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Wolds' Wells

A well once existed near the wall of St Mary's churchyard, Wymeswold (which is on a natural mound) between the telephone box and bus shelter on the street still known as The Stockwell. The water continues to flow copiously but has been culverted to join the village brook (correctly, the River Mantle) to the south of The Stockwell.

In the late twelfth century there is a reference to 'Wulstanwelle', seemingly a dedication to St Wulfstan of Worcester (circa1008 – 20 January 1095), although such dedications are otherwise unknown in the county. The location of this well is not known but, if (as Barrie Cox has recently suggested (Cox 2004)) the Old English sense of 'well' in 'stockwell' was 'stream' rather than 'spring', then the name 'Stockwell' may have referred to a stream crossed by a log (Old English stoc) acting as a footbridge. This would mean that the source of the Stockwell could at one time have been known as 'Wulstanwelle' and the name Stockwell transferred from the stream to the source after the saint's dedication was dropped (perhaps at the Reformation). By then the original sense of the 'log bridge over a stream' had long been lost and the word 'well' no longer referred to streams but only to their source.

Two Sisters' Well (also known as Jacob's Well) is on the perimeter of the disused airfield (see map on page 9 of of The Wolds Historian No.3). A simple stone structure with steps down and wooden doors stood until World War II but the flow has now been culverted.

A legend associated with this well tells how, during a three-month long drought, a sixteenth century maiden lady called Gertrude Lacey dreamed three times in one night of finding a stream by sticking a pilgrim's staff from the Holy Land in a specific place. It was located in Langdale Field, and known as Spring Close after Enclosure. A pilgrim's staff was dug up and, with the help of her sister Grace, she went off to the location. When the staff was stuck in the ground a supply of water was created which 'has never run dry'. A double effigy in Prestwold church reputedly depicts these two sisters (see Philip White's article in the WHO Newsletter 2001 for further details).

Other wells in Wymeswold are:

Cripwell (from the Old English for 'winding stream') which gives its name to a modern farm to the north of Wymeswold;

Muswell (recorded in 1543 and perhaps from 'mouse well') which became corrupted to Mushill Farm by 1877;

and a reference, again in 1543, to an otherwise unknown Fourwell hades ('heads').

Reference:

Cox, Barrie, 2004, The Place-Names of Leicestershire: Part Three – East Goscote Hundred, English Place-Name Society

Originally published in The Wolds Historian No.3 (2006)

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