Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Bottomless Well. Updated Information on Angus Wells

   Since I last wrote something about wells in Angus, new information has come my way.  Most importantly was my own mistake, repeated several times, that Corryvannoch Well was on Mount Keen, when in fact it is on Mount Blair. 'Well done' to Kevin Greig for pointing out this glaring error, which somehow crept into my first post on wells and was subsequently repeated.  Kevin is incidentally responsible for the excellent Stanes Wi Names website which examines known named stones on the Glenisla area.

Nineteenth Century Renaissance of Wells

During the 19th century several wells and springs in Angus (and of course elsewhere) were saved from neglect by local lairds or other dignitaries in the community after sometimes centuries of decline.  At the Reformation wells were no longer seen by the authorities as places where people could rightfully resort to for health, pilgrimage or other semi-religious reasons.  Many local people would naturally have thought otherwise and continued to go to these places without sanction of the kirk.  But the special aura of many of these places was diminished and many places were eventually no longer visited if not entirely forgotten.  But because wells in Angus generally had no elaborate architecture surrounding them, they survived intact the destruction which was inflicted on ecclesiastical buildings by protestant mobs.

   In the 18th century there was some revival in the idea that certain water sources had healing value, though the reasons for this were likely to be understood as scientific and not superstitious.  Few springs in Angus however aspired to being full-blown spas or were promoted as such.  There was perhaps a lack of upper class clientele sufficient to promote such places.  Later rejuvenation of wells came about partly as a recognition that these places - stripped of religious significance now - still represented a link with the culture of the past.  The concept of beauty spots came into being, along with the idea that it was healthy and beneficial to go to quiet and restful country locations, if only for a little while, to escape the growing hurly-burly of increasingly industrialised town and city centres.

   One of the first wells to have a face lift was St Causnan's at Dunnichen.  Unfortunately the patriotic fervour of George Dempster got the better of his common sense and he attempted to re-name the spring Camperdown Well after Admiral Duncan's famous victory over the Dutch.  Elsewhere however the old wells survived with their names and dignity intact and their makeovers consisted sometimes with a discreet addition of a plaque, or just clearing away obscuring vegetation.  
   One such rescue mission at a well site in the Victorian era was undertaken at the Hays Well, Arbroath,  The well was named after former meadow lands east of the Abbey of Arbroath, which contained water renowned for healing properties which 'many a fevered invalid longed [for].'  It was described by J McBain in Arbroath: Past and Present (1887), 35-37:

Within the last year it has undergone a considerable change.  Around the old well an area of two acres has been generously gifted by the young laird of Tarrie.  This ground was laid out as a miniature park in order to provide work for the unemployed during the previous winter... The cistern, being underground, is invisible.  It was opened about forty years ago, had all the appearance of having been built at the same time as the Abbey, and was evidently used as a reservoir for supplying that ancient institution with water.
   Years previous to this late Victorian re-ordering, the site had been renovated to some extent by local man William Souter.  In 1841 a structure, replacing older building work, was placed around the well, funded by public subscription.  But either some locals or the tutelary guardian of the well itself objected to Souter's tampering and removed a statue of the goddess Flora from a lintel above the door of his house and placed it on the well.  The criminal responsible was never apprehended.

   Hays Well also became part of that other great 19th century pastime of scientific investigation.  Dr Brown included the well into a long study of the temperatures of spring wells.  He found that the Hays Well water varied in temperature throughout the year, as did the majority of wells he studied. However, the water at Silverwells and the Nolt Loan Well stayed constant.

   McBain also reports that the condition of the Mossy Well at Arbroath caused indignation in the local press in 1850 and suggestions were made to dignify it with an enclosure.  A third well in the area which became appreciated as a beauty spot in the era was the Ladle Well, near Horologe Hill.


Updated List of Angus Wells

The list below has been added to and changed slightly since the last published list.  As before, names in square brackets denote locations of wells, not their specific names.  Wells new to this list are in italics and underlined.  

Some of the new information derives from Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticae, volume 6 (1925). There is still no claim that this represents a comprehensive list of all wells in Angus.

1. Aberneathan Well, two miles NW of Kirriemuir.  Possibly from the Pictish personal name Nechtan,  either St Nechtan or King Nechtan?

2. Agricola Well.  At Castleton, Eassie, a reputed Roman site; supposed to have been named by locals after the Roman general, but more probably given the name by a local antiquary.

3. [Balmossie Den], near Broughty Ferry.

