St Helen's Well, Eshton

I called at St Helen’s well near Eshton, recently. Unlike most ancient wells, with their stagnant water offering generous doses of cholera and typhoid fever, St Helen’s is one of the liveliest natural springs I have seen. The pool was bubbling and gushing up new water each second. I was tempted to go and drink, but the cold January clime persuaded me that a misplaced foot would garner a watery grave.

The earliest reference to it dates to the 1420s, and a little chapel was situated in the field opposite. The well, being natural, was obviously older than the church, though it had probably been a site for worship much longer, too. In the 1893 Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Robert Hope writes that ‘this well was a certain cure for sore and weak eyes.’ I can well imagine the medieval partially-sighted journeying to this spring in the hope of recovering- or just preserving- their precious sight. I doubt it had any effect other than placebo, but their sincerity cannot be doubted. In the scriptures, quaffing Christ’s water and seeing with His light are both pictures of salvation. This well saves and cures no-one, but the great Saviour of whom it may be a picture, certainly does.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14