The Haunted Spring of Totnes, Devon
The attractive little town of Totnes stands perched on a hill above the River Dart. The town traces its prosperity from the 9th century when the hilltop settlement was fortified as a defence against the Viking raids that plagued England at the time. Since then there has been a castle, priory and flourishing wool town built on the hill. And, of course, the town has acquired its ghosts.
The centre of the old town, and of the most persistent haunting, is the ancient spring of fresh water that burbles from the ground near the top of the hill. This is known as the Leech Well, taking its name from the fact that its waters were regularly prescribed by doctors – often termed “leeches” in days gone by.
The spectre that hovers around the Leech Well is a grey lady. She is seen bending over the small pool of water that forms around the spring as if stooping to drink. Sometimes she is just standing next to the spring. Occasionally she walks off along one of the narrow footpaths that link the well to the streets of the town. Local legend has it that this phantom in grey is a nun who carried water from the well for her sisters, and that she is also seen in Warland Street, where the convent had its burial ground.
In recent years the new age pagans, who seem to have gathered around Totnes as they have done around Glastonbury and Stonehenge, have adopted this ancient spring and spectre as their own. They hold that the grey lady is no nun, but a pre-Christian water spirit. The well, they believe, is sacred to Mother Earth and the grey lady is the guardian spirit of the place. A wicker work figure of a woman has been made and put in the pool of water around the spring to be festooned with offerings and appeals for help.
from "Haunted Places of Devon" by Rupert Matthews.
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