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Well Obsessed

Welcome to St.Agnes Well, Cothelstone. The works here celebrate the Entry to Land-based studies students from Bridgwater College.

Drive up the road to Cothlestone from Bishops Lydeard. Drive past the manor gates and after the last farm building there is a little footpath on your left. This is the path to St Agnes Holy Well.
Chapter one

Welcome to St Agnes Well at Cothlestone

Water has been coming out of the ground here since the ice retreated some 12,000 years ago and has most likely been visited by humans for the best part of 6000 years. The well building you see today has been dated as medieval in design and is likely to be the same age as the Cothlestone Manor.

Students from the Entry to Land-based studies course at Bridgwater make regular visits to the Well. These pilgrimages provide vital maintenance and include removing overgrown grass and leaves in the pool and ensuring the path and signs are kept clear. During several of these sessions the students studied the folklore and heritage surrounding St.Agnes Well and others like it.
Chapter two


The manor house still receives its water from the Well which is why the door is locked and we are unable to look inside. This was done to stop people throwing coins into the water and polluting it. It was also common to tie a rag to a tree or leave a pin by the Well either as thanks or a gift to hope that the Well would grant your wish. In Cornwall there is a Well with bent pins in which were cast daily to ask for a ‘good wreck' to be washed up on the beach. The community would then comb these goods off the sands to sell and recycle.

The Manor 500 years ago was lived in by the Stowell family, with John Stowell then Lord of the manor, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for high treason after the Civil war. His son Edward Stowell married Agnes Cheyney and it is thought that the Well became know as Agnes's well and then St Agnes's well due to this rather than St Agnes the martyr. Also during Edwards time as lord of the Manor, Judge Jeffries came to Taunton to pronounce justice, but Edward was not tolerant of the Judges methods (he sentenced 150 people to death in a single day) so refused to give him accommodation. In 1685 the Judge ordered two men, Colonel Bovett and Thomas Blackmore, to be hung from the gate (pictured) which is still there today, though at that time it crossed the road rather than stood to the side.

St Agnes herself lived in the 4th Century but very little is known about her beyond the fact that she gave her life to Christ and turned away all suitors to maintain a life of pious chastity. At one point she was even put in a brothel as she frustrated the men she refused, it was said that during her time in the brothel she grew wild and un­natural hair all over her body and so was repulsed by suitors. Agnes became a virgin-martyr at the tender age of 12 or 13, her feast day is celebrated each year on January 21st and today she is celebrated as the patron saint of virginity and girls.
Walk up the path to the field gate.
Chapter three

Go through the gate and then turn right, but be careful of the boggy bit, you may have to swing wide. Keep the fence to your right and you will eventually come to St Agnes' Well.
Chapter four


Just down the road from Cothelstone is Bishops Lydeard with 'The Devil's Whispering Well' it was referred to as being near the Church, it is where curses can be whispered.

Holy Wells all around Somerset are renowned to help with healing ailments to the eyes, Lyn Mowat who lived at the Manor when a child had a sty which was anointed with this water and it miraculously healed. Although she herself doesn't know if its disappearance was due to the magic water or whether it healed itself up naturally. It is also thought that if you squeeze the juice of a strawberry and diluted water it will also make a healing balm.
Chapter five

Nether Stowey Well

There is a report in 1931 of a blind Well, 'a curative fairy well where rags are left on a tree and pins dropped in the water'. The report states that two brothers, when they parted, swore to meet again at this place in seven years time. Both were blinded in the intervening period, but were able to reach home, and, hearing each others' voice, each ran forward and fell in the spring; 'and it washed their sight back again. Wonderful good for the eyes 'tis'.
Chapter six

Apple peeling

It is said that if you peel an apple and are able to cut the peel in one unbroken thread, it must be cast over the shoulder immediately. When it lands and you turn to see the shape it will denote a letter which is the first initial of your true love yet to come. But there is caution as it is not clear over which shoulder the peel must be thrown and if thrown across the incorrect shoulder then the initial may show something totally different entirely!
Chapter seven


Traditions are important and this one is local to Somerset and is the procedure through which you must progress to receive visions of your love to be. St Agnes is the patron saint of virgins and on the 20th January, the eve of the Feast of St.Agnes, you must prepare a loaf or 'dumb cake' with equal parts flour, salt and your own urine. On this special day you must draw a little water from the well and splash it on a sprig of Thyme and one of Rosemary. After eating the cake the young virgin would then place her shoes either side of her bed each with a single sprig of the anointed herb. She would lie on her back whilst facing the ceiling and then slide her hands under her pillow, palms open, facing up.
Then she must recite this saying,

*Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And sent to me my own sweetheart,
And shew me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

In this position she would be as receptive as possible to a vision coming to her of her true love to be, that is if she is able to rest at all after eating such a preparation!
Chapter eight


This mischievous beast is often found in still waters and boggy pools in Japan, though is closely related to a similar creature called Ginny Greenteeth, and Grindelow here in the UK. But the beasts are similar in that they wait for children to come close enough for them to snatch out from the still waters, grab their ankles and then draw them down into the waters where they would be smothered and drowned. The description of these creatures is very similar with webbed fingers and toes, dwarf human proportions and a flat topped toad like head. In Japan it is fundamentally important to give full respect to the Kappa (and keep away from water) but if you are indeed unfortunate enough to meet one then you should bow very deeply. The creature is wild but courteous too and so will bow back to you spilling a little fluid which sits on the top of his head. Without this water he is unable to move, but if you help him refill it then he will be forever in your debt.

