to see if the danger was imminent, when the advancing tide immediately stopped, and the burgesses of Morpeth thus lost the chance of having the Wansbeck navigable between their town and the sea. It is also said that Michael intended to confer a similar favour on the inhabitants of Durham, by making the Wear navigable to their city; but his good intentions were frustrated by the cowardice of the person who had to guide the tide.


This well used for many centuries to be one of the sources of supply of water for the village.--Arch. Æliana, New Series, viii., p. 63.


The well is just outside the churchyard wall, and no doubt supplied the baptismal element to the first converts to Christianity, as the fonts of the early Saxon times were usually open-air foun-tains, to which pilgrimages were often made. The church is also dedicated in honour of St. Cuthbert.

Reginald of Durham, who flourished about the year 1150 A.D., relates a miraculous cure at this well, by the usual North-Country abbreviation called "Cuddy's Well." About the period of the Norman Conquest, a man named Sproich, by the Almoner of Durham, set over the repairs of the bridges of the North Tyne, lived at "Bainlingham," whose only daughter Eda had a great love of fine garments, and was foolishly indulged therein by her parents, though themselves poor. On the morn of a certain St. Lawrence's feast, she was still working at the finishing of a rich dress--;quoddam de fusticatincto indumentum--instead of preparing to go to church, notwithstanding her mother's rebuke. When she obstinately determined to finish it, as she was declaring her intention of working to what hour she liked, her left hand, which held the stuff, contracted thereupon so that she could not move the fingers to open the hand, nor could they, by force, draw away the cloth they grasped. The story adds that, in this extremity, human help being in vain, the parents first caused the [105] girl to drink of the well of St. Cuthbert by the way, and then prostrated themselves in the little adjoining church of St. Cuthbert all that night, in prayer to the "Glorious Confessor," whose figure, towards the dawning of the day, arose at the altar, descended into the aisle, and touched the contracted hands of the maiden. The cloth now dropped from her fingers, but the miracle was incomplete; for, through terror of the saintly apparition, the mother had meanwhile also seized her daughter's hand, which she was unable to open fully until special prayers had been offered for her recovery at morning Mass by the priest Samuel. Then she was able joyfully to hold up her hand in church in presence of all the congregation, who thenceforth, with the priest, the parents, and every villager of Bellingham, vouch for the reality of the miracle.

The interest of this relation rests in the preliminary draught at St. Cuthbert's Well, as necessary to any hope of the maiden's cure.--Reg Dunelm, Surtees Soc., cviii. pp. 243-5.--Ibid., 63, 64, 65.


Another remarkable well, closely adjoining the site of an ancient church and churchyard, of which no trace, however, now remains, exists here, called The Lady's Well, or simply Margaret's Well. It springs forth in a picturesque fern-clad and moss-mantled hollow near the Gunnarton Burn, beneath the hill on which the castle formerly stood, and its copious flow still furnishes the chief supply of this romantic hamlet. Indeed, it occupies, relatively to the former pre-Reformation chapel of the village (one of the four ancient capellæ of the great parish of Chollerton), a position very similar to that of St. Cuthbert's Well at Bellingham; and it is not improbable that its present name denotes the special dedication of the sacred building itself.--Ibid., 65.


About a mile further up the beautiful Lady's Wood, beyond the remarkable British earthwork called "Money Hill," from the local tradition of a dragon-guarded hoard of treasure, the lonely ravine and parcel of land to the south take the name of Dungill and Dungillfield respectively from this singular fortress of pre-historic times. At the extremity of these extensive woods we come to the Halliwell Burn and the Halliwell itself, a chalybeate spring, close [106] by the margin of the stream in an open and undulating portion of Gunnarton Fell. Whether this sacred well partakes of the same tutelary patronage as that first described lower down the burn, that of "Our Lady," by analogy the "Blessed Virgin," I could not ascertain. But it has for a long time drawn numerous votaries to its healing waters, who frequently superadd to the normal veneration of the well a marked worship of Bacchus, bringing the "strong drink" for their libations with them in their pilgrimage to the al-fresco shrine.--Ibid., 65, 66.


This village, in the same parish of Chollerton, derives its present appellation from a well-known spring, not far from the now almost forgotten site of another early capella. With this an interesting relic of primitive worship used to be associated in a popular pilgrimage, and the bringing of flowers, to dress the well on or about Midsummer Sunday.--Ibid., 66.


