Town Wells



(Revised: 7th December 2018; 19.01.01: S 6.4 L 1; 19.02.02; 19.03.04 item 2.3 Added)

 1.0 Background

 1.1 Clitheroe Civic Society (the Society) has had a long-standing interest in securing a strategy for the long-term care and better interpretation of Heild Well, St Mary’s Well and Stocks Well (the Wells). The locations of these wells are indicated in the location plan adjacent. Previously, and with other organisations, the Society has participated in, or assisted with: on site cleaning, occasional repair and provision of information plaques.

 1.2 A definitive recorded history of the wells does not exist, or has yet to be discovered. Given the significance of the Wells to the development of Clitheroe from the late medieval to the mid-Victorian era, the Society is now actively trying to address this by researching local and county archives and the publications left of the town’s numerous local historians. Much of what has been collected to date has informed this review.

 1.3 All three wells are Listed Grade II. The listing information is set out w in Appendix 1.

 1.4 The Clitheroe Conservation Area Appraisal, commissioned by the Authority in 20051, P 22 states that ‘ There are a number of local details and features which add to the area’s distinct identity and form part of the special interest of the area. Most notable are the three wells, St Mary’s Well, Stocks Well and the Town’s Well, which were the chief sources of water for the people of Clitheroe until the mid-1850s when a piped water supply was introduced. All three are listed’.

 1.5 The Authority’s Adopted Core Strategy2 confirms:

There will be a presumption in favour of the conservation and enhancement of the significance of heritage assets and their settings. The Historic Environment and its Heritage Assets and their settings will be conserved and enhanced in a manner appropriate to their significance for their heritage value; their important contribution to local character, distinctiveness and sense of place; and to wider social, cultural and environmental benefits'.

Previous attempts by the Society to establish a strategy for continued appropriate repair, maintenance, better interpretation and improvements to the immediate surroundings, have failed due to the lack of any registered ownership of the wells. This current review presents the case for ownership by Ribble Valley Borough Council (the Authority) to be accepted for the following reasons:

1.5.1 Existing records confirm that the responsibility for the care and upkeep of all three Wells was the responsibility of the Municipal Borough of Clitheroe (MBC). In 1974 the new district and Borough Council of Ribble Valley (RVBC) was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. This saw the merger of the former Municipal Borough of Clitheroe with other surrounding Rural Districts. The Society understands that the whole of the MBC’s estate, and the responsibilities for it was, transferred to the new district under this act.

1.5.2 For whatever reasons, the transfer of titles for the wells from MBC to RVBC did not take place in 1974. This was either an omission and/an error in terms of the requirement of the Local Government Act. This now needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to secure a future for these three highly significant Grade II Listed Heritage Assets.

1.6 An earlier initiative to establish an improvement, maintenance and interpretation strategy - most notably the 2011 project - is illustrated in Appendix 2 . This was developed by the Society with the encouragement and support of the Authority’s then Head of Cultural and Leisure Services, Terry Longden. A regeneration project based around and including Heild Well was identified as being of ‘Relevance to the Council’s ambitions and priorities. Despite recorded minutes confirming both support in principle and also financial support from both the Authority and Lancashire County Council for these proposals’3. Nothing actually happened.

1.7 Without established ownership there is no prospect whatsoever for any significant
refurbishment work attracting any grant aid from potential funders such as Heritage Lottery Fund, The Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, . Given the stated lack of funds within the Authority – for the foreseeable future - to arrest the deterioration of the Wells they are in and effectively condemned to a slow and unseemly dereliction.

 2.0 Meetings of the Society’s Wells Working Group (WWG)

 2.1 23rd April 2018

A first meeting of the WWG was held on 23rd April at CCS Committee Member Ruth Thompson’s House. Relevant extracts from the record of this meeting are set out below:

2.1.1 Mark Beveridge (MB) Head of Cultural and Leisure Services for RVBC requested that: -

 The Society provide further written information as regards the ownership aspect - it was
subsequently agreed that this issue would be addressed by CCS Chairman, Steve Burke (SB) and CCS Treasurer, at that time and now Secretary, Michael Parkinson (MP).

 The Society to provide details of previous (and current?) restoration proposals it was
subsequently agreed that SB and CCS Committee member Len Middleton (LM) would deal with this.

