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Wyville's wells

As you may have picked up from the page about local place-names I have a long-standing interest in what a place's name can tell us about its past.

There's about a dozen or so places in England which include the Old English words wig (confusingly prononounced 'wee' or 'why') or weoh. Despite the varieties of spelling they are the same word. Which means a pagan 'shrine' or 'icon'.

Shrines and icons were once the same thing as roadside shrines in Catholic countries confirm. Without the statue (usually of the Virgin Mary) it wouldn't be a shrine. And just a roadside statue of the Virgin Mary, without any other structure, would be spoken of as a shrine.

Intriguingly several weohs are in or adjoining north Leicestershire.
(Note that most place-names starting 'Wy‑' are not from weoh.)

  • Wyfordby near Melton Mowbray. The Scaninavian settlement ('‑by') at the ford with a weoh. Presumably the weoh was to ask for help crossing the ford, or to give thanks for a successful crossing. Such a weoh ford is close kin to a stapol ford (as with Stapleford also near Melton and another near Nottingham) – the difference is that a stapol was much bigger than a weoh (think more like a 'totem pole').
  • Wysall on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border between Wymeswold and Keyworth. The name was originally weoh hoh, the shrine on the distinctively-shaped hill. The parish church now sits on top of that hoh, suggesting a continuity back to pre-conversion times.
  • Wyville on the Leicestershire-Lincolnshire border.
The spelling 'Wyville' is a corruption of the original name weoh wella, which means the springs ('wells') with a shrine. And indeed at least one of those springs now feeds into two adjacent ponds (one big enough to be a small lake – see photograph at the top of the page).

The Old English word wella evolved into the modern word 'well'. But it originally meant a spring, not a deep hole with a bucket.

The scribal error of 'v' for 'w' is a common one in old documents – the two letters were not as distinct back then. This led to the name transforming into '‑ville'.

The second pond (foreground) looking to the Victorian church on the skyline.

There is another spring and pond shown on OS maps about 500 metres to the north. This is however on private land.

Next time you are heading south from Harlaxton follow the signs to Hungerton and then Wyville. An OS map will be necessary to locate the springs and ponds. There's only one road in and out of Wyville and most of the properties are tucked down in the valley near the springs, so there's a real sense of being secluded.

If you think I've got something wrong – or can add additional information or photographs – then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.

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what's new?

Articles about Barrowby

Barrowby's location and geology

summary of prehistoric Barrowby

summary of Roman Barrowby



Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Nineteenth century

nineteenth and twentieth century population

Twentieth century

guided walks in and around Barrowby

there's more could be said...


index of surnames in Cryer 1979

Articles and web links for nearby places

rare seventeenth fonts at Muston, Bottesford and Orston from Project Gargoyle Newsletter 2020

Ironstone quarries of Leicestershire
YouTube video

Wyville's wells

Harston's Anglo-Saxon carvings

Bottesford's effigies

Grantham Canal Society

The Grantham Canal
All you need to know – and more – from Wikipedia

Croxton Kerrial manor house excavations
photos and brief details from Leicester Mercury.
By 2021 the remains had been consolidated and there are annual open days.

Harlaxton History Society

Bottesford History Group

Grantham Civic Society

Grantham Museum

Heritage Lincolnshire