Three wells supply the wants of the inhabitants of the ancient village of Wark. One, the Old Kirk Well, issues on the road-side, beyond the present modern church, near the Kirk-field, the site of the pre-Reformation church of "St. Michael of Were" (2). The


at the entrance to the village from the west by the road leading from the Wastes--the "vastæ" of Camden, (3) the


On New Year's morning, within memory, each of these wells was visited by the villagers in the hope of their being the first to take what was called the "Flower of the Well," that is, the first draught drunk by anyone in the New Year. Whoever first drank of the spring would obtain, it was believed, marvellous powers through-out the next year, even to the extent of being able to pass through keyholes and take nocturnal flights in the air. And the fortunate recipient of such extraordinary powers notified his or her acquisition thereof by casting into the well an offering of flowers or grass, hay or straw, from seeing which the next earliest devotees would [107] know that their labour was in vain, when they, too late, came to the spring in the hope of possessing the flower of the well.--Ibid., 66, 67.


The same custom was followed here in the last generation. The Croft-foot Well, corrupted into the Crow-foot Well, as if from the ranunculus that grows near it, derives it name from its position at the lower end of the field called the Prior's Croft, a portion of land assigned by the Umfrevilles, Lords of Prudhoe, to the Prior of Hexham Abbey, on condition of services performed in the ancient chapel, now the parish church of Birtley. There the villagers of a generation ago frequented the well in the early hours of the New Year, like their neighbours at Wark ; but they held that the fortunate first visitant of the well on New Year's morning, who should fill his flask or bottle with the water, would find that it retained its freshness and purity throughout the whole year, and also brought good luck to the house in which it remained---Ibid., 6 7.


The strong sulphur and chalybeate springs at Ramshaw's Mill, near Wark, seem until recently to have been the sites of pilgrim-ages on New Year's morning.--Ibid., 68.


The chief well for the pilgrimage of our dalesfolk in this district, especially in the last generation, seems to have been the Bore-well on Erringburn, near Bingfield. In the centre of the curious peninsula formed by the winding stream, a copious spring of water, strongly impregnated with sulphur, issues to this day. On the Sunday following the fourth day of July, that is about Midsummer Day, according to the Old Style, great crowds of people used to assemble here from all the surrounding hamlets and villages. The scene has been described as resembling a fair, stalls for the sale of various refreshments being brought from a distance, year by year, at the summer solstice. The neighbouring slopes had been terraced, and seats formed for the convenience of pilgrims and visitors. One special object of female pilgrims was to pray at the well, or express a silent wish as they stood over it, [108] for the cure of barrenness, like Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, at Shiloh, or like the Roman votaries of Juno Lucina at the great festival of the Matronalia, when women honoured their protectress and in particular, besought aid, her great office, to make the fruitful. If the pilgrim's faith were sufficient, her wish at the Bore-well would be certain to be fulfilled within the twelve months.

This locally celebrated spring, which seems to have obtained its present name from having been enlarged in boring for coal still retains much of its former veneration. Its day is far from being gone by, for a very considerable number of visitors, with tents and purchasable commodities, assembled, strange to say even this last year (1878), to celebrate the Old Midsummmer (sic.) Sunday at the Bore-well.--Ibid., 69.


This spring was a boundary mark as far back as the year 1479.


By the banks of the Hart, near Long Witton, in a wood are three wells which rise beneath a thick stratum of sandstone rock which Wallis calls Thruston Wells, probably from their coming through the stone; but the people of the neighbourhood call them Our Lady's Wells and the Holy Wells. They are all chalybeate, contain sulphur and alumine, and were formerly in big reputation through the neighbourhood for their very virtuous qualities. That furthest to the east is called the Eye Well, on account of its beneficial effects in cases of inflammation of the eyes, and flux of the lachrymal humour. It has a very ancient inscription of four lines in the rock immediately above it, but many of the letters have been purposely defaced. Great con-courses of people from all parts used to assemble here, in the memory of old people, on Midsummer Sunday and the Sunday following, and amuse themselves with leaping, eating gingerbread brought for sale to the spot, and drinking the waters of the well A tremendous dragon, too, that could make itself visible, formerly guarded these fountains, till the famous knight, Guy, Earl of Warwick, wandering in quest of chivalrous employment, came this way, and waged battle with the monster. With words that [109] could not be disobeyed, the winged serpent was commanded from his den, and to keep his natural and visible form ; but as often as the knight wounded him, and his strength from loss of blood began to fail, he glided back, dipped his tail into the well, and returned healed and with new vigour to the combat, till the Earl, perceiving the cause of his long resistance, leapt between him and the well, and in one furious onset stabbed him to the heart. (See Richardson's Table Book i. pp. 145, 146, and Wallis, i. p. 17.)--Ibid., 71.


