More about wells in Calverley

Visiting Calverley Town Wells

Visiting Calverley Town Wells

Last year I put up a page about Calverley Town Wells which attracted some readers’ comments. One of these, from M. Chappellow, gave the history of the Calverley Spa Well.

My family have lived in Calverley for generations ,
The chalybeate well or waters were first discovered around 1830 whilst digging a coal pit by the Sutcliffe family who dug numerous coal pits in the Shell Lane area of Calverley , there was a bit of a dispute as the Sutcliffes wanted a cut out of it as they found it but so did the Thornhills who owned the land as well as the farmer J Thornton who rented the land then as the actual source of the water ran under Glebe land which is where roughly the Calverley arms hotel is which was then owned by the Vicar or church they wanted a cut out of any money generated ,the story goes that after digging 37 yards into the hillside they came upon a water source that tasted like crab apples .
After about 6 months someone drank the water & died that was the end of that ,
All that’s left now is a damp patch in the middle of the field ,
There was also another well in the next field up just in the dip on Farsley Lane where the millennium way foot path is think that one was called Coates well .
We used to have an old map with the springs & wells of the village.

At the time I was a little unsure of the dating here but I’ve since been doing some more research on the subject and I find that M. Chappellow is right in what s/he says. The confusion is entirely my fault. I had remembered reading an account of a visit to Calverley in The Spas of England by Augustus Bozzi Granville. However I had misread the publication date and thought that Granville’s visit was too early for the date given. It’s not: the book was published in 1841 and so fits in well with the account given by M. Chappellow.

According to Granville, the water tasted like ‘an unripe crab apple – it puckers up the membranes of the mouth’. (This reminds me that there’s a Crab Tree Well at South Crosland near Huddersfield. I’d always assumed that the name derived from a nearby fruit tree. Perhaps it actually got its name from the taste of the water.) Granville was also of the opinion the Calverley would ‘never rise to the rank of a fashionable watering place’…

I also wonder if the spring which formed the abortive spa was known at one time as the Farewell as the Calverley TitheAward  map (which can be searched electronically through the Tracks in Time website) has the field names Farewell Ing and Farewell Close in the area where the chalybeate well is shown on the modern map. Coates Well Close is a little further to the south.

These were not the only wells in Calverley. In his 1988 booklet The History of Town Wells and the Green E. W. Garnett mentions wells in the following locations:

Woodhall Road

West End Road

Above Foxholes

In Calverley Woods

At the bottom of Thornhill Street (often referred to as Well Head or Draw Well)

Of the ones mentioned in the list, I think only Tomblin Well (or Tombling Well) in Calverley Woods now still survives. There is however a large trough at the point where Towngate divides into Calverley and Rodley Lanes (SE 211 367). A little further from the centre of the village on Woodhall Road (at SE 201 354, south of Woodhall itself) there is a recess which once held a pump, but all traces of the pump itself has gone.

Perhaps there are other traces of these old sources of water still to be found in the Calverley district…



4 comments on “More about wells in Calverley

  1. M chappellow says:

    Hello Dave ,
    with regards to some of the other wells & water supplies in Calverley ,
    There was a well & later a fixed hand pump in the field on Farsley lane in the first dip on the left just on from the calverley arms possibly (coats well)

    Filled in Well bottom corner of Rushton street /woodhall road .

    2 wells inside the Thornhill arms pub .

    1 well in the middle of the floor in what was the old smithy (bottom Blacket street & Clarke street ( my father rented the place for around 30 years & i remeber the well getting filled in with rubble from a old interior wall that was demolished in the 1960s .

    Well on the end of the old wash house wall near the foot path from back of old hall to clarke street .

    The well Bottom corner of west end road & Thornhill St. near where the fish & chip shop is collapsed a number of years ago in the 1980s leaving a very large hole which had to be filled in .

    Stock-well which is now just a muddy trickle in the fields just above Foxholes .

    Bull – well in the field just off priesthorpe lane though thats part of Bully syke beck that still flows .

    Fletcher – spring /well in west wood now in the grounds of Champion house that was used by a number of locals living in the Carr farm /houses area of the village (now would be about halfway down Crowther Avenue )even though a small stream ran down the back of the houses most got their drinking water from west wood as it was much better for domestic use, (possibly the clover greaves mills higher above may have contributed to it not been as good as it was before the mill was built ) in the 1830s calverley & the surrounding areas suffered a Cholera epedemic thought caused / spread by locals washing raw wool in the town wells , it was said by my one of my ancesters who lived at carr houses that “non of our lot ever took badly as we never drank water from”t town wells we alas got our water from’t wood springs ” .

