A SMALL town on the left-hand side of the road leading from Cockermouth to Egremont, and near the village of Mockerkin, about four miles from Cockermouth, is said once to have been prosperous, but for some reason the waters submerged it. It is affirmed that at times the roofs and chimneys of the houses may be seen. A stream runs from it, but not into it; the springs in the tarn are probably the source of the supply. It is known as Mockerkin Tarn.


Bishop Nicholson was of opinion that the spring which issued from the west end of Kirkoswald Church was the ancient well of the Saxons, and which was afterwards exercised and dedicated to Christian uses. It undoubtedly served the purposes of baptism. The church was built over it, and called after the saint's name. No one can visit the spot without admiring its adaptation for the site of a religious house, its retirement helping a life of piety and contemplation.--Rev. J. Wilson, Penrith Observer.


At Irthington, rising in the churchyard boundary, was the well called "How," or "Ha," evidently a corruption of "Holy" Well, which served the saint on his visit to this place for preaching and baptizing. In one of the church windows of modern date there were two medallions of St. Kentigern, one a full-length figure, and the other a representation of him preaching to the Britons. The encroachment of the river Eden at Grinsdale is said to have obliterated the well.--Ibid.



In Bromfield there were plenty of legends connected with this well. It is situated in a field near the churchyard. The present vicar, the Rev. R. Taylor, with reverent care, had it cleared and enclosed with a circular vaulted dome of stone, on which be placed an appropriate inscription. Hutchinson, in his History of Cumberland, speaks with regret of the suppression of this well. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, one who knew St. Kentigern's Well at Bromfield, and who had a high idea of the use of such places, wrote a beautiful ballad of ten verses, from which are selected the three following:

Look north, look south, look east, look west,
The country smiles with plenty blest
For every bill and plain and dell
Stands thick with corn round Helly Well.

To usher in the new-born May
The country round came here to play
But where's the tongue or pen can tell
The feats then played at Helly Well ?

Thrice happy people! long may ye
Enjoy your rural revelry;
And dire misrule and discord fell
Be far - O far - from Helly Well! --Ibid.


The Holy Well near Dalston is very interesting, and had some connection with Carlisle. It is situated in the Shawk quarries, about two miles west of the village. These quarries supplied the white freestone for building Christ Church, Carlisle, and were supposed to have been opened in Roman times for materials to build the portion of the Great Wall west of Carlisle. The Holy Well, still called Helly Well, springs out of the limestone rock. It was remarkable for the religious rites formerly performed around it on certain Sundays by the villagers in the neighbourhood. The good spirit of the well was sought out and supposed to teach its Votaries the virtues of temperance, health, cleanliness, simplicity, and love. Worse customs we might have, but few, if any, persons nowadays seek its blessings, and the old faith in its powers has died out. Not far from this well at the written rocks of Shawk-beck is Tom Smith's Leap, so called from a legend of some mosstrooper who, when pursued with hottrod, jumped down and was killed rather than fall into the hands of justice.--Ibid.



There is a well in Carlisle Cathedral situated partially under one of the pillars. It is said the late Dean had it covered over for fear of it or the water in some way "affecting the music." Carlisle having been a border city, open to inroads of every description in early times, it is probable that the inhabitants may have fled to the cathedral sanctuary on such occasions, in which case a well of pure water would be an invaluable boon. (Notes and Queries, 3rd series, xii. 235.)


At Giant's Cave, near Eden Hall, it has been the custom from time immemorial for the lads and lasses of the neighbouring villages to collect together on the third Sunday in May, to drink sugar and water, when the lasses give the treat: this is called Sugar-and-Water Sunday. They afterwards adjourn to the public house, and the lads return the compliment in cakes, ale, punch, etc. A vast concourse of both sexes assemble for the above purpose (Brand's Pop. Ant. Bohn's Ed.)


