When is a Well not Well?

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Well 🙂 its not when its ill that’s for sure. The answer is when it is a spring, because a well and a spring are two different things, and despite its name, this is technically not a well at all. We are back in Dorset today, and this is the Lepers’ Well at Lyme Regis.

The Lepers’ Well, Lyme Regis

Leper's Well
The Lepers’ Well, Lyme Regis

The Lepers’ Well is at Lyme Regis in West Dorset and it dates from at least the 14th century and possibly earlier. The well, and a small section of perimeter wall, is all that remains of a medieval Lepers’ Hospital that once stood nearby. Back in the Middle Ages, leprosy had a stigma attached. It was thought to be highly contagious and also believed to be a result of some curse or a punishment for sinful behaviour, so sufferers were outcasts and isolated away from society in places where they could be treated. The hospital and its associated chapel were dedicated to St Mary and the Holy Spirit.

Leper's Well
The Plaque at the Well

Today of course we are more enlightened and know that true leprosy is caused by a bacteria so is less contagious than was originally thought so such places as this were actually unnecessary and perhaps brought about simply by people’s prejudice.

In fact, in some ways, the Lepers’ Well fails on two counts as far as its name goes because not only is it not a well, but it wasn’t exclusively for lepers either as hundreds of years ago any skin disease would have been regarded as leprosy.

Surrounding the well is a small garden and it sits in a delightful position beside the River Lym (aka Lim) that runs for some six kilometres from source to sea. It is this river that gives Lyme Regis its name.

Leper's Well
The River Lym Viewed from the Lepers’ Well Garden

I always enjoy walking up the Lym Valley, following what is almost a causeway between the diminutive river on one side, and the mill leat on the other as this drove the Town Mill that still stands in Lyme Regis. The now gently flowing stream flows quietly past the Lepers’ Well in an altogether different scene than it would have been in the days when the hospital was in place. We can only wonder what this area looked like then.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.



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