Alternatively the Kappa is known to love cucumbers even more than children and if you write your name on one and then cast it into the water then the Kappa will hopefully leave you alone. With this in mind we all wrote our names on a cucumber and threw it into the ‘pixie stream' just to the east of the well. Thankfully to date none of our party have been drawn down into the waters and so it has obviously been effective.

If you listen carefully you may hear the Pixies being mischievous around the Kappa, if you are really lucky you may even see them but be careful not to upset them!
Chapter nine

Their wames were bare

This is an interesting passage written about an account of people attending a Well ceremony in order to help them with fertility, the origin of this we are unsure, but we had the feeling of a midlands dialect.

"rolled up their skirts and petticoats till their wames were bare. The auld wife gave them the sign to step around her and away they went, one after the other, wi' the sun, round the spring, each one holding up her coats like she was holding herself to the sun. As each one came anent her, the auld wife took up the water in her hands and threw it on their wames. Never a one cried out at the cold o' the water and never a word was spoken. Three times round they went. The auld wife made a sign to them. They dropped their coats to their feet again, synt (then) they opend their dress frae the neck and skipped it off their shoulders so that their paps sprang out. The auld wife gave them another sign. They doun on their knees afore her, across the spring; and she took up the water in her hands, skirpit (splashed it) on their paps, three times three. Then the auld wife rose and the three barren women rose. The put on their claes again and drew their shawls about their faces and left the hollow without a word spoken and scattered across the muir for hame."
Chapter ten


One legend for this well occurs between eleven and midnight on New Years eve, it is said that all waters drawn from the Well during that time will turn directly to wine. It is also said that during the first and last chime of the bells which call in the New Year, animals are able to speak, and if you are quick you may be able to ask them a question about the buried family treasure. Many have asked the question but the creatures are so shocked to be able to speak that the chime of twelve comes around before they are able to reveal this secret.

If you would like to make a wish at this Well then first place your hand on the Well building and ask if it would be happy if you did. Secondly, now courtesy is complete you should stir the pool three times in a clockwise direction speaking your wish out loud. Then wait for the reflection to steady before thanking the Well one last time.

If you want to see a vision of your love to be, then whilst stirring the waters repeat these words.

*Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,

Hither, hither, now repair;

Bonny Agnes,
let me see

The lad who is to marry me.

It is always polite to thank the Well.
Chapter eleven

The Stories (audio 1)

Here are two stories written by the students inspired by the well.

When I arrived at the Well you wouldn't believe I was lost. Roy was dirty and I offered him an apple which had a big hairy spider on it. Roy took a bite of the apple and then became cursed! The bird was tweeting the curse and this made him faint. When he woke up he saw a paw print underneath a tuft of grass on which sat a beautiful blue dragonfly but turned violent when he saw Roy's face.

A golden cloud then appeared and turned the insect into dust. The dust recovered Roys face which had now been covered in moss and lichen. Then a beautiful woman came into his vision holding a red rose, she was called Sally. She was holding a big brush in her left hand and this had always brought her luck. They both realised that they were deeply in love (perhaps something to do with the power of the well) and wanted to tie the knot immediately.
Chapter twelve

Story Two (audio 2)

When I arrived at the Well you wouldn't believe it but I found a huge footprint which looked like it was from an evil dinosaur. So we decided to set a trap using a net in the tree nearby, but before we could get it properly ready we heard a distant roaring from up the valley. We hid behind the well but waited too long and so had a picnic of beer and roast chicken.

So the smell of the delicious chicken floated on the air and over to the distant dinosaurs. The dinosaur roared even louder and began to follow the scent of the chicken.

But we had chicken all over our hands so now the dinosaur would be coming for us!!

The beast begins to prowl closer, hunting for his dinner and pray, and he knows it's us.
‘quick wash your hands in the well and the dinosaur won't smell the chicken on us.' Said Jess
‘That's a great idea' said Kieran
‘Quick hide.' Said Shane ‘here it comes.'
Suddenly the massive dinoraptorvelococrco–chickeny-thing loomed over the well and sniffs Shane up and down.
At that very moment Jess snaps the trip line and the net flings through the air snatching and pinning the dinoraptorvelococrco–chickeny-thing to the ground.
‘Run' shouts Kieran and the three leg it out of there to safety.
Chapter thirteen


We would like to thank you for coming to the well as it is a beautiful and amazing place which has its own history and serenity around it. Please leave it neat and tidy and refrain from adding coins or pins to the water.

We would encourage you to offer the Well wishes, words and requests but leave nothing. However, we would love you to leave St.Agnes with photos and memories.

We would like to thank the landowner Mr and Mrs Hugh Warmington for their kind support and cooperation in allowing us to undertake this project on their land.

Many thanks for The Heritge Lottery Fund for making this possible.

Many thanks to tutors Roy Jones, Fleur Webber and their students for their fun and creativity.

Students involved

Kieran Stenning
Shane Stripp
James Nation
Kallum Harrington Brice
Jemma Coles
Georgia Nurcombe
Jess Oxley

Becky Wright - New Leaf Life Design

Debbie McKenna - Community Life Design CIC

Christopher Jelley - Storywalks

Fisheaters.org - For the poems* http://www.fisheaters.com/customstimeafterepiphany2.html