In the parish of Bromfield; in the neighbourhood of Blencogo, on the common to the east of that village, not far from Ware-Brig, near a pretty large rock of granite, called St. Cuthbert's Stane, is a fine copious spring of remarkably pure and sweet water. which (probably from its having been anciently dedicated to the same St. Cuthbert) is called Helly-Well, i.e., Haly or Holy Well. It formerly was the custom for the youth of all the neighbouring villages to assemble at this well early in the afternoon of the second Sunday in May, and there to join in a variety of rural sports. It was the village wake, and took place here, it is possible, when the keeping of wakes and fairs in the churchyard was discontinued. And it differed from the wakes of later times chiefly in this, that though it was a meeting entirely devoted to festivity and mirth, no strong drink of any kind was ever seen there, nor anything ever drunk but the beverage furnished by the Naiad of the place. A curate of the parish, about twenty years ago, on the idea that it was a profanation of the Sabbath, saw fit to set his face against it; and having deservedly great influence in the parish, the meetings at Helly-Well have ever since been discontinued."-Rev. J. Wilson in Penrith Observer.



At Bothel, in the parish of Torpenhow, a stream rises from a well which supplies the village with water. The proverbial "oldest inhabitant" asserted that this stream ran blood on the day of King Charles's martyrdom. He would not be surprised to hear that the "Boulder Stone" in the vicinity was carried from Norway by the fairies. If they believed the same authority, Plumbland put in a claim for the virtues of this well also, but one could not decide to which parish it belonged.--Ibid.


Near the church of Arthuret is St. Michael's Well, which is still looked upon as the ancient place of baptism, and under the special protection of St. Michael, in whose honour the church, on account of the well, was dedicated.--Ibid.


Only one well has been discovered dedicated to St. Andrew in the county, which is situate in the churchyard of Kirkandrews-on-Eden, and is not affected by the most intense frost or the longest drought. It is another of the many instances where holy wells were used for sacred purposes, placed conveniently for the service of the church.--Ibid.


At the head of the charming valley of Eskdale stands the interesting little church dedicated to St. Catharine. just outside the churchyard wall is St. Catharine's Well. In olden times, on the feast-day of the saint the fairs were held on the north side of the chapel yard, when the usual commodities were bought and sold by the dalesmen. The font, which is a neat specimen of Early English style, bears St. Catharine's wheel, as also does some very old glass in a few of the windows. To the north of the church is a rock called Bell Hill, where the chapel bell is said to have been hung. It is more likely a relic of the old fire-worship of Beltan, of which our pagan ancestors were so fond.--Ibid.


No one now seeks Toddel Well in the township of Longrigg. It was formerly the belief in this parish that the waters of this [42] well had a similar efficacy to the pool of Bethesda, where scrofula sores and all sorts of skin diseases could be healed. A bonfire was an annual dissipation on the eve of St. John the Baptist, the lads and lasses rushing through the smoke and flames singing "Awake, awake, for sin gale's sake."--Ibid.


In a field a little to the east of the village of Gilcrux there are two springs some fifty yards apart; one has fresh water, and the other salt and of medicinal qualities. The salt water well is named the "Tommy Tack," but by some "Funny Jack."--Ibid.


Miss Losh, who will be long remembered in this county for her works of piety and love, extended her protecting care to St. Ninian's Well at Briscoe, erecting over it a semicircular arch, and cutting upon it a characteristic inscription.--Ibid.


The only church in the diocese dedicated to St. Ninian is at Penrith. Penrith was once noted, and has some fame still, for the number of its wells. The whole month of May was set apart for special observance of customs and ceremonies to be performed on each Sunday. There were four wells with a Sunday allocated for honouring each well. The Fontinalia opened at Skirsgill on the first Sunday; then in order Clifton, afterwards the well at the Giant's Caves, supposed to be St. Ninian's; and, lastly, at Dicky Bank, on the fellside, where the festivities were concluded. The chief of these gatherings was at Clifton on the Sunday after the Ascension. This was remarkable. The feast of the Ascension was chosen by the early Christians to commemorate the return of spring, and gatherings of this kind were used to thank God for the continuance of His providence to man. It was the special season for the dressing and decoration of wells as emblematical of immortality, when taken in connection with the Christian festival, the flowers symbolizing the transitoriness of human life. But in later years the Penrith observance was woefully debased: corrtiptio o optimi est pessinia. At Clifton the old custom only survived in brutal fights, both of cocks and men, as well as drinking bouts and other orgies, which would have disgraced the Floralia of [43] the ancient Greeks. These disorders have been suppressed within living memory. The rites at the Giant's Caves were harmless enough, and similar to those at Greystoke and other places in Cumberland. The remnant of the great past appeared in the middle of this century amongst the children in the custom of "shaking bottles" over the well with certain incantations, hence the day was called "shaking bottle Sunday." It was supposed that these customs were fostered by the celebrated hermit who dwelt in these caves, and was the object of reverence throughout the district.--Ibid.