    Also he reconed there to be a dew pond in the field where calverley cutting was built through which would be now about halfway along just before the bridge at clara drive ( just wonder if thats what feeds or used to the supply the water to thr horse trough in the wall on Carr rd opposite st Stephens road ?.

    Tomlin well in old calverley wood was also used by the blacksmith & stables for the quarry & was also on one of the ancient footpaths joining up with the Aire valley pathway .

    Another ancient well i heard about was just at the side of the canal towpath in the field not far from Lodge bridge my father had been told by somone that before the Canal was built it was on the origenal footpath that went up through the woods / valley ( possibly known as Dip tha Jug) well .

    Another of the old calverley town wells is now in a private garden that forms the stream that springs out & runs down the side of the scout hut opposite the Thornhill arms pub , though it was made into the Thornhill arms leisure gardens & had a bowling green 150 or so years ago ,before that it was another main source of drinking water for the village & a hand water pump was situated near the bottom end in the private garden which was in place until the mid 1960s , though the stream has no official name i have been told its called scott beck where it re-emerges & joins the stream from the present town wells ( bottom of woodhall road ) in the fields that it now runs into the canal which incidently we always called Red beck as up to the 1980s after it re /springs that part is open culverted with sloping stone sides down the fields before running into the canal , it was always an orange colour until thr 1980s in medeval times the Calverley family were called scott before they changed their family name so possibly takes it name from that ,
    Hope some of this may be of interest to you ,
    Kindest regards martin.

    • daveweldrake says:

      Thanks for that Martin

      Once again it’s been a very interesting and informative communication. It’s going to take time for me to assimilate everything that you’ve mentioned here. In the meantime here are a few initial thoughts:

      In her book Historic Wells of Bradford (1994). Val Shepherd lists a well in West Wood which she describes as ‘almost totally enclosed in a flat-topped stone chamber built around natural rocks’. She also mentions a shelf inside that people could sit on. Is this the one you refer to as Fletcher Spring or a different one?

      Your mention of cholera reminds me that we should not be over-romantic about these old springs and wells. Many places suffered from outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhus in the 1800s and early 1900s: it was one of the main reasons for town councils needing to expand the supply of piped water from a secure source.

      I’m surprised at this story of locals washing their raw wool in the Town Wells. I’d have thought that there were local by-laws against it. It’s also more common to associate disease with second-hand clothes, rather than the wool itself. In stories of the Plague, for example, it’s often the case that the disease is said to have been introduced into a community via second-hand clothes. The most famous example is at Eyam in Derbyshire, but similar stories exist elsewhere.

      • M chappellow says:

        Hello again Dave ,
        In your last post you metioned Val Shepards book on the wells of Bradford,
        The old well house in West wood of calverley is still in situ & still gives a good flow of water ,
        incididently my Grandfather had to use the well all day long when he was employed in the west wood as gardeners boy in 1910 until 1920 mr Kelk head gardener lived in the now ruined gardener / coachmans cottage ajoining the well which was in the the grounds of Ferncliffe house (now (champion house )before the mansion house was built in the 1850s it was a good clean water supply for that side of the village though the west wood which was then made out of bounds to the general public . The well itself later became a dread for the servant staff the owner of Ferncliffe house then a Mr Foster at that time wouldent let any of the servent staff use of any of the normal water taps in the mansion house for their own personal use & were made to go down the 100 or so stone steps into the wood & to gain water from the well. Worse for my grandad as 10 year old he had the job of carrying watering cans all day long from that well to water the gardens at the mansion house at the top of the wood on Clara drive .
        The well still has a stone slab on-top & a shallow sump to deepen the depth to make it easier to dip a bucket in where it springs , but the old wooden door has long gone , the water flow would have originally run down the natural incline & into Carr beck but when Ferncliffe house was built a small Lilly pond was constructed just below the spring with the water flowing from the well into that ,that then in turn ran into a much larger ( now empty lake ) . When the lake was finally drained in the 1950s the Lilly pond inlet was dammed up causing the water from the well to now run down the main track & bypass the lake .
        Kindest regards Martin .

      • daveweldrake says:

        Thanks once again for the information, Martin
        You paint a vivid picture for what life must have been like for your grandfather when he was a boy. I don’t think I’d want to have to carry buckets of water up and down those steps all day!

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