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You are here: Information & History | General History - Holy Wells

General History

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General History - Holy Wells

Scotland has an abundance of Holy wells and Stonehouse is no exception. Four Holy wells are found within the parish and numerous other wells (natural springs) supplied the water needs of the village. Stonehouse appears to be technically an island, surrounded by rivers and burns making it impossible to leave the village without crossing water, thus there is no lack of supply to the wells.

Holy wells are of pagan origin, from a time when there were many superstitions surrounding water. Pilgrims and Christians from all over the countryside would flock to try their healing properties or administer Christian baptisms, as was probably the case at St.Ninian’s well. This well like the old kirk church and churchyard, was dedicated to St.Ninian. Over the centuries St. Ninian’s well has been corrupted into Ringan Well. Ringwell Gardens at West Mains is a further corruption of this historic site. Today all that remains is a two metre square hole covered with stone slabs and filled with rubbish between the farm of East Mains and the old kirk.

Situated on the banks of the Avon on the lands of Patrickholm lies St.Patrick’s well, known for its healing properties in curing tuberculosis and skin diseases. This may just be a coincidence but Stonehouse Hospital was originally built in 1896 to provide care and treatment for sufferers of tuberculosis and other related diseases. This well, like so many others was dedicated to another preacher of Christianity. St.Patrick is said to have spread the gospel throughout this area including Dalserf and, like Ninian his name appears throughout the country. This sulphurous spring can still be seen today trickling through a stratum of rock and cascading down the gorge. Its smell and white colouring are easily identifiable. Ordnance survey maps record this historic site as a physic well.

St.Anthony’s well was a prominent well in its time; also known as Brackenhill well, situated not a great distance from Spittal House which was formerly a hospital and a convent built in 1723. Spittal or ‘spittle’, in a dictionary is described as a hospital for foul diseases. The well can still be found today surrounded by a small stone wall one and a half feet high and about two metres square. Unfortunately, boring during the New Town survey is said to have caused the well to dry up. It is thought that Anthony came from a wealthy family and spoke only his native language, which was that of the ancient Egyptians. He was known as a carer of the poor, patron and protector of the lower animals. The well which was dedicated to him was notable for being high in iron content and known for curing diseases particularly those affecting horses. Naismith stated that in olden times horses were brought to drink at the well, often over great distances. It was believed that horses were taken to drink at the spring and sometimes water was carried a considerable distance for the same purpose. In the Summer of 1994, the Heritage Group carried out a restoration project on the well which had suffered through vandalism and the elements of nature.

St.Laurence’s well rises from the Watston burn at Chapel farm where an ancient chapel formerly stood, dedicated to St.Laurence, thus he is guardian of the well. Little is known of this well or its medicinal powers. St.Laurence himself was known to be a deacon and martyr of Rome, carer of the destitute, helpless and sick. Today the well is home to various water fowl on Chapel farm.

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