Today's Object of the Week is a mysterious well fed by a spring which has been a holy place for centuries.

THE village of Holystone - traditionally pronounced ‘Halystane’ in the local dialect - is on the south side of the Coquet, to the west of Hepple and east of Harbotttle.

It is said to be one of the places where the Roman missionary, Paulinus baptised thousands of local people in 627 during the reign of the Northumbrian king, Edwin.

Read more: What's the story behind this haunting structure, and how has County Durham landscape been transformed?

Paulinus is also known to have performed baptism in the River Glen near Yeavering and in the River Swale at Catterick in what is now North Yorkshire.

If Holystone’s connection to Paulinus is genuine, then the site of the baptism is marked by the ancient Lady’s Well, now looked after by the National Trust.

This well consists of a spring-fed pool, at the centre of which stands a Celtic style cross.

The Northern Echo: Lady’s Well AT Holystone, Coquetdale. Picture: DAVID SIMPSONLady’s Well AT Holystone, Coquetdale. Picture: DAVID SIMPSON

The spring that feeds the well is said to produce 560 gallons of water every minute. The water is filtered through a bed of fine sand to produce sparkling clear water.

The well is maintained by the National Trust who include a helpful sign that informs that this holy well was once a watering place beside the Roman Road leading to the fort of Bremenium (High Rochester) in Redesdale.

It took its present form in either Roman or Medieval times and a wall was built around it.

Holystone was the site of small priory of Augustinian Canonesses and through this all-female establishment it came to be known as the Lady’s Well. The priory was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1541.

The figure of a priest or religious man of some kind overlooks the well and is sometimes identified with Paulinus. It was brought here from Alnwick Castle in the 19th century.

Despite the long association with Paulinus, the well is also known as St Ninian’s Well, after the fifth century saint which is often the case with those ancient wells in the borders region, that date from the Roman era.

The National Trust sign mentions St Ninian but not Paulinus. The recorded mentions of the well’s association with St Ninian appear to be later than those that connect it to Paulinus - but the connection with Paulinus is thought to have been an historical error.

The Northern Echo: The National Trust sign at Lady’s Well, Holystone. Picture: DAVID SIMPSONThe National Trust sign at Lady’s Well, Holystone. Picture: DAVID SIMPSON

Whatever its origins, this is certainly a beautiful spot. In times past people would throw pins and coins into the well for good luck.

Many people connect the name of the little village of Holystone in which the well is situated to the ‘holy well’.

However, the village is Holystone not Holy Well and it may be more likely to connect its name with the prominent ancient Drake Stone at Harbottle a little further up the dale.

Another possible explanation is that Paulinus is said to have knelt on a flat stone - known as the Holy Stone - located at the east end of the pool. Others say that the Holy Stone is, in fact, the stone base that supports the statue of St Paulinus.

* Thanks to local historian David Simpson for his help in compiling this feature. Read more on the history and culture of the region on his website:

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