Holy Wells
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Holy Wells in SUSSEX

On the south-western side of the parish was situated the small establishment of Benedictine nuns who for three hundred years were the rectors and patrons of Horsham Church. When this priory was founded, and by whom, appears to be a matter of great obscurity. At a short distance from the house, surrounded by copse-wood and over-hanging trees, is a small well of a circular form, and surrounded by cut stone, over-grown with moss. A flight of winding steps leading to it from an adjoining eminence adds a peculiar romantic and pleasing effect to this venerable work of antiquity, which is known by the name of " Nun's Well."

No account is to be found of its history, though it may perhaps have belonged to the neighbouring castle - Sidgwick. The tradition among the inhabitants affirms that a subterraneous passage connects this castle with the nunnery at Rusper, which is eight miles distant, but no attempt has been undertaken to ascertain the truth of this conjecture.

A tradition also states that the old convent bell was sunk in a pond in front of the house, and has disappeared in the mud.

In the appendix to the History and Antiquities of Horsham, Dudley Howard, 1836, from which work the above is quoted, it is asserted that near the building is a very deep well, said to have been used as a place of destruction for those members of the convent who had dared to break the vows of chastity.

Sidgwick Castle is in the parish of Broadwater, between Nuthurst and Horsham, about two miles and a half eastward from the latter.
About thirty yards from the outer moat is a well beautifully constructed of large blocks of hewn stone. It is called "The Nun's Well." Why, it is difficult to say, as this castle never was a religious house; it is also sometimes called " St. Mary's Well." - Ibid, p. 176.

This well obtains its name from the part of the town in which it stands, and which is supposed to have been used by the Norman Brotherhood, who lived in the first house, next the churchyard, of the row east of the church called " The Normandy." This house still retains the name of the "Priests' House." The "Normandy Well" is open, and runs partly under one of the houses; it is only about four feet in depth, and yet in the longest drought the water always stands up (sic) sufficiently high to allow a pail to be dipped into it. It has been the custom to use. the water from this well for the baptisms in the church. - Horsham: its History and Antiquities, Miss D. Hurst, 1868, pp. 32, 33.

Adjoining the kitchen apartments at the lower end of the hall is a well of considerable depth - Black's Guide to Sussex, 1884, says it is reputed to be 300 feet deep-and sup-plied with the purest water. It is called " St. Dunstan's Well," and was probably dedicated in his honour, and consequently the resort of pilgrims and the reputed scene of miracles. It is guarded by four walls, having one entrance. - Suss. Arch. Coll., ii. 244.

On the opposite side to the Friends' Meet-ing House, enclosed by brick walls, is a perennial spring that bursts out from the ad-joining chalk-ridge, and rushes into the neighbouring brooks. This spring bears the ancient name of "Pin Well," and in former times enjoyed some celebrity. It was within the limits of the grounds belonging to the Grey Friary ; it was approached by steps. The road from Pin Well to the bottom of School Hill was commonly called " The Friars' Walk." It is near the station. Pins were formerly dropped into it. The well is now - 1890 - filled in; but its site, a small irregularly shaped piece' of ground, is still distinguishable, being surrounded by a low brick and flint wall, having on the side fronting Friars' Walk a stone tablet with "Pin Well " cut on it.

A writer of the last century makes the following remarks anent the well: " Pynwell Street, so called from Pynwell, a very pure spring, which rises near the west end of `Friars' Wall,' and was so called from Pinn or Pynn, a pine-tree, which formerly shadowed it, leads from School Hill, down by All Saints' churchyard, on the west, but formerly had its direction on the other side, nearly opposite `Pynwell.' " - History of Lewes and Brighthelmstone, by Paul Duncan, Lewes, 1795, p. 366.

(The account of these five wells has been kindly supplied to me by C. T. Phillips, Esq., Lewes.)

" The chalybeate springs at Holywell, a short distance west of the Sea Houses, are highly worthy the attention of the visitor. The quality of the water is said intimately to resemble the far-famed springs of Clifton, and it has been found highly beneficial in many of the diseases for which the mineral waters of Bristol are almost deemed a specific."

The analysis, however, proves them to consist of simple, but very fine, surface water. "Not far distant there was a chapel dedicated to St. Gregory. Tradition states that the French, in one of their marauding expeditions, landed - here, burnt the chapel, and carried off its bell to - some church in Normandy. The chroniclers are silent as to this event." - History of Sussex, Horsfield, 1831, vol. i., 291. Sussex, by Lower, 1870, vol. i., 151. Suss. Arch. Coll., xiv. 125.

From Antiquity Volume XXII, 1890, p.255-6

Updated 09 March, 2010
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