NEAR Downfall, a short walk from the Old Oak Wood, not far from Hayfield, is the Mermaid's Pool. There is a local tradition that a beautiful nymph lives in the side of the Scout, who comes to bathe daily in the Mermaid's Pool, and that the man who has the good fortune to see her whilst bathing will become immortal.

The old folk of Hayfield, moreover, have a long story of a man who, some time in the last century, went from Hayfield over the Scout, and was lucky enough to meet this mountain nymph, by whom he was conducted to a cavern hard by. Tradition adds that she was pleased with this humble mortal, and that he lingered there for some time, when she conferred on him the precious gift of immortality.


This well or spring of water is situated in a little dell at the foot of Great Shacklow, a perfect cavern or grotto overgrown with moss and verdure. It was customary here on Easter morning, as at Tideswell, to drink of this water after putting in some sugar.



The church of St. Chad at Wilne is a remarkable specimen of mediaeval architecture, and its massive tower is a notable feature in the lower part of the Derwent Valley, being about a mile above the estuary of that river with the Trent. The interior of the church has a font which is altogether unique, while the Willoughby Chapel contains the remains of a noble family who once resided in the parish, which at one time included, besides the hamlets of Wilne or Wilton, on each side of the Derwent, the townships or chapelries of Sawley, Long Eaton, Breaston Risley, and the places of Draycott, Hopwell, and Wilsthorpe. Near the church are some farm buildings where was a well, now, it is said, closed, but which is stated to be the well of St. Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield, who ruled over the diocese from A.D.669 to A.D.672. Repingdon, Repington, afterwards called Repton, had been previously the headquarters of Christianity for what was then termed mercie, i.e., the "marches," or districts bordering upon Wales. Previous to this time the Britons, the former inhabitants, had been driven westwards by the advancing tide of Teutons, or Angles and Saxons, and many were the struggles between the rival races ere the conflict ceased. For many years the Celts maintained their footing in some portions of the country, but in time the whole of the large district of which St. Chad's diocese consisted, and which is said at one time to have held in its limits no less than nineteen counties, became Anglicised. Of St. Chad previously but little is known. During his episcopate, which lasted but two and a half years, his piety and zeal for the spread of the Gospel shone out with effulgence. It was his custom, as of others in those times of strife, to missionize, and this he did on foot until compelled by the metropolitan to ride on horseback. It is supposed that Christianity was thus first planted at Wilne, and that the well at that place was used for the purpose of baptizing the early converts. St. Chad, as might be expected, has numerous churches dedicated to his memory, amongst which may be mentioned the venerable church of St. Chad (Stowe), Lichfield, and the round church at Shrewsbury, besides the recently-erected church of St. Chad at Derby.

Well Dressing.

The custom of "well-flowering" is common in Derbyshire.



Custom of Decorating Wells.

At the village of Tissington, near Ashborne, in Derbyshire, the custom of well-flowering is still observed on every anniversary of the Ascension, or Holy Thursday. On this occasion the day is regarded as a festival ; the villagers array themselves in their best attire, and keep open house for their friends. All the wells in the place, which are five in number, are decorated with wreaths and garlands of newly-gathered flowers disposed in various devices. Boards are sometimes used, cut into different forms, and then covered with moist clay, into which the stems of flowers are inserted to preserve their freshness, and they are so arranged as to form a beautiful mosaic work. When thus adorned, the boards are so disposed at the springs that the water appears to issue from amidst beds of flowers. After service at church, where a sermon is preached, a procession is made, and the wells are visited in succession: the psalms for the day, the epistle and gospel are read, one at each well, and the whole concludes with a hymn, sung by the church singers, accompanied by a band of music. Rural sports and holiday pastimes occupy the remainder of the day. (Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, x., p. 38)

The custom was common with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The ode of Horace to the fountain of Blandusia is well known

O fons Blandusiae, splendidior vitro,
Dulci digne mero, non sine floribus.

Where a spring or a river flows," says Seneca, there should we build altars and offer sacrifices."

