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: on site cleaning, occasional repair and provision of information plaques.
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. All three wells are Listed Grade II. The listing information is set out in Appendix 1.
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. 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 Cultural and Leisure Services Dept. Despite recorded minutes confirming both support in principle and also financial support from both the Authority and Lancashire County Council for these proposals’. Nothing actually happened.
On 23rd April 2018 the first meeting of the Town Wells Working Group (TWWG) was held. The outcome of that meeting, which was attended by representatives from CCS, Ribblesdale & Clitheroe Rotary Clubs, Trinity Methodist Church (and subsequently supported by the Clitheroe Chamber of Trade & Commerce) was as follows.
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.
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 centre of the existing Borough District of Ribble Valley.
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. (subsequently RVBC obtained Registered title for Stock Well in Nov 2019)
4 Following the demise of the Municipal Borough of Clitheroe (MBC) in 1974, the Society considers that RVBC is the only body or person, in the absence of Title Deeds, is a position to seek Registered Title with the HM Land Registry.
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.
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.
At the meeting with the Society’s three Officers, on 24th February 2020, RVBC’s CEO and Council Leader jointly confirmed their position that there was no evidence that present authority nor any of its municipal forebears had any ownership responsibility for St Mary’s Well or Heild well (also historically known as the ‘Town Well’).
Following that meeting CCS decided that a new strategy was required that concentrated less on trying to work with Council Officers and more on Public pressure. This based on the overwhelming historic evidence assembled by the Society (set out in Appendix 5) to convince Councillors of the Authority’s responsibility for all three ancient heritage assets and direct Officers to approve policies which will secure the future of all three.
The Covid outbreak has delayed the development of the revised strategy but this is now set out in Appendix 9: Save Clitheroe Town Wells' Action Plan.
The Society and the Town Wells Working Group welcomes support from any individuals, groups, or Councillors to ensure that that Ribble valley Borough Council does not walk away from its responsibility for these three unique Clitheroe heritage assets. With your support we can and will secure a future for the Clitheroe Town Wells to the credit of all prepared to be involved.
8: Images 2018