history

THE EAS WELL, BASCHURCH

By Zia Robins

I had read of Eas Well in Charlotte Burne’s 1883 book ‘Shropshire Folk-Lore" and in the l980’s Jessie Hanson, who lived in Milford as a child, took me to Eas Well, as her father had previously taken her there, so that its position would not be forgotten.

 There are lots of Holy Wells in Shropshire, but many of them are not a deep well as we know it today, but a spring that often fed into a stone trough. Water has always been important to people. Some of these wells were the sites of Pagan celebrations, but later they were often taken over by the Christian religion for their own celebrations. It seems likely that Eas Well is no exception.

 In the collections of Georgina F Jackson, gathered around 1870 when she was writing her ‘Shropshire Word Book’ and then passed, when her health was fading, to Charlotte S. Burne to edit, and publish in 1883 as “Shropshire Folk-Lore”, is written in chapter XXX “Traces of Well Worship”, p. 432: -

 “ The Eas Well at Baschurch, in a field beside the river Perry, a mile west of the church, was frequented till twenty years ago by young people who went there on Palm Sunday to drink sugar-and-water and eat cakes. A clergyman who was present in 1830 speaks of seeing little boys scrambling for the lumps of sugar, which escaped from the glasses and floated down the brook, which flows from the spring into the river. At that time the gentry of the neighbourhood still visited the little Wake, but they had ceased to do so before it was discontinued. The young men had a jumping contest, both ‘high jump’ and ‘long jump,’ the winner becoming the champion jumper for the year. No prize was offered, but ‘the honour of the thing’ was eagerly coveted, and the marks of the jumping are still visible on the ground.”

Palm Sunday was also celebrated at Pontesbury Hill. Cakes were baked for “going Palming”, and on P331, it says that they “race down the hill to the Lyde Hole where a little brooklet, which winds down a lovely narrow glen on the eastern side of the hill, suddenly turns and falls into a basin-like hollow at the foot of steep walls of rock forming a deep circular pool, of which folk used to say as there was no bottom to it. Who ever could run at full speed from the top of the hill down the steep side of the Hole and dip the fourth finger of his right [left?] hand into the water, would be certain to marry the first person of the opposite sex whom he or she happened to meet”.

 Eas Well lies just across the River Perry from Ruyton Mill, at Grid Ref SJ 405 215, on the rising slope just to the north of an old path that led over the River Perry from Ruyton XI Towns, past the spring, and on east to join Whitmore Lane just before it enters Baschurch. Those attending the celebrations at the well no doubt used this path. The brook that ran down from the spring to the River Perry was not evident when I visited it, and a lump of concrete marked the spring.

 It has been conjectured that the name ‘Eas’ might come from ‘east’, as it lies on the east side of the River Perry. Gough’s ‘History of Myddle’ mentions ‘a well called Ast-well or asta-well, and by some Easter-well,’ equidistant from the three hamlets, of Balderton, Alderton and Newton, near Myddle. If the ceremonies held at Eas Well do date from Pagan times, perhaps its name is derived from Eastre, who was said to be the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility, and worshipped, so the Venerable Bede, born 672, tells us, by our heathen forefathers in the month of April, and from whom the word Easter is said to be derived. Whether she was a Dawn-goddess is uncertain, but her festivities were at the vernal equinox and her name is related to east, the quarter of the sun-rise (SKEAT P.158 concise Etymological Dictionary)

To see the remains of the Eas Well, go down Mill Lane, across the Iron Bridge, up the hill to the fenced concrete `thing` - don`t get stuck in the mud where the spring water is still finding its way to the Perry..

Yoland

 eas well  
This a village spring in Owermoigne, Dorset, but it was the sort of enclosure that might have been round the Eas Well, so that people could dip their bucket in to collect water without getting their feet wet.

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