Various are the conjectures respecting this ceremony; some supposing it to be the remains of a heathen worship, observed the four last days of April, and first of May, in honour of the goddess Flora, whose votaries instituted games called Florales or Floralia, to be celebrated annually on her birthday. But because they appeared impious and profane to the Roman Senate, which was the case, they covered their design, and worshipped Flora under the title of "Goddess of Flowers;" and pretended that they offered sacrifice to her, that the plants and trees might flourish. While these sports were celebrating, the officers or ædiles scattered beans and other pulse among the people. These games were proclaimed and begun by sound of trumpet, as we find mentioned [48] in Juvenal, Sat. 6; and had they been divested of obscene and lewd practices, so far from incurring censure, they would have handed down to posterity admiration at the innocent pastimes of the ancients, instead of regret, that such proceedings should have been countenanced by the great. From the above being recorded, it is not unlikely that the custom originated, in some parts of England, of the youth of both sexes going into the woods and fields on the first of May, to gather boughs and flowers, with which they make garlands, and adorn their doors and windows with nosegays and artificial crowns. Triumphing thus in the flowery spoil, they decked also with flowers a tall pole, which they named the Maypole, and which they placed in some convenient part of the village, and spent their time in dancing round it, consecrating it, as it were, to the Goddess of Flowers, without the least violation being offered to it through the circle of the whole year. Nor is this custom alone observed in England, but it is done in other nations, particularly Italy, where young men and maidens are accustomed to go into the fields on the calends of May, and bring thence the branches of trees, singing all the way as they return, and so place them on the doors of their houses (A full account of the well-dressing here in 1823 will be found in the Gentleman's Magazine Library, Pop. Sup., 144, and an illustration in Chambers's Book of Days, 1.)


In 1855, while passing an evening hour at a garden-gate in the village of Baslow, a youth arrived bearing on his arm a very large basket, well garnished with flowers of divers kinds and colours, an increase of which he solicited by a selection from my friend's garden--such as had already been granted him by others in the village. Upon inquiring, with the thirstiness of an antiquary, the meaning of this goodly basket of flowers, I was informed that young Corydon was collecting them for the Pilsley "Well" or Tap " dressing. When all was ready, I visited Pilsley to join in the festival, and found that it answered exactly to an account in a letter written to me by a brother in 1851, describing the "Well" dressing which he witnessed at the above-named place. It was as follows :

"After tea, we all went up to Pilsley to witness a 'Village Festival,' or 'Wake,' as it is called. . . . In the morning a procession passed thro' Baslow on its way to Pilsley. It consisted of [49] nine carts and wagons of all shapes and sizes, containing the boys and girls of Eyam School, with their dads and mams, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends; a few flags, and headed by some stout fellows armed with cornopeans and trombones, blowing discordant sounds, and 'making day hideous.' They march round the village where the 'well-flowering' takes place, carrying their flags, and headed by their bands. In the afternoon we saw them come back, the chaps in the cart blowing away as fresh, as ever. When we went up in the evening, we found quite 'a throng' in the village. People come from all parts; and it seems to be the custom, with those who can afford it, to keep open house for the day. A great deal of taste and fancy is exhibited in the 'well-flowering,' or 'well-dressing,' or 'tap-dressing,' as it is variously called. Behind two of the taps that supply water to the village, was erected a large screen of rough boards; the principal one was about 20 feet square. The screen is then plastered over with moist clay, upon which the Duke of Devonshire's arms, and a great variety of fanciful devices and mottoes, are executed in various colours by sticking flowers and buds into the clay, by which means they keep fresh for several days. The background to the device is formed with the green leaves of the fir. Some of the ornaments are formed of shells stuck into the clay. Branches of trees are arranged at the sides of the screen, and in front of the screen a miniature garden is laid out, with tiny gravel walks, and flower-beds with shell borders, and surrounded by a fence of stakes and ropes. Opposite the principal screen they had gone a step further, and attempted a fountain, formed by the figure of a duck with outstretched wings, straight neck, and bill wide open, from which a stream of water shot up about a yard high. . . . There was a handsome flag flying on the village green, and the same at the inn, and a pole decorated with flowers, and a young tree tied to the lower part; and a few stalls for nuts and gingerbread.--Notes and Queries, 2 S,, ix. 430.


