Pilgrims Well

Pilgrims Well ANR W NT659988 1 364

Lady’s Well 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn [see Lady’s Well, above]
Pilgrims Well 1976 OS 6 inch

SSE pilgrim + SSE well

The well, 1 m in diameter, is situated on a south-west facing slope, overlooking Pilgrims Haven. The earlier name, Lady’s Well, might be thought to refer to Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, but OS 6 inch (1855) also shows Lady’s Cave near the well, and according to a story in OS Name Book (1, 12) it got its name from being the dwelling of a lady whose husband abandoned her on the Isle of May. The families of the fishermen who then lived on the island are said to have supported her while she lived in the cave. Eggeling gives a different version of what was probably originally the same story, referring to it as the Lady’s or Fair Helen’s Cave: ‘It commemorates a damsel of great beauty belonging to the May, who was coveted by a chief on the mainland. Her friends, fearing that a foray would be made to seize her, secreted the maiden in this cave until the danger was over. She passed her time spinning. The Lady’s Cave exists no longer. It lay below a crumbling overhang near the top of the cliff which overlooks the north end of the Pilgrim’s Haven. Through the passing years it has gradually disappeared, and its name has become transferred, maintaining the old tradition, to a dark sea cave beneath’ (1985, 29). He adds to this already complicated set of traditions by stating that Lady’s Well is named after St Thenaw (Theneu), mother of St Kentigern (see Maiden Hair ANR, above).

While the name of this well is Lady’s Well on OS 6 inch 1st edn (1855), on OS 25 inch (1896) it appears simply as ‘Well’, with Lady’s Well applied to a different well c.200 m to the south-east.

This place-name appeared in printed volume 3