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 Post subject: St Ethelburga's Well, Lyminge, Kent
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 11:18 pm 
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Pictures available on my blog: http://nwiarchive.blogspot.com/

Go to google maps for a good aerial view. Just type in Lyminge as the green arrow appears in the centre of the crossroads to the NNW of the site. Follow the road down through right of picture to the SSE and you will find a thin path leading to a square structure on the right side of the road. The church is clearly visible on the other side of the road, to the SSW of the well.

I have visited this site only once in passing and stopped there only for approximately twenty minutes. Without any background knowledge I am therefore only able to post observations unsupported as yet by research.

The village website, Lyminge online, (http://www.lyminge.org.uk/backissues
/sep98.html) states that the well celebrated its centenary in September 1998, for which extensive restoration work was carried out. Presumably, as the village Church, dedicated to St Mary and St Ethelburga has fabric extant from the tenth century, and as St Ethelburga was the seventh century wife of King Edwin of Northumbria (http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/
ethelburgalyming.html), this was the centenary of the construction of the Victorian drinking water pump on top of the holy well and perhaps an indicator of its lack of religious significance in the nineteenth century.

The Church is nearby, approximately three to five minute's walk, at the centre of the village, at the highest point, and is adjacent to once of the many Archbishop's palaces in Kent. The well lies on the spring line at the base of this higher ground. The church is located to the west-south-west of the well.

The well is located on a bend in the main road through the village and is on the right side if once approaches from Folkestone, that is approximately from the SSE. Unfortunately, the Victorian water pump, or 'wellhead' as the village website hopefully puts it in an attempt to find some redeeming feature in an excrescence of the industrial age, almost completely hides the well itself and the bars which prevent access to the water prevent the visitor from properly viewing or photographing the earlier structure. The glowering and oppressive pump house also prevents any light from reaching the well which is consequently foetid, stagnant, and malodorous. As this wholly secular structure is neither rare, being no more than a commonplace drinking water pump built in a workaday and functional style is both hideously ugly and has completely hidden the holy well beneath it is difficult to understand why the villagers wished to celebrate its centenary and why they did not instead tear it down and restore the holy well in order to make a far more agreeable and genuinely historical tourist attraction/sacred site.

It is also important to note that the well is the source of the Nailbourne River, which becomes the Little Stour at Littlebourne, and which eventually flows into the Great Stour, the river that flows through Canterbury . Between Elham and Bishopsbourne, this river flows underground for most of the year and can disappear for several years in dry conditions. The creation of the well is attributed to Augustine of Canterbury in local folklore who was said to have struck his staff on drought stricken land in order to make water flow and deter the locals from the worship of Woden and Thor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nailbourne).* It seems most probable that the periodic disappearance of the river postdates its usage for drinking water, with over abstraction in times of drought bearing consequences further downstream.

This site may have been restored in 1997 but shows little evidence of attention since that date. The pump house is filled with litter and debris from the road, while the base, where the well can be seen through iron bars, is overgrown with nettles. The red-brick outer or rear wall of the structure, away from the road, facing ENE, has been tagged by a graffitist.

The open area to the ENE of the well is a recreation ground, called Tayne Field. At the far side of this there is an extremely clear and clean-looking stream with a gravelly/sandy bed across which stepping stones afford a crossing. It is impossible to date these by casual observation. The notion that they once provided pilgrims with access to the well is certainly not unfeasible especially when the proximity of the Saxon Church and Archbishop's palace are taken into account. There are numerous tracks in this area which are said to have been used by Pilgrims.

This site is certainly worth some serious research and I shall undertake this as soon as possible. I believe that documenting the history of this site thoroughly to increase usefulness of its value might lend weight to a campaign to have something done to have it maintained better and maybe to have the holy well somehow made plainly visible and distinct from the Victorian drinking water pump - even if this can be done by somehow leaving the latter standing, as it is a perverse source of local pride.

* Yes I know that I cited Wikipedia in an academic context. Deal with it.


Last edited by Heliodorus on Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:26 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 11:41 pm 
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you know you make an interesting point with the striking of the water from the ground with a staff legend. how many times is this legend cited in relation to a Well in its various attributes. For example, striking water from the ground. also praying for water and a spring bursting forth. A spring coming forth from where a person falls dead, or more pagan still, where a head falls. Or even springs starting when a relic is placed on the ground aka holywell which is discussed somewhere here. Not really a folkloric arena of pagan Christian belief ;)

Also Wikipedia academic? Hmm novel...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:07 am 
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Yes, this notion of water springing from the ground after a particular kind of contact from a saint is a very common origin legend. St Winifride's well is one of the most well known of course. Alas, it is too late on a Sunday to go into this one in detail but I shall try to pursue it further another time. It is almost certainly the case though that such stories predate Christianity, and that their association with saints represents the updating of folklore or mythology to ease people's passage into the new religion. Examples to follow when I can. From proper books, with bindings and all. And dust. And dead flies. Not from Wikipedia. Promise.