An account of the Buxton well-dressing, 1846, in a local newspaper, speaks of it as a long-established fête:

"The fountain was, as usual, the centre of attraction. The great difficulty was to obtain a novel design, and a sort of Chinese figure was selected for the front of the cenotaph, while from each [50] corner of railing pillars sprung, profusely decorated with evergreens, and united in a sort of arch at the top, on which the velvet cushion was placed. The principal decoration had a railed-in grassplot in front, with four several fountains throwing up water--two from handsome vases on each side, one from a very good model of a duck, and another from a sort of shallow basin, from which a variety of beautiful jets were thrown by altering the arrangement of the orifice." A band of morris dancers, whose "graceful evolutions " are described, formed part of the proceedings.


The waters of Buxton and their healing properties were well known to the Romans, as has been proved by the remains of their baths on the site of the warm springs. In mediaeval days the well was dedicated to St Anne. The actual well remained in a comparatively untouched condition, lined with Roman lead, and surrounded with Roman brick and cement, down to the year 1709, when Sir Thomas Delves, a gentleman of Cheshire, who had received benefit at the spring, removed the old work, and erected over it a stone alcove, or porch. But for several centuries before the Reformation, a chapel existed closely adjoining the spring, a little to the east, and with probably an ante-chapel over the water. The first historical allusion to this chapel, says Rev. Dr. Cox in his Churches of Derbyshire, occurs in the Valor Ecclesiasticus , (27 Henry VIII.), wherein is the following entry, under the parish church of Bakwell : "Capella de Bukstones , in parochia de Bakwell. In oblationibus ibidem ad Sanctum Annam. coram nobis dictis commissionariis non patet." It is not to be wondered at that there was a difficulty in supplying the commissioner with the value of the offerings made to St. Anne, as they, must have fluctuated considerably according to the social position of the patient and the completeness of the cure. A few years later the superstitious reverence that associated the healing properties of the water with St. Anne was rudely crushed by one of the agents of Henry VIII. In his zeal to do his masters' bidding, he not only closed the chapel and removed the image, but even deprived the sick for a time of all access to the waters. The following letter from Sir William Bassett to Lord Cromwell will be read with interest


"Right Honourable my in especial good Lord,

" According to my bounden duty, and the tenor of your lordship's letters lately to me directed, I have sent your lordship by this bearer, my brother Francis Bassett, the images of St. Anne, of Buxton, and St. Andrew of Burton-upon-Trent, which images I did take from the places where they did stand and brought to my own house, within forty-eight hours after the contemplation of your said lordship's letters, in as sober a manner as my little and rude wits would serve me. And for that there should be no more idolatry and superstition there used, I did not only deface the tabernacles and places where they did stand, but did also take away crutches, shirts, and shifts, with was offered, being things that allure and entice the ignorant to the said offering, also giving the keepers of both places orders that no more offerings should be made in those places till the king's pleasure and your lordship's be further known on their behalf.

"My lord, I have locked and sealed the baths and wells at Buxton, that none shall enter to wash there till your lordship's pleasure be further known. Whereof I beseech your good lordship that I may be ascertained again at your pleasures, and I shall not fail to execute your lordship's commandments to the utmost of my little wit and power. And my lord, as touching the opinion of the people, and the fond trust they do put in those images, and the vanity of the things ; this bearer can tell your lordship better at large than I can write, for he was with me at the doing of all this, and in all places, as knoweth good Jesus, whom ever have your good lordship in his blessed keeping.

"Written at Langley with the rude and simple hand of your assured and most faithful orator, and as one ever at your commandment next unto the king's, to the uttermost of his little Power.


"To Lord Cromwell."

It would seem that the old chapel of St. Anne was demolished with the idea of eradicating superstitious notions shortly after the receipt of Lord Cromwell's letter. The foundations of the chapel were uncovered in 1698. When Dr. Jones wrote a little treatise on The Benefit of the Aneient Bathes of Buckstone, in I572, the chapel did not exist, and the crutches and other tokens of restored [52] health were hung up on the walls of a public room erected by the Earl of Shrewsbury not far from the baths. He mentions, also the legend that the image of St. Anne had been miraculously found in the well, and thus given it her name.

Various of our earlier writers testify to the repute of Buxton waters, two of which, that have not found their way into guides, shall here be quoted.

