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Southam Countryside by Graham Foster

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The Holy Well

   Southam Holy Well

The Holy Well

The Holy Well by the River Stowe has been in existence for over one thousand years and was last renovated in 2005-7, when the site was restored with seats and a palisade fence with carvings designed by artist Will Glanfield as part of the Southam Stories project, paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  .

It is thought to be the oldest recorded Holy Well in England, with one reason for it being a holy well due to its association with the legend of Saint Fremund.  It is a Grade II Listed Building which was first recorded as part of the Manor of Southam in 998 and in the years since, the natural spring water has provided treatment for eye problems, probably because of its clear, clean nature compared with other local water sources.  It is thought to be a reason why Henry Lilley Smith in 1818 developed his Eye and Ear Hospital in Southam, in the building which is now providing a beautiful wedding venue, called Warwick House on Warwick Road.

It is an unusual half-moon stone structure holding the water, with three strange heads out of whose mouths the water flows down to the river.  It’s source of clean water was so important, that at the enclosure of Southam lands in 1760, the Holy Well was specifically mentioned to be enclosed by posts and rails and kept for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Southam and not to be acquired privately.  A footpath from the town was laid and the upkeep of the well still remains with the townsfolk.

Sadly, according to an article written in 1855 in the Warwickshire Advertiser, it was in decline, and despite local attempts to clean it up, it remained in decline.   Then in 1925 the water was diverted into a reservoir to provide water for Southam and Long Itchington, resulting in reducing its flow to such an extent that it now ran dry in drought periods.

In 1958, an article written in the Leamington Courier reported that Warwickshire County Council was going to pay half the £150 cost with the Parish Council for restoring the well. Brian Townsend in his book ‘Southam Through the Centuries’ in 1981 noted it was little more than a trickle, and it was still dry in 1991.  However, the town in 2005 discovered why the water supply was poor and restored it, and with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund the Holy Well was fully renovated as it is seen today.

Article courtesy of the Southam Heritage Collection and Southam Advertiser

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