4. Barrel Well, Brechin.

5. Batties Well, Haughead, Arbirlot.

6. Battle Well, Battle Drum, Montreathmont Moor, Brechin.

7. Beardie’s Well, Brechin. A well which was on the north side of the Nether Wynd in Brechin, supposedly the property of the Earls of Crawford.  This well was therefore supposed to be linked with Alexander, the 4th Earl of Crawford, one of whose nicknames was Beardie.

8. Bell’s Witter, Clach of Glentaire, Clova.

9. [Benvie]  Well haunted by the White Lady since plague times. The well, at one time, was called 'The Medicine Well', though this may not have been its 'official' name.

10. Blackshank Well, near Aucharroch, Kingoldrum.  Marked as ‘chalybeate’ on maps.

11.  Blind Well, Kingoldrum.  One of the earliest attested wells in the county.  This name appears in a document of 1458 from Arbroath Abbey and has the equivalent Gaelic name Tybyrnoquhyg.  Adam Watson reckons this refers to water ‘out of sight due to vegetation’.  The later form of the name was Tipperwhig, though the English and Gaelic names may not in face be equivalents, in which case there is a chance that Tybyrnoquhyg/Tipperwhig comes from Tobar na Cubhaig, well of the cuckoo.

12. Bradwell, Kettins.  Warden, Angus or Forfarshire, vol 4, points out that there is a charter dated 1292-3 in which a charter of about 1292-3, in which Hugh of Over, Lord of Ketenes, granted ‘his well in his lands and Abthenage of Ketenes, called Bradwell, with its aqueduct bounded, and servitude of watergage" to the Abbey of Cupar’. This was also called Bride’s Well, near the Stoneye Cottages to the east of the Dundee - Coupar Angus Road. The water travelled to theAbbey by an aqueduct and  fed into ponds containing fish.

13. Bra Well, Stracathro.  According to Alexander Warden, Angus or Forfarshire, volume 5, this was also known as Braul’s  Well and St Brude’s Well.  But it had been ‘drained long ago’.  It seems more likely the name is derived from St Rule than Brude, though the latter presents more intriguing possibilities.

14.  Camperdown or Cammerdown Well, Dunnichen.  This was renamed after  the late 18th century naval encounter won by Duncan of Lundie. It was originally St Causnan’s Well (there was a St Causnan’s Chapel nearby.)  Causnan again is a colloquial form of Constantine.  Local dignitary George Dempster took it upon himself to give the spring its new name following the battle.

15. Camp Well, near the site of supposed Roman site at Campmuir, Kettins.

16. Cardinal’s Well, south of Lownie Hill, near Dunnichen.  Local tradition says it was named after Cardinal Beaton, who favoured this spot.  The cardinal is also associated with many castles in Angus. It was said that the water from the well was conveyed for some special use at Arbroath Abbey, which makes no sense as there was an abundant source of water closer to the abbey.  However, it may reflect  a lingering, if muddled, tradition of the special powers inherent in the water here.

17. Carlin Well, Craigton of Airlie.  Now vanished and named after the Cailleach, the Old Hag of Scottish Folklore. Adjacent is Carlinwell Farm.

18. Cartyheugh Well, Kelly Den, St Vigeans.

19. Cattle Well, Lochmill, near Kirriemuir.

20. Chapel Well, near Whitemire, Aberlemno.

21. College Well, St Michael’s Mount, Brechin.

22. Corryvannoch Well, on the slopes of Mount Blair.  The most famous healing well in Angus where pilgrimages would be made and sick children carried.

23. Craig Well, Lundie.

24. Crew Well, near Auchtertyre, Newtyle.

25. Cuttle Well, the Den, Kirriemuir.  One of the more conspicuous and best loved wells in Angus, it has been damaged in recent times by land slips and is ripe for restoration.

26, 27. Docken Well, Glen Quharity.  Also called Dockan Well, Docan Well, Docken Wall.  There is a nearby East Docken Well (also on the slopes of Cat Law).

28. Dripping Well, Arbroath.

29. Droustie’s Well, Lochlee, near the home of the Dark Age saint.  Also, more formally known as St Drostan’s Well.  It was located in a field named ‘Piper’s Shade’ and cured all sorts of diseases.  When some jealous healers poisoned the well some locals stones them to death and buried them in a circle around the spring.

30. Duckladge Well, Lintrathen.

31. Dundas Well, Pitlivie Moor, Arbirlot.

32. Falcon Well, Glen Quharity.

33. God’s Well, Arbirlot.

34. Golan Well, Auchenchapel, Glen Isla. 

[Hangie’s Well, Cargill.  This is a  dubious example, cited by Andrew Jervise in Memorials of Angus and the Mearns, in that Cargill is in Perthshire and not Angus (so we won't count it), though Jervise states that it may have been in Angus once.  The well was on the property of a local hangman and, when it was excavated, a large number of human bones were found here.  So good a tale that we forgive the Perthshire-ness of the location.]

