St Ethelbert’s Well

Actually, St Ethelbert isn’t well; in fact he’s been dead since 794. This is a holy well dedicated to St Ethelbert.Photo of St Ethelbert's Well

Ethelbert became king of East Anglia around 779. He travelled to the kingdom of Mercia to marry the daughter of King Offa of Mercia, albeit reluctantly.

Photo of coin of Ethelbert

One of the three known coins of Æthelberht II, King of the East Angles
By PHGCOM [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He had a sense of foreboding due to visions, a solar eclipse and an earthquake. King Offa turned out to be the future father-in-law from Hell. Whilst a guest at Offa’s palace at Sutton Walls fort (just north of Hereford) Ethelbert was restrained and beheaded on Offa’s orders, by a chap called Grimbert. It is said that Ethelbert’s severed head tumbled off a cart and cured a man of blindness. The road to canonisation and sainthood had begun.

The site of his well, near to the Castle Green, is said to be where his body was rested on the way to Hereford Cathedral. It has undergone several makeovers over the centuries. The exceedingly worn carving at the top is of a king’s head, but it is not known if it actually represents Ethelbert. It has been dated to the 14th century and probably came from the Cathedral. This was when the canopy was built over the well. The earliest reference to the well itself is 1250. It was cleaned out during the 1800’s and a vast quantity of pins were found. Presumably pilgrims dropped pins into the well in the hope of being cured from ailments. The modern frontage dates from 1904. It was a public drinking fountain until 2000.

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5 thoughts on “St Ethelbert’s Well

  1. Pingback: All the Fun of the Fair | rambling ratz

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