At Monkton, near Jarrow, the reputed birthplace of Bede, there is a famous well which bears his name. Its waters have long been in great repute for their health-giving properties. As late as the year 1740, says Brand, it was a prevailing custom to bring children troubled with any disease or infirmity to it. A crooked pin was put in between each dipping--a curious instance of the association of ideas, for here, as at the Pool of Bethesda, beside the sheep-market in Jerusalem, only one patient could receive benefit, it seems, after each troubling of the waters. Brand's informant had seen twenty children brought together on a Sunday to be dipped in Bede's Well, at which also on Midsummer Eve there was a great concourse of neighbouring people, with bonfires, music, dancing, and other rural sports. This and other merry customs have long been discontinued. But still, when the well is occasionally cleared out, a number of crooked pins (a few years ago a pint) are always found among the mud. These have been thrown into the sacred fount for some purpose or other, either in the general way as charms for luck, or to promote and secure true love, or for the benefit of sick babies. In days when the ague was common in this country, the usual offering at this and other holy wells, by the shivering and shaking Gaffer Grays and Goody Blakes of the period, was a bit of rag tied to the branch of an overhanging tree or bush.--Sunderland Times, 17, vii., 1877.

About nine years ago, a friend happened to be staying a few days with an acquaintance at Monkton. On the Monday morning, it being particularly fine, he rose before six o'clock, and strolled down from the village to Bede's Well. Here he seated himself on a rail to enjoy the singing of the birds. Before long an [110] Irishman came up, who had been walking very fast, and was panting for breath. He took a bottle out of his pocket, stooped down and filled it from the well, put it to his mouth, and took a copious draught. A fine morning, sir, said our friend. Sure and it is, replied the man; and what a holy man St. Bede must have been! You see, when I left Jarrow, I was as blind as a bat with the headache, but as soon as I had taken a drink just now, I was as well as ever I was in my life. So he filled his bottle once more with the precious liquid, and walked away, bidding our informant good-morning.--Ibid., 15, ii., 1878.


The particularly fine springs of Houghton, from which the town receives its distinctive appellation of le-Spring, are all chalybeate. One of them, situated in Newbottle Lane, is still called the Holy Well. This name is said to have been imposed upon it in the year 700, when the Venerable Bede and his attendants passed through Houghton, and regaled themselves with the fine beverage of nature at this particular fountain.--Ibid.

Of the Holy Wells at Brancepeth, Butterby, Hartlepool, etc., little can be said, but that they all have more or less powerful medicinal properties, though without any local traditions attaching to them.--Ibid., 17, vii., 1877.


Many people journeyed up the Derwent Valley to Shotley Spa, where is to be seen one of the holy wells which the Saxons so much venerated. These sacred fountains were thought to have healing virtues, and, for aught that is known to the contrary, the saintly Ebba and her virgins may have tripped up the valley daily and paid their devotions to the limpid stream. While the Saxon remained the mother tongue, the place was denominated the Hally Well, hally being the adjective form of the Saxon word "hal," meaning sound in bodily health. Many people suppose that "hally well" is a corruption or provincialism, but as a matter of fact the name correctly describes the ancient fountain, and the fact of its still being applied to the place by the old residents in the Derwent Valley shows that the common people preserve the original of names longer than the learned. The water at Shotley [111] is thought to be remedial in scrofulous complaints, the universal opinion thereabouts being expressed in a couplet :

No scurvy in your skin can dwell
If you only drink the Hally Well.

The Holy Well is situated in the middle of the spa grounds, and is surrounded by some romantic scenery. After passing through the lodge gates, a broad walk or carriage road, winding under a lofty canopy of trees, leads towards the fountain, on reaching which the visitor observes that he has entered a natural park, and treads on the arena, or rather the meadow floor of a vast amphitheatre, formed by the graceful circumlocution of the banks towering around ; the trees, of rich and varied foliage, and rising above each other on the valley sides, appear as innumerable spectators.--R. S. Blair, F.S.A.


