Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Cranfield > The Holy Well

The Holy Well

This page was written by Sally Williams

To the south of Holywell School and close to the footpath which connects Rectory Lane to Bedford Road lies the site of an ancient well. Nowadays known as the Holy Well but it may also in former times have been known as the Hollow Well or the Hulliwelle. The site is described as being on the allotment to the Rector for tithes and is to be used by owners and occupiers to wash their own sheep from 1 April two 14 July only and for no other purpose.

Such wells are often pagan in origin but the first reference to this well is found in two documents dated to the 13th century [WN14 and WN20]. These record the sale of land which used the well as a point of reference.

The first, dating from 1250-1270, refers to the sale of one acre of land in Cranfield in the manner of William by Hugh de Box of Kempston and his wife Petronilla for 16 shillings silver sterling to Hugh and Joan Smith of Dilwick. This land is described as being between the lands of William on either side containing seven butts (small pieces of land in common fields) of which three butts ran towards Le Hulliwelle. This transaction was witnessed by William Washingley, Geoffrey Rodland, Walter of Bourne, Ralf Marescall, Simon son of Payne Gilbert and John son of Benedict.

The second, dating from c.1260-70, refers to William, son of William of Cranfield granting 3 acres of his manorial land to his daughter Alice and her husband Hugh Terri. 1 acre of this land is described as being on the Middle Hill containing 7 selions (a strip of land used for the ridge and furrow) which abutted on to Le Hulliwell. This was witnessed by Geoffrey Rodland, William of Washingley, Ralf Marescall, Gilbert (not legible) and Robert Clerk.

The well is recorded as being used for medicinal uses in the early 19th century because the waters were thought to be a cure for sore eyes. Given the high iron content in the soil in this area, this is quite likely.

This spring was used as a public watering place with a separate area for sheep dipping until the 20th century.

Today the area is overgrown and the well is not easy to identify on the ground.