THE holy well, which bore Sir John Shorne's name, and was supposed to have derived its medicinal qualities from his prayers and benedictions, is situated about 150 yards from the church. It is still known by the villagers as "Sir John Shorne's Well," but is commonly called "The Town Well." It [4] consists of a cistern, 5 feet 4 inches square, and 6 feet 9 inches deep. This is walled round with stone, and has a flight of four stone steps descending into the water. The cistern is enclosed by a building, somewhat larger than the well itself, with walls com-posed of brick and stone, about 5 feet high, and covered with a roof of board. From the size and construction of the building, it was probably occasionally used as a bath, but the sick were, doubtless, chiefly benefited by drinking the water. It is slightly chalybeate, containing a large portion of calcareous earth. Formerly its properties must have been very powerful, for its supposed miraculous cures attracted such numbers of invalids to it that houses had to be built for their accommodation. Browne Willis says that many aged persons then living remembered a post in a quinqueniam on Oving Hill (about a mile east of the well), which had hands pointing to the several roads, one of them directing to Sir John Shorne's Well. He likewise says ceremonies were practised here on account of this gentleman. But Lipscombe's transcripts from Willis are not to be trusted; for instance, he says the miracle of Shorne was recorded on the wall which enclosed the holy well when it was visited by Browne Willis, whereas Willis's own words are, "At the south end of the town is a well, known by the name of Sir John Shorn's Well (perhaps so named from the tonsure), which tradition tells us had this inscription on the wall of it

"'Sir John Shorn,
Gentleman born,
Conjured the Devil into a Boot.'"

In the marriage register of North Marston occurs this entry : It is said that the chancel of this church of North Marston, nearly four miles south from Winslow, was built with the offerings at the shrine of Sir John Schorne, a very devout man, who had been rector of the parish about the year 1290, and that this village became very populous and flourishing in consequence of the great resort of persons to a well of water here, which he had blessed, which ever after was called 'Holy Well,' but my parishioners now call it 'Town Well'; its water is chalybeate. The common people in this neighbourhood, and more particularly some ancient people of this my own parish, still keep up the memory of this circumstance by many traditionary stories. This entry is signed, [5] William Pinnock, September 12, 1860. One legend is that Master Shorne, in a season of drought, was moved by the prayers of his congregation to take active measures to supply their need. He struck his staff upon the earth, and immediately there burst forth a perennial spring. The water was a specific for ague and gout; it is now obtained by a pump. There is still a tradition that a box for the receipt of the offerings was affixed to the well, but this has not been the case within the memory of any person now living. The building which enclosed the well when Willis visited it has been removed, and a comparatively modern one has taken its place. A glass of the water drunk at night was said to cure any cold ere daybreak. For much information re Sir John Shorne, see Records of Bucks, vols. ii. and iii., from which the above account is taken. Representations of Sir John Shorne occur on the rood-screens Of Cawston, c. 1450; Gateby, c. 1480 Suffield, c. 1450, in Norfolk, and Sudbury (in the possession of Gainsborough Dupont, Esq.), Suffolk, c. 1550.


There is a local tradition that when Julius Caesar invaded Britain, he found a hart drinking at a well or spring; hence the name. The water is supposed to cure weak eyes and several other complaints. I myself can testify to having been cured of rheumatism by using it.--M. A. Smethurst, Aylesbury.