Still, I had to begin somewhere and at least I've posted now :twisted: Twice today in fact :twisted:


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:11 am 
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LOL Wikipedia ahh the stories I could tell... none of them good.

Cool posts Helio, I think they total to more text than all mine put together. Another one for the record, Jesus Well St Minver Cornwall, a very good example of the rock bringing forth a spring after being smote as 'Moses smote the rock of Horeb'.


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 Post subject: Another saint's head/planting of staff well origin story
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 8:41 pm 
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This one in Source, in one of the articles in the bibliography:

http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living- ... fs9ld1.htm

Article is heavily New Age, I'm afraid, but clearly some careful reading has been done.

This article by a scholar of the University of Wales, Bangor is also from Source and provides some useful general information on this widespread origin legend:

http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living- ... ns1ne1.htm


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:11 pm 
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i run the risk of sidelining this topic so to keep it on track I say Tissington where the well dressings were offered as thanks for water pouring forth in springs from the ground at a time of drought.

that said, I like nancy's call to catalogue sites and enter them into an NMR. I wholly agree with this logic with two qualifiers. Firstly, yes but then expect hoards of MDs to turn up every weekend looking for Golden calfs and the like. And secondly, has she tried to enter data on an NMR recently. yeah its easy if your an archaeologist, but if not, good luck with the EH guidelines. Now if you found a coin somewhere in the adjacent county then there are PAS's tripping over themselves to get your data.

Again just my opinion.


Last edited by rik_na1 on Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Wells, heads, and staff-strikes
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:57 pm 
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This is an informative and well illustrated article from Source on severed heads and holy wells in Yorkshire.

http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living- ... ns5ew1.htm

The following article also contains some useful insights into the notion of wells and springs flowing from ground struck by a Saint's staff:

Holy Wells and Climatic Change
N. J. G. Pounds
Folklore, Vol. 54, No. 1. (Mar., 1943), pp. 262-264.

Those who can access jstor can read or download it here:
Stable URL:
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0015-5 ... 0.CO%3B2-N

I happen to have a scan of this article if anyone would like me to email it to them and I have made a pdf of this available on my blog: http://nwiarchive.blogspot.com
(Scanned from 'Folklore' 54 hard-copy, Jstor please note)
The classmark of this journal in academic libraries is per HL 1.F6

I would be interested to hear what members of this forum think of the author's hypothesis that this particular widespread origin story informs us about climatic conditions of severe and prolonged doubt in the early middle ages. This article is old but does cite hagiographies and annals. He also presents relevant information from the meteorologists of the 1940s and earlier and also draws support from land snail analysis. Does the modern science support Pounds or discredit him?

I also find his rational explanation of the phenomena convincing - the saints simply knew from experience which wells were likely to continue flowing. If their period was indeed a very dry one then such the skill of recognising them from landscape features and geology would have been important to learn and pass on.


As to the off topic aside of cataloguing wells on an NMR, you are right to be concerned about the hoard of MDs it would attract. This is all very well at sites like the Black Prince's Well where any MD would get a stiff argument from the groundsman or the sacristan, but many wells are completely unattended and therefore unprotected from predation from Golden Calf hunters and deluded MDs clutching a tattered copy of Dan Brown's great work.


Last edited by Heliodorus on Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:01 pm 
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Yeah not convinced. Without going off on my rant about global flooding and folklore, dont get me started, I would say that although we cant prove environmental factors were not important, obviously they were because springs were a source of water that we know were adopted by early religious and none religious communities alike for ritual and non ritual functions, this does not mean we should interpret stories about them in a literal sense.

To suggest this function is recorded in folklore is tenous. firstly the recording of water being struck from the ground is not wholly, and indeed if at all based in the 5th-7th centuries. The article author clearly believes folklore existed at the same time as the Saint being discussed which is wholly improbable, because, for a start many 'striking the water stories are phases of longer Saint 'legends' that are retrosepctive, often written [a long time] after the Saints death, a pre-eminent example being St keyne.

A further criticism is that this legend applies as readily to secular and later figures as it does Saints. It applies throughout the Medieval period, some 500-1000 years later, when surely climatic conditions are different. Again such stories also involve head iconography, a probable throw back to the IA and perhaps before, when there actually was climate change as it happens, such as in the St Nectan legends. So no, I dont think the canon of stories applied to early Saints is recording real climatic events.

If I was to guess at the meaning of these stories I would say and this is an educated guess, that it was cultural ownership, the use of Christian association to change a pagan cult legend to increase the popularity and power of the early Christian church that was none too picky about how their teachings related to the Nicean creed.


Last edited by rik_na1 on Tue Sep 18, 2007 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 11:17 pm 
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in fact here are Helios pics

Image

Image

Image


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:41 pm 
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I am sure I saw this same well described as St. Eadburg's Well on a pcard from 1911. Interesting name change?


