Tuesday, 16 October 2012

"Contained the Remains of Withburga:" Saint Withburga's Well, Dereham

"Wihtburh (or Withburga) (died 743) was an East Anglia saint, princess and abbess who was possibly a daughter of Anna of East Anglia. She founded a monastery at Dereham in Norfolk and a traditional story says that the Virgin Mary sent a pair of does to provide milk for her workers during the monastery's construction. Her body is supposed to have been uncorrupted when discovered half a century after her death: it was later stolen on the orders of the abbot of Ely and a spring then appeared at the site of the saint's empty tomb at Dereham." - Wikipedia entry for 'Wihtburh'

In the churchyard of St Nicholas' Church in Dereham, this supposedly holy well remains, quietly minding its own business. According to another Wiki entry, on the history of Dereham, attempts were made in the eighteenth century to turn the town into a new Bath or Buxton by building a bath house over the well. The building was apparently ugly and unpopular and was eventually demolished in the late 1880s.

I visited on an overcast day. A young woman was sitting on a bench by the well talking loudly on her mobile phone. I felt a bit shifty, poking around with a camera, but she paid no heed. "I f**king didn't! I f**king didn't! I'm f**king telling you, I f**king didn't!" she kept yelling down the receiver. I never found out what she was denying.

This final image is of the lady herself, on a fifteenth century rood screen inside the church.

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