Mt family used to live in Stow-on-the-Wold when I was very young. This picture is black and White in its original form. I suspect my father took this photograph. This area of Gloucester (situated near the border of East Wales) forms part of the ‘Cotswolds’ and possesses an ancient history that involves settlement by British Celts, Romans and Saxons! This was a holy site for the Druids thousands of years before the Saxons first built a Christian Church in the 10th century and the Norman-Vikings in the 12th century – the latter being the foundation for the extant Church of St Edwards.
What I find interesting is the ‘Well’ which seems to be a rectangular stone trough-like structure. Celtic people venerated water as being a portal to another dimension of being, be it better health and understanding on this plain, or as a transportation device (figuratively or literally) to another realm of existence. This explains why the ancient peoples of Britain were prone to creating ‘holy’ spots involving profound sources of fresh water that not only ‘sustained’ physical body and ‘purify’ the mind – but also grant various powers of ‘healing’ to those who needed it (or were worthy of it)!
My family lived in a flat situated above a shop named ‘Manor House Antiques’ which formed part of ‘central’ area of Stow-on-the-Wold known as The Square’. As the flat was situated toward the back of ‘Manor House Antiques’ – it directly faced the Police Station. In architectural terms, this meant that our flat faced-out rather than faced in to The Square. Leaving our flat to travel to the Well we had to first turn-right, then take the next right into a narrow lane. Walking down this lane we then had to take the next left onto a narrow footpath (Well Lane) – by following this path we were taken straight to the Well – which is situated on the left of the verge. The Well is fed by a fresh-spring of pure and clean water which medieval Christian monks used to make mead! Indeed, a tunnel was once discovered which allowed local Catholic monks to escape the area should the Protestant Authorities come prying! When this tunnel was rediscovered in modern times, there were bottles of Medieval mead stored in the dark recesses of the passage-way!
The ‘spring’ that feeds the well must be ancient and date back thousands of years. Undoubtedly the pre-Celts and the Celts made ample use of it, as did the Romans! Later, one of the local stories records that a Christian monk named Edward (who was following the example of the Desert Fathers) – chose to live as a ‘hermit’ in the area and established himself by the Well (which is situated toward the South side of the town). This gave the town its first recognisable name of ‘St Edward’s Stowe’ or ‘Edward’s Holy Place’ (as he would ‘bless’ this already ‘pure’ water with the Spirit of Christ – a process which boosted its healing properties). The word ‘wold’ – as in Cotswold – is Saxon for ‘hill’, and therefore ‘Stow-on-the-Wold’ simply means ‘Holy Place on the Hill’.
Stow was, until recent times, supplied with water from a number of springs running eternally under the town. For centuries, women and children would carry water via yoke and bucket across their shoulders from the spring on Well Lane. Water carts carried water between Well Lane and the town where the water was sold to the local people at the price of a farthing a bucket. Several systems were tried to pump water up the hill – including windmills, horse-mills and water wheels – but all failed. In 1871, Joseph Chamberlayne-Chamberlayne – lord of the manor – donated £2000 to the town for a deep well to be bored and this was a success. Mains water was laid on in 1937. Sewage disposal used numerous cavities in the rock, known locally as swillies, as natural soakaways under and around the houses until mains drainage was installed in 1958.