"In Cumberland there is a spring,
And strange it is to tell,
That many a fortune it will make,
If never a drop they sell."

The above prophetic rhymes are popularly understood to allude to Gilsland Spa, respecting which there is a very curious tradition, viz., that on the medicinal virtues being first discovered, the person who owned the land, not resting satisfied, as would appear, with his profits which the influx of strangers to the place had caused, built a house over the spring, with the intention of selling the waters. But his avarice was punished in a very singular manner, for no sooner had he completed his house than the spring dried up, and continued so till the house was pulled down; when lo! another miracle, it flowed again as before. Whether true or false, this story of antiquity enforces a most beautiful moral and religious precept--Clarke's Survey of the Lake.


The Cowt of Keildar was a powerful chief in the district wherein Keildar Castle is situated, adjacent to Cumberland. He was the redoubtable enemy of Lord Soulis, and perished in an encounter on the banks of the Hermitage. Being encased in armour, he received no hurt in battle, but falling in retreating across the stream, his opponents, to their everlasting shame be it written, held him beneath the water till he was drowned. That portion of the river in which be perished is to this day known as the Cowt of Keildar's Pool.


St. Kentigern's Well is still in statu quo, near the churchyard. Steps to this well were formerly constructed out of the relics of an [44] old font. The Rev. James Thwaites, a former rector, had these restored to their proper use.--Rev. J. Wilson, Penrith Observer.


In Greystoke, about a mile away on the borders of this parish, there seemed to be a most interesting memorial of St. Kentigern in a well much visited by strangers and farmers called "Thanet Well." His mother's name was "Thenew." Fordun called her "Thanes," and Camerarius "Themets" or "Thennet," so the change from this last name to "Thanet" was not by any means so violent as that which had converted her church in Glasgow into St. Enoch's! The connection of the Earls of Thanet with this country was of far too recent a date for this name to have been attached to an ancient well, and one too far away from their possessions.--Ibid.


There was an ancient well in the vicarage garden at Castle Sowerby, which probably once bore the saint's name, but was now forgotten. It had been carefully cased with hewn stones, to which there seemed to have been formerly a roof--Ibid.


Richard Singleton, the rector of Melmerby, who died in 1684, wrote as follows (Machell MSS.)

"Wee have sev'all wells in the parish, whereof 4 are more remarkable than the rest. Imp. Margett Hardies well, which is in the Gale intack : some say it will purge both waies, but this I am sure of that if any drink of it (as I have done when hunting) they will presently become very hungry. It was so called from a woman of that name who frequented it daily, and lived to a great age: they report her to have been a witch. Secondly, Fen hiey well, ffamous for Sir I,ancelott's (Threlkeld) father frequenting it, and this they say will cure the . . . or . . . Thirdly, Kep-gob-well, which is upon the mountains, and in the drought of summer is a great relief to man and horse when we bring downe our peates. Fourthly, The Ladies well, which is in the Lord's parke, and is good for dressing butter with."--Ibid.


The church was dedicated in honour of St. John the Baptist. Little remains to tell either of the castle or well on Hutton [45] Common, but both were popularly known as having been named after one Collinson. There was a tradition, with every probability of truth, that when King Charles marched his men on the road through this parish he turned aside and drank out of Collinson's Well. He had been unable to connect these wells with the saint's name to whom the churches were dedicated.--Ibid.


There was formerly a well in the glebe field near the church, by some called the Bishop's Well--Ibid.


St. Patrick's Well is situated near the chapel in Patterdale.


The well dedicated to this saint is near the chapel.