The Petrifying Well of Knaresborough

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On the banks of the river Nidd, near the town of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, is one of the oldest ‘entrance charging’ tourist attraction in England. It’s a petrifying well that was once thought to have been cursed by the devil, for whatever object the dripping waters touched, had been turned to stone. The leaves of creepers, sticks, even dead birds. People also noticed the side of the well looked like a giant’s skull. Most people avoided it because they believed that they too would be turned to stone if they touched it. The courageous ones started leaving everyday objects near the waterfall to watch them slowly turn to stone over just a few weeks. You can spot a Victorian top hat and a lady’s bonnet left at the waterfall in 1853, and other trinkets like teddy bears from more recent times.
The earliest written reference to the well was by John Leyland, antiquary to Henry VIII, who visited the well in 1538. He wrote that the well was very well-known and visitors drank and showered under its falling waters, as they were believed to have miraculous healing powers. Around this time, the legendary soothsayer and prophetess Ursula Southeil, who is better known as Mother Shipton, began to gain popularity.


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