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Harpham


The drumming well located near to the church is reputed to foretell death in the family of St Quentin. The folklore relates to a story about a fourteenth century drummer called Tom Hewson, who was accidentally knocked down the well by a St Quentin squire. His mother put a curse on the family predicting that the sound of drumming from the well would predict death in the family.

There are other traditions about the well suggesting a long precedent, William the conqueror - who laid waste to the North - is said to have promised the surrounding lands to the first person who reached the well. This turned out to be a drummer boy, but one of Williams nobles named St Quentin knocked the poor lad down the well and claimed the lands for his own.

These tales may of may not relate to a well dedicated to St John of Beverley who was born in Harpham around 640AD. The well which is likely to be pre-Christian was noted for it's healing powers and is the centre of a well dressing procession which starts at Harpham Church each 7th May.


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Ian Topham
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Re: Harpham

According to ‘Yorkshire Legends and Traditions’ by Rev Thomas Parkinson (1888):

ST. JOHN'S WELL AT HARPHAM
At Harpham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, there is a well dedicated to St. John of Beverley, who is said to have been born in this village, and to have wrought many miracles through the virtue of the waters of this well. It is still believed to possess the power of subduing the wildest and fiercest animals. William of Malmesbury relates that in his time the most rabid bull, when brought to its waters, became quiet as the gentlest lamb.

THE DRUMMING WELL AT HARPHAM
At the same village there is, in a field near the church, another well called the Drumming Well, to which appertains the following story, for which the writer is indebted to the Leeds Mercury.

About the time of the second or third Edward, — when all the young men of the country were required to be practised in the use of the bow, and for that purpose public 'butts' were found connected with almost every village, and occasionally field-days for the display of archery were held, attended by gentry and peasant alike — the old manor house near this well at Harpham was the residence of the family of St. Quintin. In the village lived a widow, reputed to be somewhat uncanny/ named Molly Hewson. She had an only son, Tom Hewson, who had been taken into the family at the manor; and the squire, struck with his soldierly qualities, had appointed him trainer and drummer to the village band of archers.

A grand field-day of these took place in the well-field, in front of the manor house. A large company was assembled, and the sports were at their height, the squire and his lady looking on with the rest. But one young rustic proving more than .usually stupid in the use of his bow, the squire made a rush forward to chastise him. Tom, the drummer, happened to be standing in his way, and near the well. St. Quintin accidentally ran against him and sent him staggering backward, and tripping, he fell head foremost down the well. Some time elapsed before he could be extricated, and when this was effected the youth was dead. The news spread quickly, and soon his mother appeared upon the scene. At first she was frantic, casting herself upon his body, and could not realize — though she had been warned of the danger of this spot to her son — that he was dead. Suddenly she rose up and stood with upright mien outstretched arm and stern composure before the squire. She remained silent awhile glaring upon him with dilated eyes while the awe-stricken bystanders gazed upon her as if she were some supernatural being. At length she broke the silence and in a sepulchral tone of voice exclaimed;

"Squire St. Quintin you were the friend of my boy and would still have been his friend but for this calamitous mishap.  You intended not his death, but from your hand his death has come. Know, then, that through all future ages, whenever a St. Quintin, Lord of Harpham, is about to pass from life, my poor boy shall beat his drum at the bottom of this fatal well; it is I the wise woman, the seer of the future that say it."

The body was removed and buried; and from that time, so long as the old race of St. Quintin lasted, on the evening preceding the death of the head of the house, the rat-tat of Tom's drum was heard in the well by those who listened for it.



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