St Helen’s Well, Great Asby MYD62432 (c) WDLPS, 2023
St Helen’s Well is located in the centre of Great Asby. Despite its name, it is a large natural spring. A well is created by digging into the ground, and water is usually drawn up from underground aquifers by pump or container. However, a spring is a natural occurrence, and refers to where water flows from an aquifer to the earth’s surface.
It is surrounded on three sides by a wall. The unenclosed side allows the spring water to drain into Asby Beck. The date of the enclosure is uncertain, however it was probably altered in the late 19th century. It is constructed from slobbered limestone rubble, with a sandstone string course and weathered limestone coping. The limestone appears to have been ripped from pavement, available on nearby upland areas (and now protected by Limestone Pavement Orders).
There are accounts dating to the early 19th century that mention stone benches lining the walls of the enclosure of the wall, however these are no longer extant. The spring has long been known for its healing properties, and people made pilgrimages to use it according to local stories. It was also apparently used for open air baptisms.
Outside the gateway is a blue plaque that commemorates work undertaken in 2008.
It is located very near to St Helen’s Almshouse. It is unclear whether there was an associative connection. The almshouses were founded in 1811 and erected in 1814 (but has a datestone of 1812) as a single build of square plan, and then subdivided into four cottages (by at least 1897, when outshots at either end had been added).
YDNPA, A Way Through: Great Asby (2023)
WDLP, Westmorland Dales Small-Scale Heritage Feature Survey: Technical Report Great Asby and Little Asby, unpublished report, 2023