Campaign restores historic Belper well

A historic well is being restored with more than £6,000 worth of lottery cash and grants, after it was unearthed by a local woman.

The feature on Dalley Lane, Belper Lane End – hidden by years of undergrowth – was rediscovered by Betty Cowan, who initiated local interest.

Local researcher Stephanie Hitchcock and members of Derbyshire Archaeological Society then decided to investigate further.

They discovered a fairly shallow well, which unusually has two opposing sets of well worn stone steps which provided access.

Researchers are not aware of anything similar in existence in the area.

Now, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and with donations from Severn Trent Water and the Friends of St Faith’s Church, the well will be restored into a roadside community space, for everyone to enjoy.

Mrs Cowan said: “Several functions have been suggested for the feature including a general washing facility, a plimming pit for use by stagecoaches on the turnpike road, a Spout Well or even an Ebbing and Flowing Well.

“But most likely, it was simply a rather elaborate water source for local commu nities and industries in the valley.

“Uses may have varied through the ages and some have left their mark on the archaeological and historical record.”

The well is known as the “Dally Wash”.

It is thought the word wash could have derived from the Old English word “waescan” which means “washing” or “a flood”?

Shallow wells can often supply drinking water at a very low cost, but because impurities from the surface easily reach shallow sources, a greater risk of contamination occurs for these wells when they are compared to deeper wells.

In England, there are examples of reverence for wells and springs at a variety of historical periods.

In Belper it is thought that well dressing was started in the 1830s when nail makers decorated wells and there are reports that fights broke out over who had produced the best well.