of the Village Wells
from 'Well Well Well' - a book on the Wells, Pumps & Boreholes
of Bere Regis, written by Local Villager John England.
Production of this small book started from an enquiry from a
visitor at one of the local hostelries in Bere Regis, regarding
the whereabouts of 'St. Mary's Well'. The enquiry was passed
onto the Post Office and hence to myself. My initial approaches
were to those more mature and long standing members of the Parish.
has taken quite a long time to find the answer to this question
(the most probable answer being the Anchoret's Well on Woodbury
Hill) and even now it may not be quite correct, but all the
enquiries have produced a fund of knowledge about wells, pumps,
boreholes, springs and water supplies covering centuries and
I felt that it should be put to paper before everyone had forgotten.
must thank so many people who willingly gave me locations, information
and stories and allowed me to take photographs of existing wells,
or identified the places where they had been in the past. I
apologise if any of the items are incorrect in any way and to
those I may have missed during my enquiries.
Anchoret's Chapel and Well
The next record of a well dates from at least the 15th century
(or possibly earlier) on Woodbury Hill, the site of an Iron
Age fortification with possible Roman occupation, in connection
with an Anchoret’s Chapel on the hill. It is referred
to in Dean Chandler’s register of visitations recording
a chaplain there in 1408 and again a reference in 1411. Little
more was heard of it till 1770 when its foundations were reported
to be still visible. The well was necessarily very deep and
according to tradition a golden table or tablet had been hidden
in it. The well was reported to have water with remarkable healing
properties and people made annual pilgrimages to it on September
21st, the date of its dedication, to drink the water.
The date of 21st September is St Matthew’s Day and it
was always in this week of the 21st that Woodbury Hill Fair
Sir Frederick Treves, in his book ‘Highways and Byways
in Dorset’ mentions that the fair has been held since
the time of Henry III who died in 1272 ‘commencing on
September 18th near about the festival of the Nativity of the
Blessed Virgin Mary’ but the Nativity is celebrated on
September 8th and depending on the year the start date would
of course change.
However the question of ‘St Mary’s Well’ may
be answered, as the land on which Woodbury Hill is part of what
was owned by the Abbess of Tarrant up to the time of the reformation
(1539) and Tarrant Abbey, their home at Tarrant Crawford, had
the chapel dedicated to St Mary and this could have been also
the dedication of the chapel here as well.
The efficacy of the water is mentioned in Reference 3 page 100,
where the Rev O P Cambridge (Vicar of Bloxworth) recorded the
tradition of the use of the deep well on Woodbury Hill ‘where
people were supposed to drink the water on September 21st and
pay money offerings to the Abbot of Tarrant’. The hill
consists of London Clay, so it is possible that the water may
have contained some Epsom Salts!
of Wells in and around the Village
at Roke Farmhouse
and Supply Pipe at West Street/Shitterton Junction
at 129 Bere Heath
water from Butt Lane Well
at Watercress beds
England, Summer 2012
Book can be bought for £5 at the Post Office and there
is a Copy of it in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist.)