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 Post subject: St Eadburg changes to St Ethelberga
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:06 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
I am sure I saw this same well described as St. Eadburg's Well on a pcard from 1911. Interesting name change?


I don't know the date of the name change, but I have have found out the the well was dedicated to St Eadburg in 1870:

http://www.kent-opc.org/Parishes/Lyminge.html

And prior to that, in 1799:
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report ... mpid=63461

So, the well has clearly been St Eadburg's Well for longer than it has been St Ethelburga's Well.

Have looked into this name change a little and found the following essay by someone at the University of Kent, which provides some background:

http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/classics/Tem ... yminge.htm

Essentially, Lyminge is associated with both Ethelberga and with Eadburg. St Eadburg's relics may have been translated there from Minster-in-Thanet in the C8th, along with those of St Mildreth, to protect them from Viking raids on the coast. However, this claim is not substantiated.

Ethelberga was earlier, and was said to have founded a monastery at Lyminge in AD633, having received a land grant from King Eadbald who was her brother. Ethelberga was the daughter of Ethelbert of Kent, whose marriage and conversion to his wife's religion - Christianity - occasioned the mission of St Augustine in AD597. This claim cannot be proven either.

There are many associations with Augustine in this area, including one in which he made a spring flow by striking the ground with his staff, like many other saints.

Three things to note.
Firstly, I will look into the name change more thoroughly, and what follows is speculation. My thoughts on this rededication are pure and simple: that it was probably driven by a desire to draw visitors into the village of Lyminge or at least to better exploit passing trade. Civic pride and an eye to posterity may also have played some part. St Ethelberga is well known and associated with Augustine, Ethelbert, and therefore with the introduction of Catholic Christianity into England in AD597 under the direction of Pope Gregory the Great. St Eadburg is one of at least seven Anglo Saxon saints with that name, of varying degrees of obscurity and more often than not local to Mercia, rather than Kent. In short, Lyminge was rather tenuously associated with two saints, and at some point in the C20th, the holy well there was rededicated to the most famous and best connected of these.

Secondly, the parish Church has undergone a similar rededication as the well, sometime between 1799 and present day (see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report ... mpid=63461). The church is now dedicated to SS Mary and Ethelberga. In 1799 it was dedicated to 'St. Mary and St. Eadburgh.'

The renaming of both well and church may simply be an issue of consistency, with ensuring that both of the ancient sacred monuments in the parish bore the same saintly associations. This change might reflect the preferences, antiquarianism, or theology of a local rector, or might have stemmed from a belief that having stopped off at the well, visitors would be very likely to go and see a church also dedicated to Ethelberga, and therein leave their donations. Excuse my cyncism all, but previous research into local history has shown me that as often as not such changes are motivated by economic factors, as rural people do need to make a living from the resources available to them.

The decision may also have come from higher up in the Church of England, for reasons covered by both 1 and 2 above or some other policy decision. Maybe this particular Eadburg is no longer a recognised saint.

The third, is the clever use of shading in the postcard to disguise the fact that the 1897 well house depicted is actually a hideous red-brick structure, designed to allow the use of a village pump for domestic water supply, which was drawn from the well proper, some 3 metres below. Prior to 1897 the well was an open spring at the foot of the road's retaining wall.

As I have said elsewhere, the fact that the locals saw fit to convert their holy well into a source of domestic water in such a blatant and insensitive way (see photos above in this thread and at ARC), to commerorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, indicates that they did not seem to venerate the site or attach any religious significance to it at all. The would probably not therefore have had any scruples about changing the dedication from one saint to another when it suited them to do so.

I will, however, attempt to find more on this name-change, to flesh out, or maybe refute, the above speculation. As the name change of the well, and perhaps that of the Church, has occurred sometime between 1911 and present it should not be too difficult to find some documents that explain it. Sounds like a good excuse to visit the Cathedral Library here in Canterbury, and also to get down to Lyminge again.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:46 am 
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rik_na1 wrote:
I am sure I saw this same well described as St. Eadburg's Well on a pcard from 1911. Interesting name change?


This postcard is now safely in the NWI collection. It has been uploaded to our image archive, the ARC site, and can be viewed here:

http://arc.nationalwellsindex.org.uk/di ... m=3&pos=11

The card has been through the mail - but is in excellent condition. Unfortunately the message on the back is not related to the well, or even to Lyminge, and sheds no light on the well or when the sender went there (or even if they have been to Lyminge.'

However, it is an excellent image of the well and its immediate surroundings shortly after the construction of the roadside pump house in 1897.

I reduced the resolution and size of the image to meet ARC guidelines and reduce download speeds to users. So, if anyone wants a high-res (300dpi or greater) and full size copy then let me know and I'll email it to you.


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