The Boiling Well

Water came from the Boiling Well or in East Herrington possibly from the St. Margaret’s Well – its site is still in the gardens behind the Post Office area.

Once a source of water for the Herrington people, this natural well was fed by the stream that ran through the park of Middle Herrington and the field towards West Herrington. It now lies between a giant electricity pylon.

The Excavation

It was long suspected that the remains of the well in the field near West Herrington might date back to Mediaeval times. Accordingly, approaches were made to Dr Wheldon in 1949 by Sunderland Antiquarian Society to allow some excavations. On 20th July work began on the gentle slope towards the Boiling Well with railing to prevent the grazing of 50 prize cows from straying into the work. The digging itself was supervised by Mr Nicholson and L. B. Darnton.

After preliminary digging of a trench round the stone wall that showed through the grass it was found that a square building had once stood there. Several bricks 9″ x 4½” x 2½” thought by the supervisors to be Tudor, emerged. There was a hollow containing a rubbish pit of glass, stone beer bottles, sauce bottles, stone ink bottles, old boots, china pots, bits of iron, wire and buckets, the years of debris from Herrington folk.

The site was not adequately viewed, no photographs were taken of the undisturbed ground, and much argument between those directing the dig. But by 31st July eight corners of an octagonal building were uncovered and amidst a pile of iron nails they found a William IV copper, a Charles II farthing and a church-wardens pipe.

West Herrington Well Excavation, 1949

The well proved to have had a bath-like structure with a brick platform leading to a sluice in a grooved channel. One of the bricks sent to the British Museum for examination was returned with the verdict: not earlier than the middle of the 17th century, so here was a disappointment for the Mediaevalists. Then was found in the well-dressed stones, a wooden beam shaft much decayed, evidently part of a pump that had fitted into a sheath.

So it would seem that some period in the late 17th or early 18th century there had been an attempt to control the natural spring of water with a pump and sluice gates. Possibly also an attempt to convert the area into a bath-house similar to those appearing at the time in watering places like Scarborough. Perhaps the family at the Hall had decided to develop a natural spring into a small health spot. The remains have been re-covered with turf but the tiny bridge to assist cattle across a once-deep gully that fed into this area is still visible.