 2.1.2 This information was requested no later than 8th May 2018 in order to be included at the next RVBC Community Committee meeting. This Review to deal solely with the ownership issue…

2.1.3 MB has previously indicated that the RVBC acknowledge responsibility, and thus ownership, of Stocks Well but not St Mary’s or Heild Wells. However, CCS research of HM Land Registry finds no registered title for any of the Wells, including Stocks Well.

 2.1.4 The Society believes that given the evidence set out here and attached to this Review the Municipal Borough of Clitheroe (MBC), and their predecessors going back into antiquity, owned and maintained all three Public Wells up to Local Authority reorganisation in 1974. The Society also maintains it is inconceivable that ownership has since been spilt. Until such time as evidence is provided to the contrary, the Society will maintain this position. Should RVBC provide evidence which confirms an ownership of Stocks Well, it remains the Society’s opinion that this duty has not been discharged in a manner reflecting the significance of this heritage asset.

 2.2 30th Sept. 2018

Following the disappointment of the May version of the Review not being considered by the Community Services Committee, as previously promised, a second meeting of the TWWG was convened at Clitheroe Library on 30th Sept. 2018. The relevant point of that meeting are set out below:

 2.2.1 SB to draft a letter for use by the Councillors who attended this meeting requesting an urgent meeting with Marshall Scott, Ken Hind and Simon Hore.

 2.2.2 A copy of the letter which was issued as a result of this decision is set out in Appendix 3

 As a direct result of this request and letter to the Officers and Councillors, the CCS Chairman and Secretary were invited for informal discussions on behalf of the TWWG by Cllrs. Sue & Ken Hind on 1st November. They indicated their personal views, which were both positive and supportive of the Group’s proposals. Following this meeting it was confirmed, by Cllr Sue Hind, that ‘the officers have been asked to write a report for the next Community Committee on 8th Jan regarding ownership of the Wells’. During the 1st Nov. meeting it had also been confirmed that a representative from the TWWG would be given the opportunity to present their case to the Community Committee at the Jan 2019 meeting and application to address the Committee was made on 4th December4

 2.3 11th Feb. 2019

Meeting of the Town Wells Working Group at the New Inn. 2.00pm 11th February 2019

 Present: CCS: S. Burke , B. Alty, S. Penman, Ribblesdale Rotary Club: S. Hind, Clitheroe Town Council: Cllr’s I. Brown, M. Fenton, Trinity Methodist Church: R. Hailwood.

Apologies: M Parkinson; J. Tolson, G Claydon; Ian Sowerbutts; Cllr. A Knox

The following matters were discussed:

1.  S.B. referred to the unanimous decision taken at the meeting of the Community Services Committee on the 8th January 2019 to defer action until further investigations had been made, both by the council and by the CCS, with CCS charged with producing an official legal argument to prove their case.

2  CCS Strategy is to produce as much evidence of council involvement with the wells as possible. S.P’s thorough , and ongoing , searches of records in the Clitheroe Advertiser &Times volumes, the Preston Chronicle, and the Clitheroe Municipal Borough Council (CBMC) minutes have produced several articles about the wells, indicating that the Borough council have, on several occasions, paid for maintenance work.

3  In minutes of a council meeting in 1971 the Borough Engineer and Surveyor is charged with ascertaining requirements for improvements to the wells. It is felt that the evidence is indisputable.

4  RVBC minutes have so far not been available for the period 1974-1985 within Clitheroe Library Reference Section. Therefore, no searches can presently be made for this period. This continues.

5  S.H. felt that enquiries should be made within the Ribble Valley Borough Council (RVBC) to find these missing minutes. Further enquiries to be made to RVBC to access these, and subsequent records, to identify any regular maintenance activity by the current authority since 1974 to the present date.

6  S.B. referred to discussions he had had with a former CBMC and RVBC employee, now retired, who has clear memories of work his department carried out to the wells. It is hoped that he will produce a written report of this in due course.

7   S.B. referred to the CCS committee meeting in January, when a budget was agreed for legal advice to be sought. An appointment has been made with Mr. Simon England of Harrison Drury (HD) on the 22nd February. It has been suggested, and it is hoped, that initial advice will be given on a ‘pro bono’ basis, but costs may be incurred dependent upon this. S.B. has prepared a comprehensive review in advance of the meeting.


