Adam’s Well, Onneley, North Staffordshire
by Charles E. S. Fairey, May 2019
A Map of Lands belonging to Sir Thomas Grey Egerton Baronet lying within Wrinehill, Bettley
and Onneyley in the Parish of Maidley, 1754 (Manchester Archives Reference: E4/86/1)
"Reproduced by kind permission of Manchester Archives and Local Studies"
According to the above 1754 Egerton Estate Map of Onneley, a well existed on ‘Chapel Lane’ (now ‘School Lane’) in the North Staffordshire village of Onneley, to the west of Madeley.
The Map shows a square well situated in a field named ‘Adam’s Well’, so we therefore know the name of this well.
‘Chapel Lane’ is named after Onneley Chapel, which was originally a Knights Templar Chapel (which later became a Knights Hospitaller Chapel, and later pilgrimage church), which survived into the 17th century, and is shown on Saxton’s 1577 Map of Staffordshire and Speed’s 1611 Map of Staffordshire. The Chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Today, the only physical signs that Onneley Chapel once existed, are the flat earthwork platform in a pasture field, situated to the immediate west of Chapel Lane (now ‘School Lane’), but a little further north, from where Adam’s Well is shown on the 1754 Map. The earthwork is situated next to the site of a field, which was known as ‘Chapel Field’.
The Chapel is documented in 14th century historic documents, when it is recorded as being held by the Hospitallers.
The Chapel was most likely part of a small Templar and later Hospitaller estate or camerae, situated at Onneley. These estates were like other monastic house holdings, and were typically made up of a large farm or grange.
‘Chapel Lane’ (now ‘School Lane’) itself, did actually run all the way from Onneley Hall to Wrinehill Hall, linking the main route from London to Chester, via Newcastle, Keele, Betley and Nantwich; and the main road from Madeley to Woore and Audlem. The part which is no longer a public road, at the end of the lane to the north, still exists as a track, green lane, and footpath; running to the edge of Wrinehill Wood, and then toward Wrinehill Hall.
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Luckily ‘Adam’s Well’ still exists, and is a rare survival, as the enormous number of wells that existed in every village, every farm, and landscape, have usually been lost to antiquity, especially within the last century, and the installation of piped water. Usually only a small number still exist in some state reflective of their life giving history.
Some wells are just sources of water, but others, are named, after local people, their location, or their water properties, and sometimes are attached with a saintly dedication, and sometimes known as healing wells.
The etymology of the name of this well as ‘Adam’s Well’, gives two possibilities:-
It was named after a local person named Adam:-
This may mean it was named after ‘Adam de Onyleye’, who along with his wife, Philippa, in 1306, during the later reign of Edward I, was sued by Roger, son of Peter Corbuzon, for 12 acres of land in Onneley. (Collections for a History of Staffordshire, Edited by William Salt, Volume XII, 1909, Page 205).
The well being linked with ‘Adam de Onyleye, or another member of the ‘de Onneley’ family named Adam, does seem likely, as they were the lords of Onneley at this time.
‘Adam de Graftone’, son of Robert de Grafton, also appears in historic documents dating to 1309, during the early reign of Edward II, where his mother Sibilla, is sued by Serena, daughter of John de Bromleye, William le Machun and his wife, Agnes, for 3 acres of land in Madeley, as well as suing Adam, for 3 acres in the same vill, as well as other family members and others, and their lands. (Collections for a History of Staffordshire, Edited by William Salt, Volume IX, 1888, Page 10).
The well being linked with ‘Adam de Graftone’ or another member of the ‘de Graftone’ family named Adam, also seems feasible, because ‘Grafton’s Wood’, to the near north east, is named after this family.
The well may also have been named after an ‘Adam’ linked with Onneley Chapel, which existed to the immediate north, possibly a lay member of the Knights Templar or Hospitaller, or a chaplain, or even possibly a Knight. However, if it was named after a Knight, it is more likely they were linked to a local lordly landowning family.
Or the well was named after another local man named ‘Adam’.
It was named for the quality of its water:-
Other wells in England and Wales named after ‘Adam’ are thought to be named after the water itself. Phrases such as ‘Adam’s Ale’ and ‘Adam’s Wine’ are colloquial allusions for water, which are taken from the Bible because it was believed in the ‘Garden of Eden’, Adam only drank water. The phrases did gain popularity during the Temperance period, but have over the recent decades died out.
Therefore ‘Adam’s Well’ may simply mean the ‘Well of Water’.
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Today the well sits to the right hand side of the driveway to the Cottage known as ‘Brookside’ on School Lane (originally ‘Chapel Lane’). It consists of a square stone basin, with paving tiles around, and the water still flows.
Adam’s Well by the driveway of ‘Brookside’ Cottage, School Lane, Onneley, Staffordshire
There is also a possibility, like the large square shown on the 1754 Egerton Estate Map, that the overgrown area behind the well may hide a large square basin. At some holy wells a large square basin exists for bathing in the healing waters, or for the baptism of Christians.
Adam’s Well may also be linked with the Knights Templar and later Knights Hospitaller Chapel, to the immediate north. It may have been a good source of water for their farming estate here, especially if the water was so good, it was linked with Adam and the Garden of Eden, and possibly also used, after blessing, as holy water for the Chapel.
The Location of Adam’s Well, School Lane, Onneley, Staffordshire
With Special Thanks to:-
- Roy P. Rushton (Friend, Historian & Betley Local History Society)
- Staff at Manchester Archives and Local Studies
- The Knights Templar Chapel, Onneley, North Staffordshire: A Medieval Pilgrimage Site, Charles E. S. Fairey, December 2013 (Revised 2015).
- A Map of Lands belonging to Sir Thomas Grey Egerton Baronet lying within Wrinehill, Bettley and Onneyley in the Parish of Maidley, 1754 (Manchester Archives Reference: E4/86/1).
- Saxton’s Map of Staffordshire, 1577.
- Speed’s Map of Staffordshire, 1611.
- Yates’ Map of the County of Stafford, 1775.
- Ordnance Survey – Historic Maps (Sources: http://www.old-maps.co.uk/ & http://maps.nls.uk/).
- The Place-names of Cheshire, J McN Dodgson, 1971.
- Collections for a History of Staffordshire, Edited by William Salt, Volume IX, 1888.
- Collections for a History of Staffordshire, Edited by William Salt, Volume XII, 1909.