Excavations this weekend
Clark Spring Wood is a small area of residual woodland in Churwell on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). Churwell Environmental Volunteers, a local voluntary group, have been working hard there to put in new paths and to provide pond dipping facilities and other amenities for the public to enjoy. While they were carrying out this work they discovered what appear to be two small troughs where springs emerge into the open. Their date is uncertain though I would guess at late 18th/ early 19th century. We are going to have a small excavation there this weekend to see if we can find out one way or the other.
A confusion of wells and springs
I was asked if the two water features might be the reason that Clark Spring Wood was given its name. Many people think on similar lines. Unfortunately it’s not correct. A spring in this context is not a water source but the new growth that springs up when trees are coppiced (cut down to a stump). Coppicing was a common form of woodland management which enabled a regular harvest of timber to be taken from the woodland. The thin poles which spring up this way could be used for a variety of purposes including the making of broom handles or charcoal.
Oddly enough the adjacent area of Springfield probably does get its name from the fact that a spring of water rises there. It the last century it was dammed to form the millpond for Springfield Mills.
The mill has long gone but the remains of the dam have been converted into an attractive pond in Springfield Park.
And if all that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s the question of where was the spring which gave its name to the township as a whole? (The name means something on the lines of peasants’ well.)Was it the beck which rises at Springfield and runs through Clark Spring Wood? Or a different well? I guess we’ll never know. There are some problems that even archaeology can’t solve.