Boldron Well (also known as Athelstan's or Athelston's Well) is situated 250 metres north of the village; it is significant for being the only village well that never runs dry. It lies just to the south of Thorsgill beck, above the edge of the limestone mass that forms Kilmond Scar to the south and west of the village.
The current structure (rebuilt in 2007) is thought to date from 1879 and consists of a sandstone wall topped with a wire fence. Inside this enclosure is the well, an enclosed spring 30ins(75cm) deep (Summer 2007) roofed over to keep debris out and for safety. The walls consist of finely sawn sandstone blocks fitted together without mortar and enclosing a space 8ft(2.45m) long by 5ft(1.54m) wide, the long axis aligned east/west. adjacent is a stone slab covering the cast iron pipe feeding the pump and another covering a the three stone steps leading down into the well.
Attached to the outside of the south wall is a cast iron pump with a water trough and run off below. The north wall is pierced by a hand cut stone channel to another trough and the east by an overflow to a surface drain into Thorsgill Beck.
There is also a buried cast iron pipe running over 1500metres to the east, to feed the field troughs of Abbey Farm.
There is no written record as to how Boldron Well became known as Athelstan's Well. Below are two theories, but what do you think?
· Athelstan was born around 895, Alfred the Great's grandson and the first king of all England. A distinguished and courageous soldier he came North in 927 taking York from the Danes, and forcing the submission of King Constantine of Scotland and the northern kings. Athelstan may well have passed Boldron if he travelled the ancient route to Cumbria across Stainmore.
· Athelstan could be derived from Egglestone. The Premonstratension monastic house of Egglestone Abbey was founded at some point between 1168 and 1198 and is only 1500m east of Boldron Well at the end of Thorsgill. The water from the well is currently piped to field troughs near the Abbey and there could have been other links with the Abbey in earlier times.
The earliest written reference found for Boldron Well is in the Plan and Apportionment for the 1768 Parliamentary Act of 'Enclosure of Boldron In Moor' in Durham County Record Office. The well was referred to as 'an Ancient Well called Athelston Well'. It is shown on the plan as a covered structure with possibly an adjacent drinking area for animals. There is also mention of provision for the repair of Athelston Well by a cart track 'for the purpose of leading Materials for the upholding Maintaining and keeping the said well in good repair and Condition'. The route of this (now disused) track can be seen curving northwestwards across the field to a gateway on the Barnard Castle road just south of Thorsgill Beck.
Provision is also made for the now public footpath between Boldron and Startforth that runs past the well. 'We Do hereby also sett out and appoint one other Foot road or Way for Foot passengers leading from an Ancient Well called Athelston Well to an ancient Style in the Footway leading to Barnard Castle aforesaid near a certain place there called Paddock Bridge'. This is the small packhorse bridge crossing Thorsgill Beck, below Boldron Well.
In a plan drawn for the Lowther family in 1802, the well is shown as 'Boldron Spa'. It is again drawn as having a covered part with an open area next to it. The route that the Victorian iron pipe now travels to Egglestone Abbey Farm troughs is shown on this map as a strand (an open drain).
The well is shown on the first (and all subsequent) edition of the Ordnance Survey in 1857.
In May 1878 there was a large meeting of the freeholders and ratepayers of Boldron concerning the well. It was decided that Mortham Estate (in the hands of the Morritt family based at Rokeby Hall) should pay £1 per year towards the upkeep of the well and that they would receive water from Boldron Well. The walls and the roof were repaired at this time.
There are numerous mentions in the Parish Meeting Minute Books since 1896 regarding Boldron Well. Some of these are given below.
1950 the pump at Boldron Well had been out of action during the recent drought, but that a new pump had been fitted and that water was now available.
1959 'local farmers were coming to Athelstan's Well for water in this period of drought and that the Well walls were in need of repair'.
1960 'repairs to the pump and walls of Athelstan's Well had been attended to'.
1978 'St Athelstone's Wel in a very poor condition, the roof being broken and partly missing and a danger to children and animals as it is close beside the public footpath'.
1986 'Mortham Estates had repaired the well and lid'.
In 2006 the well was again in a very poor state, the cover was rusting badly and within the wall the roots of self-seeded trees now up to 20feet high were breaking the walls and well apart. The renovation this time was devolved to the new Parish History Group who were successful in obtaining a grant from Awards For All and also for the preparation and publication of this leaflet. The work being carried out during the summer of 2007.