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The Wonderful Ladies' Well in the Heart of Northumberland

The Wonderful Ladies' Well in the Heart of Northumberland Fiona Malkin @ringnetter

"Near the spot where the Roman road to High Rochester crossed the Coquet was a holy stone where a missionary preached the gospel; and in his footsteps a little community of nuns who built a priory near a sacred spring which to this day is called the Ladies' Well.

It is a big basin of clear water in an enclosure surrounded by tall beeches, and from it springs a swift sparkling stream which flows rapidly between the banks of greenest grass. In 1780 the pool was given a rim of masonry, and in the middle was raised a tall stone cross with an inscription perpetuating the doubtful legend that " In this place Paulinus the bishop baptised 30000 Northumbrians. Easter 627." At one end of the pool stands a moss-covered statue of Paulinus brought from Alnwick, and at the other are two stone supports bearing an altar named the Holy Stone.

The Wonderful Ladies Well in the Heart of northumberland Fiona Malkin @ringnetter
Statue of Bishop Paulinus

The Wonderful Ladies' Well in the Heart of Northumberland Fiona malkin @ringnetter
Statue of Bishop Paulinus standing to west of the pool with the stone cross in the centre of the pool

In 1291 there were 27 nuns here, with four lay brothers, three chaplains and a master. A few years later, when Bruce was devastating the northern counties, we find the Bishop of Durham writing that:

The house, situated in the march of England and Scotland, by reason of the hostile incursions which daily and continually increase, is frequently despoiled of its goods, and the nuns themselves are often attacked by the marauders, harmed and pursued and put to flight and driven from their home, and are constrained miserably to experience bitter suffering. Wherefore we make these things known to you, that you may compassionate their poverty, which is increased by the memory of happier things, and that your pity and benevolence may be shown them, lest (to the disgrace of their estate) they be forced to beg."

The above excerpt was taken from the King England Northumberland by Arthur Mee first published in 1952. Today this lovely ancient spring is still surrounded by beech trees, but an earlier description of the Ladies' Well from D. D. Dixon upper Coquetdale and first published in 1903 describes the well such ...

"a spring of beautiful water in a grove of fir trees, a little north of the village"

it also states that...

" A stone statue of an ecclesiastic, originally stood in the centre of the well, but a few years ago, this was removed and placed at the west end of the pool, and a cross of stone bearing the following inscrition was substituted:-

                                                               + In this place
                                                            Paulinus the Bishop
                                                   three thousand Northumbrians
                                                           Easter DCXXVII +

So one or two changes over the years but undoubtedly still a very special place to visit and one of Northumberland's treasures.

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