35. Hassock Well, North Whitehills, Forfar.

36. Helly Well, near Shelterfield, Arbirlot.

37. Hays Well, Arbroath. 

38. Hen Well, east of Finavon Hill.  Note nearby place-name Henwellburn.

39. Hogg’s Well, Fairy Knowe, Dunnichen

40. Holy Well, Balnaboth, Cortachy.  Near ancient church ruins.

41. Holy Well, Broughty Ferry.

42. Hore Well, Lundie.

43. Horse Well, Smithton Hill, Lundie.

44. Iron Harrow Well, south of Hayston Hill, Tealing.

45 Jenkin’s Well, in Balrownie Wood, Menmuir.

46. King’s Well, Carmyllie.

47. King’s Well, Newtyle, north-west of Newbigging.

48. [Kirkden Well] renowned for reducing swelling in feet and legs.

49. Knellock Well,  Gallows Hill, Inverarity.

50. Lady Well, Auchterhouse.

51. Ladle Well, Arbroath.  Possibly once Lady Well?

52. Lady Well, Brechin.

53. Lady Well, Dundee.  Perpetuated in the name of the pub Ladywell Tavern and in the Wellgate, Dundee.  ‘The Well of the Blessed Marie de Dundee’ was a holy site in the medieval burgh and was one of the primary water sources for the city until it was demolished on the construction of Victoria Road in 1872.

54. Lady Well, Farnell.

55. Lady Well, Chapelton, Menmuir.

[Note also the place-name Ladlewell, east of Forfar:  possibly another corruption of Lady Well?]

56. Lammer Well, St Vigeans.(Same as Lanuner Well?)

57. [Logie-Pert]  well in kirk-yard, used to treat sores.

58. Lunan Well, Lunanhead Forfar.

59. McComie’s Well, Glen Isla.

60. Madie's Well, on the banks of the Lunan, Kinnell.  Nearby was Madie's Heugh.  Possibly a corruption of parish patron St Maelrubha (or other wise Magdalen?).

61. Maid’s Well,  Rescobie.  Possibly connected with St Triduana who once reputedly lived here.

62. Marywell, Craig parish (anciently Inchbrayoch), close to the coastal village of Usan.

63. Mary Well, Kirriemuir.  Recalled in the local name Marywell  Brae.

64. Mary’s Well, Edzell.

65. Mary’s Well, St Vigeans.

66. Matty’s Well, Panbride.

67. May’s Well, Dunnichen.

68. Medicine Well, Idvies, also known as Medicie Well.

69. Medicine Well, Montrose.  This was, for a short spell in the 18th century, a fashionable spa.

70. Meg Blair’s Well, Lochlee.

71. Monk’s Pool, Kirkton, Lochlee.

72. Monk’s Well, St Vigeans.

73. Monks Well, Glen Isla, Corryvannoch.

74. Mossy Well, Arbroath.

75. Murdiewell, Glamis, place-name.

76. Murleywell, Eassie, farm name.

77. Naughty Well, Kinnell.  Is this a colloquial corruption of an older (Celtic?) name?   The well was close to the ancient chapel of Bolshan.

78. Neil's Well, near the kirk of Kingoldrum. Note nearby place-name Kennyneil.

79. Nettle Well, near Edzell.

80. Newton’s Well, Glen Isla.

81. Nickie’s Well, Witchwood, St Vigeans.

82. Nine Maidens’ Well, Bracken Bruach, Auchterhouse.

83. Ninewells, Dundee.  Close to the River Tay, on the west of the city.  Now commemorated as the name of the largest hospital in the region.

84. Nine Wells, Finavon.  On the hill above the old kirk.  A burn trickles down from the spot.

85. Nine Maiden’s Well, Forfar.  Located in the vicinity of Craig O’ Loch Road.

86. Nine Maiden’s Well, Kirkton of Strathmartine.  Near the kirk, this is importantly in the vicinity of the folk-tale of Martin and the Nine Maidens.