Hodgson, in his Northumberland [ii., Pt ii., p. 176], speaks of Ulpham Feast and Erard's Well being mentioned in Ranulph de Merlay's "Charter to the Abbot and Convent of Newminster," in 1138, though it is no longer known as "the Well of Erard."--Ibid., 73.


This well is near Alwinton, not far from the junction of two Roman ways. That noble Welshman, the evangelist of the Southern Picts, who died in A.D. 432, and may possibly have visited Coventina's sacred spring at Carrawburgb, and her temple, ere its glory had quite departed, had no doubt used it for baptismal purposes. It is connected not only with the first introduction of Christianity by a missionary of the British Church, but it was also a place of note during the short-lived success of Paulinus, the apostle of the Latin Church in Northern England. Here, under King Ecgbert, his patron, he is said to have baptized three thousand souls. And no wonder that it should have been so highly honoured both by primitive pagans, as it would certainly be with them an object of veneration, and also consecrated as a laver of regeneration by the early Christian teachers. St. Ninian's Well is still worthy of the description Wallis gave of it in 1769, as a beautiful basin of water, rising at the east end in [112] bubbles perpendicular to the horizon, with fine, green sand. The bottom is variegated with it and white sand. It is walled round with freestone, hewn work, two or three courses still standing, shaded with trees and shrubs. This most copious spring is said to discharge 560 gallons of water each minute. Pins are often found in it.--Ibid., 75, 76.


Paulinus is reputed to have baptized large number of persons at this famous well, where his name may still be traced.--Ibid., 75.


At the Walltown Well, near the Roman station of Carvorran Magna, Paulinus is also said to have baptized many.--Ibid., 75.


From which of the copious springs, and whether from one of these forming the beautiful petrifactions, the much desired supply of healing water was obtained, was not known; but a pilgrim of this present year of grace (1878) had duly paid his votive offering to the sacred spring, in the form of the very smallest current coin of the realm--one farthing--and returned home in full faith, apparently, that the cure of a near relative suffering from cancer would be effected by the application of the simple and certainly harmless lotion.--Ibid., 77.


This most interesting Roman well was discovered in October, 1876, on the line of the Roman wall, not far from Chollerford, containing an enormous quantity of Roman copper coins, twenty-four Roman altars, a massive votive tablet, with vases, rings, beads, brooches, and other objects. It has been fully described with illustrations of a large number of the objects found therein in vol. viii., New Series of Archæologia Æliana, from whence these notes are taken.

Whether the goddess Coventina was a British goddess or a goddess imported by the Roman soldier, is a question not easily decided, nor can any satisfactory derivation be found for her name. She was probably a local deity, to whose name a Roman


[Illustration: Carrawbrough: Coventina's Well.]


termination has been given. The founding of the temple of Coventina, writes Mr. John Clayton, must be ascribed to the Roman officers of the Batavian cohort, who had left a country where the sun shines every day, and where, in pagan times, springs and running waters were objects of adoration.

The well was fed by three springs running south and flowing into the Tyne, and was enclosed in a temple which stood, and its priests

[Illustration: Carrawbrough: Coventina's Well.]

flourished, during the reigns of Antoninus Pius, and succeeding emperors, including that of Gratian, a period embracing more than two and a half centuries. The edicts of the Emperor Theodosius for the extermination of pagan superstition in the year 386, was probably the cause of the depositing in the well of the votive tablet, altars, and other objects of the temple, when [115] also the priests would have been glad to flee and thus save their lives from the danger of the Theodosian persecution.

Very many oblations were presented in Coventina's Temple, or cast into the sacred well, as gifts of votaries, from time to time throughout the Roman occupation; this is now conceded on all hands.

The votive tablet, p. 114, on which the goddess is represented as floating on the leaf of a water-lily, and holding a branch, has the following inscription

I. BAT. L. M.

[Illustration: Carrawbrough: Coventina's Well]

Expanded reading: Deæ Coventinæ Titus Domitius cosconianus Prefectus cohortis primæ Batavorum libens merito.

The lettering is perfect. The use of the double "V" in Coventina is a peculiarity, and may be accidental, or an example of the doubling of the consonant in order to give greater emphasis to the syllable.--Ibid., p. 9.

Her three attendants are shown in the illustration given on p. 113. Each of the three naiads is raising in one hand a goblet, and in the other a flagon, from which is poured a stream of water.

These two illustrations have been kindly lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.