St Hilda's holy well


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019161

Date first listed: 10-Jan-2000


Ordnance survey map of St Hilda's holy well
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019161 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 23-Jan-2019 at 14:38:57.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Hinderwell


National Grid Reference: NZ 79117 17050


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations. The custom of venerating springs and wells as sacred sites is also known to have characterised pre-Christian religions in Britain and, although Christian wells have been identified from as early as the 6th century AD, it is clear that some holy wells originated as earlier sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued throughout the medieval period. Its condemnation at the time of the Reformation (c.1540) ended new foundations but local reverence and folklore customs at existing holy wells often continued, in some cases to the present day. The holy wells sometimes functioned as sites for baptism but they were also revered for less tangible reasons, some of which may have had origins in pre- Christian customs, such as folklore beliefs in the healing powers of the water and its capacity to effect a desired outcome for future events. Associated rituals often evolved, usually requiring the donation of an object or coin to retain the 'sympathy' of the well for the person seeking its benefits. At their simplest, holy wells may be unelaborated natural springs with associated religious traditions. Structural additions may include lined well shafts or conduit heads on springs, often with a tank to gather the water at the surface. The roofing of walled enclosures to protect the water source and define the sacred area created well houses which may be simple, unadorned small structures closely encompassing the water source, or larger buildings, decorated in the prevailing architectural style and facilitating access with features such as steps to the water source and open areas with stone benching where visitors might shelter. At their most elaborate, chapels, and sometimes churches, may have been built over the well or adjacent well house. The number of holy wells is not known but estimates suggest at least 600 nationally. They provide important information on the nature of religious beliefs and practices and on the relationship between religion and the landscape during the medieval period.

Despite the reconstruction of the well head cover in 1912, the earlier upstanding structures and deposits preserved beneath the present ground surface will provide significant information on the form and use of the holy well.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the remains of St Hilda's holy well, situated at the bottom of a south facing slope in the churchyard of St Hilda's Church. The remains, which are Listed Grade II, include a well head cover, well chamber, basin, enclosure and steps. The well head cover was restored in 1912 by Hilda Palmer, although parts of it predate this restoration. It is of sandstone construction built to 1.5m high and with two machine cut covering slabs of sandstone about 1.5m long by 0.8m wide and one weathered sandstone covering slab 2.5m long by 1.1.m wide. The modern cut covering slabs have been given fake tooling marks on their north and south ends. The west (front) slab covers the basin, a sandstone trough measuring 0.7m long, 0.45m wide and 0.2m deep. The other modern cut slab and the older sandstone slab cover the remainder of the well chamber. There is a stone paved area to the north, west and south of the well. This enclosure is defined by a dry stone retaining wall and is sub-divided into three parts by the level of the paving. The lowest section is immediately west of the opening in the well head, and is about 1.5m square. To the south of this section, raised on a two course wall is a seating area measuring 0.8m by 1.8m. The other part of the paved enclosure is situated to the north of the well head, and gives access to a flight of steps leading up a slope to the east of the well; it measures 3m by 2.3m. The well is named after St Hilda who founded the monastery at Whitby in 657. The name of the well is the root of the name of the village of Hinderwell in which it is situated. This comes from the old English Hildewella meaning Hild's well. In the second half of the 19th century water was drawn from the well chamber by a hand pump which is marked on the Ordnance Survey second edition 1:2500 map of 1894.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32073

Legacy System: RSM


Photo from church leaflet on well, The Old Pump Well, Hinderwell,

End of official listing