Yorkshire Holy Wells



Photo RequiredSt Mungo's (Mongah's) Well - Copgrove
(SE 3470 6378 )

It appears that at one time St Mungo's Well was one of the most popular holy wells in Yorkshire, visited by people from near and far in the hope of curing various illnesses. Today however only the name 'Well House Farm' gives a clue the significance of this site to the north of Copgrove village. On a visit in May 2000 the farm owners were very helpful and provided the information that the derelict remains of the bathhouse were demolished many years ago and the current farm house was built adjacent to the site. The wells spring source and adjoining bath are apparently still intact, but now covered by the paved area in front of house.
A local history book by Henry Major (1) traces the history of St Mungo's well, and notes that as Harrogate Spa became popular in the 1600's, the fame of St Mungo's well began to decline. St Mungo's well .....
"....represented the old religious world of the middle ages with it miracles and saints and gifts of healing; Harrogate Spa represented the modern world of medical science. Harrogate healed by means of its minerals ; Copgrove healed by faith."

Around the same time Dr Edmund Deane (2) of York, was promoting the beneficial effects of mineral spas, and as the waters of St Mungo's well were without obvious mineral content, he was moved to describe the well as ".....an ineffectual superstitious relique of popery".

However the St Mungo's well still had its supporters, who believed that the extreme coldness of the water could cure disease. Around 1650 a Dr Witties, wrote ......
"it is a quick spring of great repute for curing the rickets in children, whom they dip into it naked, and hold them in a little while, but they must observe to dip five, seven or nine times, more or less, according to custom, or some think it will not do"

In 1696 a Dr. Clayton of Lancashire wrote of the well ........
"...that people resorted there to be cured of fixed pains, with or without tumour, rheumatisms, quartans, strains, bruises, rickets and all weaknesses of the nerves".

In 1702 Sir John Floyer quotes (3) a Dr. Ellison of Newcastle who wrote that St mungo's well is .......
"an extreme cold spring"
and that children suffering from rickets are dipped in it June and July "in their shifts and night caps".

Also a Dr. Thomas Davidson wrote.........
"They are immersed at all ages, viz., from six months old to eighty years. Children are twice or thrice dipped in and presently taken out again; and while they are in the officious women at the well, are active in rubbing their backs or the maimed parts; but this seems only for form. Adult people stay in a quarter, or near half an hour .... they use no preparative physick, nor observe any diet before nor afterwards, but a draft of warm ale or a sack to comfort them after they come out".

Henry Major described St Mungo's well as he saw it in the early 1900's, ... 
"The well stands today very much as it did in the seventeenth century, an oblong cistern, ....... 4ft deep and is 6ft.4in. wide by 6ft.11in. long, and has five stone steps into it. The temperature when i took it on a summer day was 49 deg Fah., although that of the air in the shade was 75 deg.Fah. The high red brick wall with which it is surrounded undoubtedly goes back to the seventeenth century."

The bathhouse next to the well later became an inn and then a game keepers cottage, which was derelict by the 1940's until it was rebuilt as a farm house in the 1980's. However the Holy wells water is still flowing and a pipe from the spring/baths area takes the spring water to an underground chamber where an hydraulic pump supplies the water to the house and other nearby farms, this chamber seems to be an original feature at the site, being a circular stone built shaft about two metres deep with a flight of stone steps leading down into it.

(1)Henry Major, Memorials of Copgrove. 1922.
(2)Edmund Deane, Spadacrene Anglica or the English Spa Fountaine, 1626.
(3)Sir John Floyer, Psuchrolousia, or the history of Cold Bathing, 1702

Access - The well site is on private property.
Condition - Nothing to see, unfortunately, but still hopefully preserved below ground level .