In John Heywood's play of The Four P. P., the palmer, recounting his wanderings, says

Then at the Rhodes also I was ;
And round about to Amias
At St. Uncumber and Trunnion ;
At St. Botoph and St. Annie of Buxton.

Drayton, in the Polyolbion, says :

I can. again produce those wondrous wells
Of Bucston, as I have, that most delicious fount
Which men the second Bath of England do account,
Which in the primer reigns, which first this well began
To have her virtues known, unto the blest St. Anne,
Was consecrated then.


This beautiful custom is observed here with great gusto, though said to be of comparatively late origin. It is very similar to that which obtains at Tissington in all its details, and attracts hundreds, of sight-seers.


The first attempt at well-dressing at Belper was made at the wakes, in July, 1838, by a few young men residing in the town, who made a bower of small dimensions over the Mill Lane Well on the road leading to the Park. Inside the bower was a design made of flowers, moss, etc., something after the style of the Tissington well-dressings. The following year the Manor Well, the Victoria Well, and the Green Well were all dressed, with much rivalry among their respective artists. The custom has been since, occasionally continued.


Our Lady's Well.

Of all Belper wells, the well par excellence is "The Lady Well," or "Our Lady's Well." Was the Lady Well famous in days gone by for saintly and medicinal properties ? If so, its fame still [53] lingers, unconsciously perhaps, in the minds of the people, for they still make journeys of a mile or two, carrying with them a glass or a mug, to drink its waters. From Duffield, and other places round about, people used to come, years ago, in parties to the Lady Well, bringing not only vessels from which to drink the water, but "noggins" in which to carry back a supply for home drinking. Afflicted persons have been seen bathing their limbs in the cold running water, and heard to say the were benefited by repeated applications. All this must be the remains of some old superstition connected with Our Lady's Well.

Belper children used to carry--at any time when they thought fit, and could get permission from their mothers--a mug or porringer, and a paper containing oatmeal and sugar, to the Lady Well, and there drink the mixture of meal, sugar, and water. This was the chief item of the afternoon's outing. (See similar custom at Tideswell.) Perhaps the only custom now associated with the Lady Well is the annual gathering round the well on Whit Monday of Sunday-school scholars. A local poet, Mr. Thomas Crofts, has often sung the praises of this well in the Derbyshire newspapers.

Paddle Well.

In the old cotton mill yard was a well called the " Paddle Well." It is believed to be the only well in Derbyshire from which water used to be raised paddle-wheel fashion, hence its name. It was done away with in consequence of a suicide, or an attempt at suicide, by a woman who had quarrelled with her husband.

Jacob's Well.

It is situated on the north side of the coppice ground, and was, the last time I saw it, in a sorry condition, stony, weedy, and half filled up. Yet once upon a time its water was. of good repute.


On Easter Eve, at twelve o'clock when Easter Day is coming in, if you look steadfastly into the pool, you will see a mermaid.


A hermit once going through Deep Dale being very thirsty, and for a time not able to find any water, at last came upon a stream, which he followed up to the place where it rose; here he dug a [54] well, returned thanks to the Almighty, and blessed it, saying it, should be holy for evermore, and be a cure for all ills. Another version is that the famous Hermit of Deep Dale, who lived in the Hermitage which is close by the well, discovered this spring and dug the well, which never dries up, nor does the water diminish in quantity, however dry the season and blessed it. Many marvellous cures are still ascribed to its waters. It is also used as a wishing well. The modus operandi is to go on Good Friday, between twelve and three o'clock, drink the water three times, and wish.

Another Version.

There was a baker in Derby, in the street which is called after the name of St. Mary. At that period the church of the Blessed Virgin at Derby was at the head of a large parish, and had under its authority a church de onere and a chapel. And this baker, otherwise called Cornelius, was a religious man, fearing God, and, moreover, so wholly occupied in good works and the bestowing of alms, that whatsoever remained to him on every seventh day beyond what had been required for the food and clothing of himself and his, and the needful things of his house, he would on the Sabbath day take to the church of St. Mary, and give to the poor for the love of God, and of the Holy Virgin.

