A friend of mine recently sent me a few interesting links regarding the possible existence of a “Holy Well” near to where we grew up together. The possible location for this hallowed site at first lacked credibility; having spent our most formative years in the area, neither of us could credit the existence of a “Holy Well” on the steep carved embankments to the south of Manchester Road in Milnsbridge, West Yorkshire.
The posts on The Modern Antiquarian and The Megalithic Portal tell of a recent history, a generation before my own; local children visiting the well to fetch water during the drought in the seventies and children a generation earlier drinking the “fresh” well water after playing sports.
After a few moments comparing the map my friend sent (top left) with both google maps and my memory of the area, I decide that I have a pretty good idea of where the well may be situated and make the suggestion that we make a quick venture out to the area.
Neither of us drive and so it was with much gratitude that my friend’s partner dropped is in the carpark of The Warren House, one of Britains many closed public houses; driven to dereliction by the recession, the ever increasing taxation of alcohol and the introduction of the smoking ban. To be fair, the pub may still be open – its appearance would hint otherwise.
A short walk from the carpark (best accessed when traveling from Cowersley lights towards Huddersfield) towards Park Road W (the main road that connects Milnsbridge with Crosland Moor). Turning right and up, Park Road W has a number of possible turnings right and towards the well.
We took the wrong turning at first but discovered our mistake on our return.
The correct turning is the first turning right, it looks like a path up towards somebody’s garage. If we had taken this path first, our journey would have been a lot quicker.
We actually walked up through the local estates passing through a recreation ground and wandering the top of the hill.
There are a number of footpaths carved out in a stepped manner alongside the steep hillside. The area is obviously popular with irresponsible dog owners and makes for an intersting walk, even without the added lure of a sacred well.
The area is known as “Holy Well Woods”, which is our primary clue to the well being “Holy”. The nearest similar area to myself would be Holywell Green in Calderdale, the Holy Well in that area is not as hidden as this.
We knew we were on the wrong track, despite being limited in our use of GPS by the rain; my HTC Touch Diamond is not great in drizzle.
Having walked two thirds or three quarters of the distance towards Deep Lane we turned back, scouring the hillside for signs of the well.
We have the well marked as being near the convergence of two footpaths but it turns out we have confused the paths on two different levels.
Finally we spotted a “stone box” down the hillside, it matched the estimated location of the well on our ordnance survey image.
It was relatively easy to forge a path down the steep decline, although this became slightly vertiginous once we reached the box.
The final section of our route is actually made up of stone steps, this gives us hope that we are on the right track for the well.
The box itself was obviously once a water tank, possibly feeding the houses below.
Looking down the hillside we see a companion “tank” towards the foot of the hill. A rusted overflow pipe appears to project from one side of our tank, although it is hard to see, so overgrown is the area.
I cautiously investigate the tank’s ability to hold my weight; by which I mean that I clamber onto the stone slabs without regard for the possible fragility of the slabs or the 50 meter drop.
I make note of the rest of the box lying around the area, the inner graffiti possibly hinting that local youths have destroyed the tank over time. Quite chilling to think that the damage could have been carried out by youths who were older than me when the damage occured.
From here, we are sure we have the well. The view down the hillside matches what we would expect from the images we have seen online.
We think the water tank must have been filled from the same wellspring as the “Holy Well”.
Sure enough, set back from the tank and into the hillside we find a circular hole, full of water and decaying bracken.
The area is overgrown but undoubtedly the same well as depicted in the posts on the links from The Modern Antiquarian and The Megalithic Portal.
On our return from the site we have compared our images to those taken a few years prior.
We are confident we have the same site but we share the doubts of the original poster, insofar as we think there may well be another well or at least other outlest for the spring.
The walk back shows whole sunken tracts full of scorched vegetation. Filled with a variety of different kinds of rubbish, these tracts look like culling fields for old MFI furniture.
There are a few areas where we think we’ve found some other possibility but each turns out to be discarded stone or a collapsed wall.
The main problem with investigating the site is the level to which the site has declined. Walls have shifted, overgrowth has overrun the well and the whole area is plagued with fly tipping and graffiti.
I honestly don’t understand how half the junk gets there, it isn’t the most accessible place, it would be easier to take these things to the tip than haul them across the narrow footpaths.
We will make a return to the site, probably later into the Spring or early Summer.
At the very least we can dredge the humous from the well and clear some of the undergrowth back; after all it is supposedly a “Holy” well. As to how holy and in whose name, I have no idea but I like the idea of a holy well so close to villages with legends of Barghasts and Spectral Horsemen.