After visiting the Wizards Well (if you’re at Alderley Edge you have to really don’t you?) we walked in the opposite direction to come to the Holy Well. As we were there we saw a gentleman placing a leaf into a crack in the rock to allow the water to run off into the carved stone trough below. He explained he was the site guardian, who came every day to check on the place and put a leaf into the crevice so the water could flow. A friendly and interesting guy he explained that he had inherited the task from an old local woman who was now too elderly and infirm to continue doing it. He was also able to direct us to some of the other sites around the edge.
Next to the flow of water of the Holy Well a small cave has been carved out of the rock, with clear toolmarks visible inside. So whilst not ancient the cave has certainly been in existence for several hundred years. It seems possible that it was carved out as a meditative space, as it seems like a lot of effort to go to in order to make a shelter, when plenty of natural caves and mineworkings dot the edge. A tree atop the outcrop looked as if it had the simulacrum of a face at the base of its trunk, and the woodland setting around the area adds to the magical atmosphere. You can see why Alderley Edge has proved an inspiration for a series of books.
I hunker into the cave for a while, and it does retain a calm and peaceful atmosphere here, away from the crowds of people who are visiting some of the more popular parts of the edge. The water that bubbles up through the stone is drinkable (so long as you take it from the source and not the somewhat stagnant water trough!) and cupping my hands beneath the leaf I take a swig of the fresh and slightly coppery water.
Although not an ancient site as such, the water must have risen through this limestone outcrop for thousands of years, and as such must have been a special place in the area for the ancestors. Now it’s one of the nicest spots on Alderley Edge and well worth a visit (ho ho!)
Lower down the Hill, just below the Beacon, is a Spring of very clear Sweet Water, that issues pretty plentifully out of the Rock, called the Holy Well, which, no doubt, in times of Superstition, had its Virtues, which are now unknown, though many young people, in the Summer time, resort to it in parties, and regale themselves with this water, which is still supposed to have a prolific quality in it.
There are at least nine wells at different parts of the Edge, the more conspicuous being the Wizard Well and the Holy Well. These, and especially the latter, were in ancient times connected with well-worship, and propitiatory offerings were made by people to the presiding deities, and also were frequently resorted to in Christian times, but doubtless the cult was observed here in much earlier days.
Their healing powers were considered to be unfailing; the barren, the blind, the lame, and bodily-afflicted constantly made their way thither; maidens whispered their vows and prayers over them, their lovers and their future lives being their theme. Crooked silver coins were dropped into the well, but these have been cleared out long ago.
At the present time the devotees are satisfied, in their economical habit, to offer mere pins and hairpins; the custom is not dead yet, for some of the immersed pins are still quite uncorroded and bright. Some of the sex deposit the pins in their straight and original form, others bend them only at right angle, and as many again seem to consider the charm alone to act effectively when carefully and conscientiously doubled up. Maidens of a more superficial cast just give the slightest twist to the object.
To judge from the state of corrosion, and the old-fashioned thick, globular heads, some of these pins must have been in the well for at least sixty years. We have brought three cases to show the various forms into which the visitors have tortured the pins, and classified them into groups. There are occasionally to be seen also a few white pebbles in the two wells.
From Recent archaeological discoveries at Alderley Edge by C Roeder and F S Graves, in the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society for 1905 (v23). I seem to remember that Alan Garner said he got his pocket-money from (the Wizard's?) well when he was a child.