Friday, 18 March 2011

St.Bede’s Well, Hebburn (NZ321641)

A nondescript hole in the ground in a corner of a patch of landscaped ground in Hebburn is the spot in question. Presumably an old natural spring of sorts, it used to sit little more than a yard from the old Bede Burn which meandered this way - a waterway which now lies buried under (or perhaps diverted around) the modern paved area which frames the well itself.

Legend has it that the famous Bede drew water from the well as a boy, and later sent monks there to fetch water when he was a priest at nearby St.Paul’s Monastery. All very fanciful, though there has been some recent speculation that the ‘bede’ in question derives from the Anglo-Saxon word baed, meaning a bathing place. Local historian Brand stated that in the 1740s it had long been a custom to bring sick and disabled children to the spot to be dipped in the healing waters, after which a crooked pin would be dropped into the little pool. Midsummer’s Eve would also bring the locals to the site in large number for various festivities, including bonfires, music, dancing and sports.

Until the urban spread of the late Victorian era, the well and its immediate environs were something of a beauty spot. The incursions of industry and the like changed the area beyond recognition as the Edwardian era blew in, and the site underwent many changes during the twentieth century – but has somehow managed to hang on to its place on the modern OS map as a site of antiquarian interest in the area now known as Campbell Park.

For an excellent picture history of the site, see here.

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