St Helen’s Well, Thorp Arch
Today the Well is dried up but Robert Charles Hope gives the following description of St Helen’s Well in The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells (1893). ‘It was usual for those who consulted the oracle at this well to make an offering there of a scrap of cloth. This was fastened to an adjoining thorn, which, being literally covered with pieces of rag, presented a peculiar appearance.’ Roughly ten years later Edmund Bogg described it as being under the roots of a wych-elm.
In 1940 a 450 acre munitions factory (ROF Thorp Arch) was opened following compulsory purchase of land that straddling Thorp Arch and Walton, South of the Wighill road and North of the River Wharfe. This effectively made St Helen’s Lane and the Rag Well out of bounds for the duration. ROF Thorp Arch closed in 1958 and on that land can now be found a trading estate.
St Helen’s Lane was part of a Roman road called Rudgate, which may also have been a far earlier trackway.
According to Guy Ragland Phillips, ‘The well is now dried up due to the lowering water table but in the not too distant past people, particularly young girls, used to give offerings to St Helen in the form of pieces of cloth tied to the branches of trees around it. In this way, if done in secret, you would see your true love. Also, that ghastly hound the Bargest was supposed to haunt St Helen’s Well rattling its chains. Leland mentions a chapel at St Helen’s (now gone).’