It happened on a certain day in autumn, when he had resigned himself to repose at the hour of noon, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in his sleep, saying, "Acceptable in the eyes of my Son, and of me are the alms thou hast bestowed. But now, if thou art willing to be made perfect, leave all that thou hast, and go to Depedale where thou shalt serve my Son and me in solitude; and when thou shalt happily have terminated thy course thou shalt inherit the kingdom of love, joy, and eternal bliss which God has prepared for them who love Him.

The man, awakening, perceived the divine goodness which had been done for his sake; and, giving thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin, his encourager, he straightway went forth without speaking a word to anyone.

Having turned his steps towards the east, it befel him, as he was passing through the middle of the village of Stanley, he heard a woman say to a girl, " Take our calves with you, drive them as far as Depedale, and make haste back."

Having heard this, the man, admiring the favour of God, and [55] believing that this word had been spoken in grace, a,, it were, to bin', was astonished, and approached near, and said, "Good woman, tell me, where is Depedale?" She replied, "Go with this maiden, and she, if you desire it, will show you the place.

When he arrived there, he found that the place was marshy, and of fearful aspect, far distant from any habitation of man. Then directting his steps to the south-east of the place, he cut for himself, in the side of the mountain, in the rock, a very small dwelling, and an altar towards the south, which hath been preserved to this day; and there he served God, day and night, in hunger and thirst, in cold and in meditation.

And it came to pass that the old designing enemy of mankind, beholding this disciple of Christ flourishing with the different flowers of the virtues, began to envy him, as he envies other holy men, sending frequently amidst his cogitations the vanities of the world, the bitterness of his existence, the solitariness of his situation, and the various troubles of the desert. But the aforesaid man of God, conscious of the venom of the crooked serpent, did, by continual prayer, repeated fastings, and holy meditations, cast forth, through the grace of God, all his temptations. Whereupon the enemy rose upon him in all his might, both secretly and openly waging with him a visible conflict. And while the assaults of his foe became day by day more grievous, he had to sustain a very great want of water. Wandering about the neighbouring places, he discovered a spring in a valley not far from his dwelling, towards the west, and near unto it he made for himself a cottage, and built an oratory in honour of God and the Blessed Virgin. There, wearing away the sufferings of his life, laudably, in the service of God, he departed happily to God, from out of the prison-house of the body. (Chronicle of Thomas de Musca, quoted by Glover in History of Derbyshire, ii. 340-41.)


Well of St. Alkmund's.

St. Alkmund, a Northumbrian prince, was treacherously slain by the Danes in 819, and buried at Lilleshall, Salop. But soon afterwards, through fear of the Danes, his remains were hastily removed and translated to Derby, where he was honoured on March 19 (the day of his translation) as patron saint of the town, a church being built over the shrine. Situated close by the side


[Illustration: Becket's Well, Derby, showing present masonry.]


of one of the most important roads in the kingdom, the fame of St. Alkmund's shrine appears to have been vividly retained long after the Reformation. As late as I760 north countrymen were in the habit of inquiring for the tomb, and rested their packs upon it. A well, a short distance to the north of the church of St. Alkmund's, is still known by the name of "St. Alkmund's Well." The ancient custom of dressing this well with flowers was revived in 1870, and is now annually observed, the clergy and choir of St. Alkmund's meeting at the church and walking there in procession. The street leading down, to St. Mary's Bridge, past St. Alkmund's, formed, until quite a recent date, the northern boundary of the town. The well is beyond this--outside the walls of the old borough. It is said that when the pious company bearing the relics of St. Alkmund reached the outskirts of the town, they laid down their precious burden by the side of this well, whilst they treated with the townspeople for their safe admission within the walls. From that time the waters of the well were blessed with special curative powers, and the well itself has been ever since known by the name of St. Alkmund. Long after the Reformation, a belief in the special virtues of this water lingered in the minds of even well-educated people, a belief not altogether exploded at the present day. Mr. Cantrell, writing in l760, records how the late Vicar of St. Werburgh's (Rev. William Lockett), being in a low consumption, constantly drank water of St. Alkmund's well, and recovered his health. The well (fons) of St. Alkmund is mentioned in a fourteenth-century charter, between the Abbey of Darley and the Hospital of St. Helen, wherein it is described as lying between the well of St. Helen and a meadow pertaining to one William Greene. These particulars are taken from the fourth volume of Cox's Churches of Derbyshire.