87. Nine Maiden's Well, Cortachy.  Near the church.

88. Nine Wells, Glamis.  The supposed home of the Nine Maidens, in Glen Ogilvy, was located within Glamis parish.

89. Nine Wells, close to Peallock Quarry, Lunan.

90. Nine Wells, Oathlaw (latterly Finavon parish).

91.  Nolt Loan Well, Arbroath.

92. Our Lady’s Well, Edzell. 

93. Our Lady’s Well, Glenisla. (The church was dedicated to St Mary.)

94. Our Lady’s Well, Milton of Carmyllie.

95. Our Lady’s Well, Oathlaw (Finavon).

96. Pater Well, near Deerpark Cottage, Kinnaird.

97. Paterlochwell, near Cottarward, Dunnichen.

98. Peatmire Well, Black Wood, Arbirlot.

99. Purdie’s Well, near Ochterlony, Rescobie.

100. Queen’s Well, Glenmark, Lochlee.  Re-named in honour of Queen Victoria, but originally named Tobar na clachan gualaich, the well of the white Stone.

101. Raistane Well, Kingoldrum.  Another well which is mentioned in a document of Arbroath Abbey, 1458.

102. St Aidan’s Well, Fern.

103. St  Aidan’s Well, Kirkton of Menmuir.

104. St  Andrew’s Well, Monikie.

105. St Andrew’s Well, Lintrathen.

106. St Anthony’s Well, Auchterhouse.  On Henderson Hill, marked as ‘disused’ on modern maps.

107. St Bride’s Well, Kettins. (Kettins church also dedicated to St Bride.)

108. St Bride’s Well, Templeton, Newtyle.

109. St Columba’s Well, Shielhill, Kirriemuir.

110. St Fergus’ Well, Glamis.

111. St Innen’s Well, Fern.  Located in a place named Wellford.

112. St Iten’s Well, Menmuir.  The name is probably a corruption of Aidan, the patron of Memuir parish.  

113. St John’s Well, Guynd.

114. St Kane’s Well, Monifieth.

115. St Laurence, Edzell.  (Edzell church dedicated to this saint.)

116. St Madden’s Well, Airlie. Also called St Medan’s Well.

117. St Martin’s Well, Bridgend, Lethnot.

118. St Martin’s Well, St Martin’s Den, Logie.  Famous for curing scurvy.

119. St Mary’s Well, Arbroath. 

120. St Mary’s Well, Lethnot.  Silver coins were found in this well (in the 18th or 19th century?), reckoned to be pre-Reformation votive offerings.

121. The Mary Well, Lintrathen, adjacent to The Mary Well Park, a field name.

122. St Mary’s Well, Oathlaw. Near  the top of the Gallow Path, near Oathlaw.

123. St Mary’s Well, Rescobie.

124. St Medan’s Well, Kingoldrum.  (The church was also dedicated to this saint.)

125. St Medan’s Well, Glamis.

126. St Medan’s Well, Oathlaw (latterly Finavon).

127. St Murdoch’s Well, West Drum, Brechin.

128. St Ninian’s Well, Arbroath.

129. St Ninian’s, Mains (formerly Strathdichty).

130. St Ouret’s Well, Brechin, on the North Esk near the Stannochy Bridge.  This is a name without parallel.  Paul T Hornby notes similarites to a similar Basque surname and the Gaelic word ùruisg (, but its uniqueness and lack of documentary parallels means this is very much a mystery.

131. St Peter's Well, Tealing.

132. St Ringan’s Well, Arbirlot. (or St Ninian’s Well.)

133. St Sinavy’s Well, or Sunny Vie, near Mains Castle, Dundee.

134. St Trodlin’s Well, Rescobie.  Named after Triduana.

135. St Vivian’s Well, Fern.

136. Scots Well, Lochee.

137. Scotston Well, Auchterhouse.

138. Seggie Well, Carmylie.

139. Silver Hill, St Vigeans. Note place-name Silverwells.

140. Sinruie Well, Kirkden (formerly Idvies). Corrupted from St Maelrubha.  The well was also known as St Malrubh

141. Sod’s Well, east of Grange of Conon, St Vigeans.

142. Springwells, St Vigeans, place-name north of Silverwells.

143. Tannie's Well, Kinnell.  Another well whose name may be a corruption of an older name.

144. The Timber Clach, place-name in  Glen Isla.  May possibly derive from An Tiobair Chlaich, the well of stones, though there is not currently a well here. (Place-names in Much of North-east Scotland, Adam Watson, London 2013.)

145. Tobar a Chinn, GlenIsla.  Well of the Head.

146. Todcairn Well, Glen Esk.

Lady visitor at Todcairn Well, 1910.

147. Tothel Well, West Mill, Dunnichen.

148. The Tottler, Milton of Conon, Carmyllie.

149. Well of Bowhale, Glen Isla.  Name from Gaelic buachaille, herdsman.

150. Whey Wells, Fern.

151.  Witch’s Pool, Kirriemuir.

152.  Wormiehills Well.  Well and place-name near Arbroath.

You may wish to consult these previous published posts on wells:

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