Looking for and finding Waxwell, a Holy Well in Pinner (London)

Fresh from my success of finding a possible Neolithic burial mound in the middle of densely populated Watford, I was on the lookout for the second in the triumverate of off-beat and ancient sites and it lay just a few miles away, part on foot and part on the Metropolitan Line to the old village of Pinner.   Long ago subsumed by London, it was once a village and indeed retains quite a rural charm away from the busy main road.

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Pinner Village in the midst of London!

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Pinner Police Station

You don’t get many fine old police stations like that do you?  The only crimes that seem to happen in Pinner is the out of this world property prices but then the houses are old and quaint aren’t they?

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It struck me as a little typical that on the few spare hours I can find that I am in effect still doing something so close to my work and indeed writings; perhaps it means I have found my true calling in life.

After a bit of a walk up the reassuringly named Waxwell Lane, I finally came across what I was looking for.

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Well Well Well. Waecc’s Spring, Wakeswell,… Waxwell.

There is a tradition that anyone who drunk of the well would stay in Pinner forever, this being a tradition often associated from Anglo-Saxon sites, such as Keldwell in Lincolnshire and Bywell in Northumberland, both Saxon sounding wells so there appears to be a significant relationship. Pinner residents obviously found me a little uncouth and so took the trouble of bricking up the water flow before I arrived.

Yet it was a very reliable water source especially in dry periods when people would travel from miles around to collect it.  The healing properties of the water ranged from the being good for eyes to unusually reviving people at the point of death! Sadly, since 1870, the site has been sealed up and the site is now dry and deep in leaves. The well consists of a large red brick domed structure set into the bank and earth covered.  The water arose under an arch in a semi circular basin set into base of the chamber with three steps reaching the water.

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Wax Well Name was first recorded in 1274 as ‘Wakeswell’ Thought to mean ‘Waecc’s’ Spring. Until mid-19th century the well was the most important source of water in Pinner village and reputed to have healing properties.

 

Wax Well Name was first recorded in 1274 as ‘Wakeswell’ Thought to mean ‘Waecc’s’ Spring. Until mid-19th century the well was the most important source of water in Pinner village and reputed to have healing properties.”

The name is either from a personal name or Anglo-Saxon Woecce which means ‘to guard’ perhaps suggesting that the water was important or associated with a ritual. However, the site is close to Grim’s Dyke which was the boundary of Mercia (was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy)  so the guard may relate to use by people associated with that site.  Before that it was possibly a defensive works by the Catuvellauni tribe against the Romans.

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As you can see the well is still in an excellent state of preservation despite the water source being blocked off.  Britain and even London is full of Holy Wells and Sacred Springs but especially in London, so many of them are lost, hidden or out of bounds so to find one right here with even a public bench to sit and admire the view is quite rare.

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With 2 ancient sites under my belt, I thought I would hurry on to the third and final spot of the day.

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in Heritage, history, Life, London, Religion and Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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