I heard about the haunted pub and the cursed well of Avebury while touring a church in Gloucestershire.
I was purchasing a CD of Traditional Country Songs (sung by a small chorus) at the gift shop of St. John the Baptist in Cirencester. I recognized many of the titles from my collection of Irish songs and I was curious as to how it would sound by a choral group. I paid my £12.00. I noticed from a lapel tag that the man behind the gift table was a chap named Jonathan.
“Don’t you think this is a beautiful space?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “its beautiful enough and large enough to be an Abbey.”
“Have you seen the Green Man? We have a Green Man here…if you know where to look.”
Being a fan of Green Man legends and mythologies and I was surprised that I had missed the carving of a face with branches growing out of eye sockets, the nose and the eyes. Unless this figure was quite hidden or very tiny, I had overlooked a most fascinating detail.
Jonathan locked his cash box and literally leapt from his chair.
“Follow me,” he said. “I think you’ll find this interesting. I worked here a year before anyone mentioned the Green Man and pointed him out to me. Here. Just stand here and look up…straight up.”
I leaned back and picked out the figure on the ceiling in less than a minute. I told him that I found symbols of all kinds of great interest. I look for them on tombstones, along the walls of old churches and in the amazing scenes depicted in stained glass windows.
“Thank you so much,” I said. “I’d love to talk but my wife and I are one our way to visit the stone circles of Avebury so I’ll have to say thanks and good-bye to you, Jonathan. I appreciate you’re taking a few minutes to point the Green Man out to a couple of Yanks.”
“Avebury? You’re going to Avebury? That’s one of my favorite places. So much better than Stonehenge,” said Jonathan, “and you can walk among the stones. Can’t do that at Stonehenge…unless, of course you’re a Druid.”
“Well, they probably would make it difficult to allow me, as a foreign person, to be a Druid,” I said. “Again, I’d love to chat but we need to get on the road. Thanks so much…again.”
I walked toward the large dark wood doors. I was preparing to put on my sunglasses in the bright light when I heard Jonathan say something.
“There’s a haunted well in Avebury, did you know that?”
I stopped in mid step and spun around.
“A haunted well?” I said.
“Yes, and it’s inside a pub. Want to hear the story?”
There is no way that I could say “no” to this fellow. The promise of such a story had great potential.
“Yes, I would like to hear it, Jonathan. I most certainly would like to hear it.”
“Well, it has nothing to do with the stones of the neolithic circles,” he said. “this is how the story goes, at least as I’ve heard it.”
“During the Middle Ages, actually about the year 1500, the village of Avebury was ruled by a Lord of the Manor. Typical in those days. Apparently he had his rheumy old eyes on one of his prettiest milkmaids who worked at one of his farms. She was barely out of puberty. Some have written that she was about fourteen years old. Well, you don’t need a vivid or particularly dirty imagination to figure out what this Manor Lord did with this poor girl. She became pregnant. In those days, women who found themselves in such a situation were almost always blamed for their condition, and her “behavior” was frowned upon by the townspeople.
“The Lord of the Manor? He was untouchable, wasn’t he? No court of law would rule against him…he likely was the law. So, justice was carried out by the mob. They came one night to the girl’s farm and dragged her to the market square. In that square was a deep well. Her fate was sealed. They led her screaming to the edge of the hole and threw the poor soul in. The well has been measured at 87 feet to the water. Can you imagine the terror and the screams from the child as she fell those 87 feet, clutching vainly at the sharp rocks, trying to stop her fall with her bare feet and bleeding knees? After she hit the water, a silence descended on the crowd. The screams stopped. The silence from the bottom of the well was absolute. The torches couldn’t penetrate that deep so the men who looked down could only see inky blackness. And hear the total quiet. It chills my skin to tell you this. But, the well is still there. It’s now been covered by plastic and it is part of a table in the dining area of the pub…how’s that for a story?”
I was transfixed.
“Oh my God, how sad,” was all I could say.
Several hours later we were in the Car Park of Avebury. We walked around the stones. I watched a Druid-like ceremony at one of the standing stones. I kept looking across the field at the pub. It was white, and I think it had a thatched roof.
I simply had to look down the well.
“Let’s have a quick drink and a light sandwich here,” I said to Mariam. She had heard the story as I did and she was as anxious to see the well as I was.
It was crowded with tourists. I went from sitting room to dining room and looked for the well. Finally, I found it in the third dining area I entered. There was a woman sitting at the table sipping a white wine. I apologized and asked if she’d mind if I took a few photos. She said it was no problem.
I told her it was the price she paid to sit at a table built over a haunted well.
I approached the plexiglass cover. I leaned over and looked down. There were lights along the round wall that made small green-leaved and moss seemed to glow. I looked deeper and say the surface of water, 87 feet down. The light in the room lit the bottom of the well and I could see my own reflection in the still water.
I stared, waiting for a small pretty face to look up at me, but none appeared. But, I must admit that I felt a particular unease as I looked down. It was though I was expecting something or someone to speak to me. I could almost hear the girl’s voice. I could almost hear her screams.
But, what I seemed to sense, overwhelmingly, was sadness. Someone was crying inside my head. Someone, through no fault of her own, was violated and murdered. I almost began to cry but my wife pulled me away.
I assume her spirit wanders the village square, the dining room or the stone circles…looking for someone to protect her. I wondered. If I stayed overnight at the pub or a nearby B & B, and I happened to come face to face with a girl dead over six hundred years…what would I say? How could I find a way to break the chain that keeps her spirit linked to the well?
I know I couldn’t. If there is a just God, than He or She must have pity on her lost soul.
I walked back to the car park with a leaden heart.
I also wondered which local churchyard held the grave of our Lord of the Manor who damaged this young girl’s soul for over half a millennia. Is his soul resting in eternal peace? Or does he too wander the lanes and fields trying to find forgiveness?
He does, if there is true justice.
[The haunted pub is the small white building in the right portion of the photo just above the largest upright stone on the right]