8  S.B. referred to the Local Government Act 1972, making provision for the transfer of all assets deemed to be owned by the CMBC to be transferred to the new authority, even if they were not specifically mentioned. This has been brought to the attention of RVBC in previous correspondence.

9  S.B. said that an ‘enabling authority’ had been set up in advance of the transfer. Charles Wilson who was Chief Architect Planning Officer Designate had been a member of this. Access to the directions to, and records of, this body might also give further information on the what should and what did happen at the transfer assets from the old authority to the new one in April 1974. This to be further investigated with RVBC.

10  S.P. stated that the Wells were probably in existence as springs before the Castle was even built. At various stages they have been made more usable by laying stones around them, building small walls , building higher walls, and other maintenance and repair work to improve them.

11  S.H. stated that Mark Beveridge is concerned about council liability should there be any accidents . All felt that council Public Liability insurance must already cover this.

12  Ian Brown wondered if the Clitheroe Town Council had any records or lists of assets transferred. They may be held in the Archive? This to be pursued by SP.

13  SB. Queried if it would it be possible to find evidence of expenditure in RVBC records of Policy and Finance Committee meetings? This to be pursued by SB with RVBC.

14  I.B. suggested investigating land ownership on old Tythe maps held by LCC. S.P. will follow this up.

15  S.B. said the decision of the RVBC to draw a line under the unpopular Barnfield project and bid instead for a grant from the Future High Street Fund was welcomed by all. There is hope that Clitheroe at last will have the upgrade it needs, pavements, streetscape etc. including the Wells .

16  It was agreed that the information TWWG has assembled to date should not be released to RVBC until the legal advice has been obtained from HD.

17  A further meeting to be arranged following receipt of legal advice from Harrison Drury.

18  The meeting closed at 3.00pm with various side discussions on the planning problems of the town There was general consensus that the initiative to ‘save’ the town wells would fit in well (no pun intended) with the bid to the Future High Streets Funding Bid that RVBC has recently decided to pursue. The Civic Society has given written support for, and offered its support during, the preparation of the bid - if invited to do so.

Next Meeting TB

3.0 Evidence of Responsibility and the Case for Ownership by Ribble Valley Borough Council

3.1 Stocks Well (off Parson Lane, adjacent Trinity Church)

 3.1.1 A review of the HM Land Registry Title Registration plans (see Appendix 4) shows that, despite the previous indication by The Authority that Stocks Wells ‘is on our land and documented as such’5 there is no record of registered title for any of the three former Public Wells.

 3.1.2 It is clear from this that the conveyance from the Honor of Clitheroe to the Clitheroe Borough Council cannot have included Stocks Well otherwise this would have been included in the registered title of Clitheroe Castle and grounds (LAN18083). It is not.

 3.1.3 As further evidence Stocks Well was outside the historic ‘Extra Parochial’ boundary of Clitheroe Castle.

 3.1.4 It is probably not surprising, given the ancient history, that there are apparently no title deeds as regards the ownership of the Wells and thus these were not included when the RVBC undertook a voluntary Registration of Title exercise of the properties within its ownership.

 3.1.5 Regardless of the status of the other two Town Wells the Society believes that the status of Stocks Well should be regularised and registration of ownership made to HMRL. Ideally this would be done at the same time as the registration of Heild and St. Mary’s Wells

 3.2 All Wells

 3.2.1 It is the TWWG’s contention that existing records (see Appendix 5) confirm that the responsibility for the care and upkeep of all three Wells was the responsibility of the Municipal Borough of Clitheroe (MBC). In 1974 the new district and Borough Council of Ribble Valley (RVBC) was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, as a merger of the former municipal Borough of Clitheroe with other surrounding Rural Districts. The Society understands that the whole of the MBC’s estate, and responsibilities for it, was transferred to the new district under this act.

 3.2.2 For whatever reason - the transfer of title from MBC to the Authority did not take place in 1974 and this was thus an omission and/an error in terms of the requirement of the Local Government Act which now needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to secure a future for these three highly significant Grade II Listed Heritage Assets.

 3.2.3 There is a remote chance that there were separate Title Deeds relating to the three wells prior to Council Reorganisation in 1973-4 and the RVBC chose not to register them. The Society considers this to be highly unlikely - though not impossible. Further comment on this is invited from the Authority. Until such a time as this takes place it is accepted that no registered title of ownership exists for any of the three wells.