St. Thomas à Becket's Well.

Another well in Derby of mediæval repute bore the name of the murdered archbishop. There was a chapel over it, or close by its side. The foundations of the walls are marked H H on the plan, p. 58. In 1652, a small building was again erected over it. The water is still much valued, and the small building was restored by Mr. Keys in 1889. An exhaustive illustrated article on this well, from the pen and pencil of Mr. G. Bailey, appears in the just-issued twelfth volume of the journal of the Derbyshire Archæological Society.


[Illustration: Plan of Beckett's Well.]

Other Wells in Derby.

Other old wells of sacred association in Derby were St. Helen's, near the modern Grammar School; the Pilgrim's Well, Normanton Road, now destroyed; the Virgin's, Abbey Street; and St. Peter's, near the church of that name, now filled up


In the Diary of a Journey to Glastonbury Thorn, written in 1765, and printed in vol. xv. of the Reliquary, occurs the following:


" Sunday, the 19th day of November. I called at Higham Hills, at Richard Lee's, and there I am told of a well near Duffield, where it is said that the cripples are cured, and some have left their crutches."

This may have been either Kedleston or Quarndon mineral springs.

The mineral wells of Quarne and Kedleston seem to have been the oldest used in the county next to Buxton. In Philip Kinder's MS. Historie of Darbyshire, written in 1663, is the following:

"At Keddleston and at Quarne a vitrioll could spring, which is good against vomitting, comforts ye stomach, cures ye ulcers of ye bladder, stopps all fluxes, helps conception, stays bleeding in the breast and at ye srige. The Iron mixt with both is good for ye Splen and Urines, is good against ye Colick, and ache in joynts, cures tertian and quartan feavers and ye stone, and all these more effectually than ye Tincture of Lilium, or ye Milke of Pearle."


The well here is of some antiquity; an illustration of it is appended.

[Illustration: King's Newton.]


Some few years ago a body was drowned in the canal near Ilkeston; the means taken to discover it was as follows: A penny [60] loaf of bread was procured, the inside scooped out, and the vacuum filled with quicksilver; the loaf was then put into the water, and allowed to float down with the current, the superstition being that, when it came to the spot where the body lay, it would stop. (See Notes and Queries for similar cases elsewhere.)


A painfully grotesque scene was witnessed on the river Derwent, at Milford, Derbyshire, on July 22, 1882. The river having been unsuccessfully dragged several, days for the body of a young woman named Webster, who was drowned, a drum was loudly beaten for several hours on the river. It is a superstitious belief that, when a drum is so beaten, it will cease to emit any sound when the boat containing it passes over the place where the drowned person lies.


A little to the south-west. of the ruined chapel of the Holy Trinity at North Lees, in the, parish of Hathenage, is a good clear spring called Trinity Well, sheltered by four slabs of gritstone, one as the bed, two as upright stones, and the fourth as a covering. Close by the well is a flat stone, on which are rudely sculptured a small cross, and the letters T. S. This chapel was built by the Italian Mission in the time of James II., and destroyed by a protesting mob when William III. came to the throne.


The Romans had a bath here in connection with the mineral waters. In early mediaeval days a well-chapel was erected and dedicated to St. Martin. The legend says that a Derbyshire Crusader of the name of Martin was here healed of his leprosy, and that in gratitude he built a chapel in Honour of his patron saint. It is supposed that the present church stands on the site of the old well-chapel.


Sugar-cupping is another ancient custom which survives here. On Easter Day young people and children go to the Dropping Well, near Tideswell, with a cup in one pocket and a quarter of a pound of sugar [?Honey] in the other, and having caught in their [61]cups as much water as they wished from the droppings of the Tor-spring, they dissolved the sugar in it.--Glover, History of Derbyshire, 8vo., vol. i. 307.


Rev. Dr. Cox enumerates the following old wells in the county, dedicated to saints, in addition to those already given : St. Osyth, Sandiacre; St. Thomas à Becket, Linbury; St. Thomas and St. Anne, Repton ; the Mary Well, "Capersuck," Allestree; and St. Cuthbert's, Dovebridge.