Roseberry Well

Roseberry Well — no water today but a ‘Geocache’ box and an old plastic sandwich container.

I moved up to the Cleveland area in the Autumn of 1973 and I’ve been climbing Roseberry on a regular basis every since. It’s my patch. And I thought I knew every nook and cranny.

I knew about Roseberry Well, where the young Prince Oswy is said to have drowned having been taken to the highest hill in the kingdom of Northumbria by his mother to escape a prophecy that he would drown on his second birthday.

In fact I posted about it in 2019 in which I erroneously assumed that the well was a dampish niche just below the summit ridge. How wrong I was.

Last night it clicked to me that the O.S. map has actually pointed to a location just below the 300m contour all this time. Doh!

And sure enough, the “well’ is there although young Prince must have been terribly unlucky to drown in it.

The well is supposed to have medicinal properties such that “in the middle ages people resorted to it from all over the district“. In the 16th-century, William Camden wrote1“Cleveland Re-Visited Great Ayton. | Cleveland Standard | Saturday 26 November 1932 | British Newspaper Archive.” Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk, 2022, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003490/19321126/128/0008.:

“we nexte visited Ounesberrye Toppinge whyche is a lande-mark for sailors and neare ye toppe is a fountaine or welle, whych is considered a goode cure fore soare eyes, flux, and chronic coughe.”

In the 1930s, the well is reported as being “railed off” “for safety’s sake“, although I could find no trace of any fencing today2Ibid.. (Not as silly as it sounds as bits of the Victorian railings that once protected the summit can still be found hidden in the bilberries).

4 Replies to “Roseberry Well”

  1. your post got a mention on the facebook group – Holy Wells and Sacred Springs of Britain
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/244060782427611/

    There is an old pic of the well which shows water in it, – in the proceedings of the Cleveland naturalists for 1920 http://barlow.me.uk/clevelandnats/1920-1925_.pdf

    A few years back i tried to clear some of the spiky grass out of the well but it is too overgrown. I did think about contacting the national trust as it is on their land, and see if they might clear it out – but then the pandemic set in. it might actually warrant a proper excavation?

    1. Thanks for that, Graeme. I don’t think there’ll be much chance of getting the NT to clear it. The rangers are very overworked but you never know.

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