3.2.4 It is understood that the Authority has an annual budget of circa £300.00 for cleaning and weed spraying of the Wells. This is regarded by the Society - and TWWG - as evidence and acceptance of a current and ongoing responsibility for the Wells. It follows that, by accepting a responsibility for the Wells this is tantamount to accepting ownership - albeit with no identified Title Deeds or Registered Title at this point in time.

3.2.5 Given this tacit acceptance of responsibility by the Authority, the Society believes that an application to the HM Land Registry by the Authority would undoubtably succeed and at least a possessory title would be granted - if not an absolute title. This ‘owned status’ could enable Community organisations such as the Society, via the TWWG, to work in partnership with the Authority. The aim, to develop a long-term maintenance and improved interpretation strategy for the Wells and enable the necessary funds to implement such a strategy to be sought.

 3.3 If, as is presently maintained by the Authority, the ownership of the Wells does not rest with them, this raises the question ‘Who could, or should, conceivably be the owners of the three former Public Town Wells other than Ribble Valley Borough Council’?

Let’s review the alternatives:

 The adjoining property owners? Registered Titles are in place for all adjacent properties. Clearly none of the wells are included on their Deeds.
NB: There may be implications for adjacent owners, including the Authority (and Lancashire County Council – see below) in the longer term in relation to paved areas, street furniture and structures under public or private ownership which lie immediately adjacent to the ancient well enclosures. This is not considered to be critical to the initial need to secure registered titles to each well. This aspect will require further investigation and engagement with adjacent owners as and when improvements to the adjacent environment is under consideration and implementation.

Clitheroe Town Council? Clearly not otherwise they would be picking up the annual maintenance budget which the RVBC currently covers.

 United Utilities and their Water Supply predecessors? The Wells predate the 1854 Waterworks Act and it is considered that their interests in water supply estates will only stem from work and acquisitions undertaken after the implementation of that Act.

 Lancashire County Council (LCC)? St Mary’s is adjacent to what is assumed to be adopted pavement under the control and maintenance of the LCC, if not its ownership. Heild Well is adjacent, in part, to what are assumed to be adopted pavements and also the private forecourt area of The Dog Inn. There would appear to be no implications for LCC in relation to Stocks Well though, via a copy of this report to County Councillor Iddon they are invited to comment on:
the possibility of ownership of St Mary’s Well and/or any of the others, and
the implications of environmental improvements to the streetscape immediately adjacent to all three Wells - at some point in the future when ownership has been resolved – as part of general strategy for the long term repair, improvement and better interpretation provisions.

 4.0 The Society’s suggestions to see ownership of the wells confirmed and a Phased Strategy for Appropriate and Regular Maintenance, Essential Repair and Improved Interpretation

 4.1 This Information is set out in attached Appendix 6.


 5.0 Proposed Outline for Works for the Repair and Better Interpretation of the Town Wells

 5.1 This Information is set out in attached .

6.0 The Benefits of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s registered ownership of the Town Wells

 6.1 With the recent proposal for the adoption of a Ribble Valley Tourism Destination Management Plan (DMP), there is new optimism within the authority and this Society for the recognition of the economic development potential and benefit which can accrue from the promotion of Heritage Tourism.

 6.2 The TWWG and Clitheroe Civic Society, who were instrumental in setting up this cross-community group, welcomes this intention and are keen to support and assist the Authority achieve the aims of the DMP wherever possible. Action to secure the future of this trio of unique monuments in Lancashire, which lie at the heart of our Borough, will be an excellent vehicle with which to put such policies into practice. Once the ownership issue of the Town Wells is resolved - and a strategy for the care and better interpretation of these monuments is established – we believe this will provide wider benefits in accordance with the DMP’s aims, including:

 A community based and HLF assisted project to assess, survey, repair, maintain and better interpret the town wells along similar lines to CCS’s Pinnacle Project.
Enhancement of the existing Town Trail.
A family-focused ‘Pick and Mix’ short Town Walk from the castle around town to see wells and, at least, one other significant location.
In the context of a, yet to be developed Ribble Valley Heritage Trail aimed at tourists, one of a series of ‘extras’ could be a water-themed day trail possibly including: The Hidden Wells of Clitheroe (there are many), Valley Wells’ - Walloper Well comes to mind for a start and no doubt others throughout the Borough’s village locations; the Pendle and Bowland Fells Sulphur Springs. In turn these could all be linked into the development of educational resources to support science, geography and history aspects of the national curriculum.
Engagement of tertiary education students in the assessment, recording and conservation repair aspects of the wells. The Course Leader of UCLan’s MSc Building Conservation Course has already confirmed interest in involvement and their participation in the Repair and Conservation of the Castle Gardens Pinnacle was of great benefit to all parties involved with that project.
Well-based events or activities, such as a creative response or an appropriate charity challenge – WaterAid for example or perhaps a ‘rain-park’ as a diversification project, to help meet the need to develop innovative family activities.


7.0 Conclusion

7.1 There is no doubt, in the TWWG’s view that the responsibility for the care and maintenance of all three former Public Wells can only reside with the Ribble Valley Borough Council. Given that this Authority has a confirmed the existence of a maintenance budget for the three Town Wells this indicates that this responsibility is accepted by the Authority.

7.2 The Society contends that the finance currently allocated, understood to be £300.00/p/a, for the maintenance of the wells is completely inadequate to sustain their long term future as three of the most significant heritage assets within the ancient Borough of Clitheroe and at the center of the existing Borough District of Ribble Valley.

7.3 That the Authority does not appear to hold Registered Title of Ownership of any of the wells appears to be the case and unless and until evidence to prove otherwise is found any future action to secure the future of the wells must proceed on his basis

7.4 Following the demise of the MBC in 1974, the Society considers that the Authority6 are the only body or person, in the absence of Title Deeds, is a position to seek Registered Title with the HM Land Registry.

7.5 By accepting and pursuing acknowledged ownership, the Authority would not be increasing their current accepted responsibility nor would this commit the RVBC to additional expenditure unless it chose to do so.

7.6 The TWWG and this Society looks forward to discussing these issues further with Ribble Valley Council Officers and Councillors at the earliest opportunity as, with every passing season there is further deterioration of the historic fabric of the wells and the eventual cost of their repair work increases. In the meantime, their appearance is not what is expected for three historic listed monuments, particularly in this ancient borough and for a town and district which rightly recognises that tourism and cultural history should be at the heart of its ongoing economic regeneration strategy.


Steve Burke dip. Arch (Oxf’d) Conservation Architect


For and on behalf of the

Clitheroe Civic Society and the Clitheroe Town Wells Working Group

11th February 2019



1 A & 1B: Historic England Listings & Monument Full Reports


3: Letter to RVBC Executive & Cllrs from TWG 30th October 2018

4: Land Registry Search Documents

5: Evidence of responsibility and ownership

6: Phased Care Strategy Proposals

7: Essential Repair and Improved Interpretation Proposals

8A,8B, & 8C: Images & Condition Observations for A: Heild Well; B: St Mary’s Well & C Stocks Well

9: Letter to M Scott RVBC

10: Extract of Minutes of Community Services Committee 20th May 2019

11: Minutes of Meeting of the TWWG 28 th June 2019


CC Town Clerk, Clitheroe Town Council

Town Cllrs.: Maureen Fenton, Ian Brown, Allan Knox

The President, Clitheroe Chamber of Trade

Trinity Methodist Church: Roland Hailwood,

Ribblesdale Rotary: Cllr Sue Hind

Clitheroe Rotary: Graham Claydon

Clitheroe Chamber of Trade & Commerce: Ian Sowerbutts, Vice Chairman

Clitheroe Civic Society General Committee

Ribble Valley Borough Council: Cllr. K Hind, Cllr S Hore & all Community Committee Cllrs.

Clitheroe Advertiser & Times

1 The Conservation Studio 2005
2 Key Statement EN5: Heritage Assets P52
3 RVBC Report to Policy & Finance Committee Meeting 7th June 2011 item 2.2.10 p3 and RVBC Report to Policy & Finance Committee Meeting 27 the September 2011 item 4.1 p3 and Para 6 p4
4 Email dated 18.12.04 SB – OH Re Community Committee Meeting 190108
5 Email from Cllr K Hind to S Burke Mon 18/12/2017 17:50 referring to information obtained from Mark Beveridge & RVBC Legal Section.
6 7.4 line 1 amended to insert ‘the Authority’ (omitted from the original document) for avoidance of doubt.