Cursed 'Healing Well' Uncovered in England Nov 3, 2016 20:12:28 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Nov 3, 2016 20:12:28 GMT -5
Cursed 'Healing Well' Uncovered in England
SUTTON ST. HELENS, Merseyside, U.K. – A Medieval well that was once believed to wash away sins, while healing eye and skin diseases, has been recovered. Legend has it the well was also cursed and records indicate a strange death occurred there. St. Anne's Well was found on the lands of a private farm on the border between the townships of Rainhill and Sutton St. Helens, near Liverpool. According to Historic England Heritage, which commissioned the excavation, “the well had become completely filled with earth due to ploughing.”
“When we first got to the well, we found that there was very little indication of it on the surface, but after excavation it was found to be in reasonable condition,” Jamie Quartermaine, an archaeologist who supervised the dig, told Discovery News. The well was built of local sandstone blocks and consisted of a shallow square basin with two steps leading down into the bottom. “The fabric of the well is consistent with a Medieval date,” she added. The archaeologist noted that St. Anne is quite commonly associated with holy wells. “This well was probably a late Medieval foundation as the cult of St. Anne did not become widespread in England until after the end of the 14th century,” she said.
The dating is important. Alexandra Walsham, professor of modern history at Cambridge’s Trinity College, told Seeker that “a Medieval past for many healing wells was assumed or even invented by later antiquaries, especially in the 19th century.”
After descending the steps, pilgrims submerged themselves in the pool, which was about 4 feet deep. Water seeped in from below the floor, while a stone conduit, now lost, took water from the overflow of the well, which measures 6.5 by 6.5 feet.
According to Historic England Heritage, local legend suggests St. Anne's Well was associated with a nearby priory of about 12 monks, which was lost during Henry VIII's draconian dissolution of the monasteries. Supposedly, the priory held an extensive estate from which the monks had an income. The story goes that St. Anne bathed in the well, which was reputed to have healing powers for eye and skin afflictions. “The well attracted numbers of pilgrims, necessitating the building of a small three-roomed structure around the well and the custodianship of two of the monks,” Quartermaine said.
According to local folklore, a dispute arose in the 16th century concerning boundaries and access to the well between the prior, Father Delwaney, and Hugh Darcy, the estate manager of the neighboring landowner. One day as the two stood near the well, Darcy predicted the prior would not be in his position for much longer. Two days later, the king's commissioners arrived and took possession of the priory and the well. Father Delwaney then understood Darcy’s rôle in the matter because he was clearly known to the commissioners. “With teeth tightly clenched and his face white with suppressed passion,” the prior hissed a curse, according to an 1877 report on local legends in the St. Helens Leader. Darcy would be dead within a year and a day, Delwaney predicted. He then collapsed and died.
A series of disasters befell Darcy: three months later, his only son died of a mysterious illness. He suffered financial losses and “plunged recklessly into dissipation,” according to the St. Helens Leader. One night, after heavy drinking at a tavern, he disappeared. “The search began. Nothing was seen until they came to the well, in which Darcy was found lying dead, his head crushed in,” the newspaper reported. Despite the grim legend, the well was revered even after the dissolution and people immersed themselves in the waters until the 19th century.
To protect the structure against damage by farm machinery, new wooden edging will be installed. “We have worked with the farmers to ensure this important holy well survives long into the future,” Tamsin Cooke, a Historic England Heritage at Risk representative, declared.
Source: Rosella Lorenzi, LiveScience, November 3, 2016.