Water from the Pipe Well in Liskeard was once a major contributor to the Cornish town’s water supply; it was declared unfit to drink in 1976. The well’s gates were open during Liskeard Unlocked, the town’s Heritage Open Day in 2019, when there was a costumed interpreter on hand to answer questions and the well was decorated with bunting and garlands.
This ancient well at the centre of the town is also called the Well of Lyskiret or St Martin’s Well. The flow from springs is estimated at 136 litres (30 gallons) per minute and has never been known to run dry. The current structure and pipes date from 1879.
The water had a reputation for healing qualities and bringing good luck to couples who knelt or stood on a specific stone and drank from the well. John Allen, author of A History of the Borough of Liskeard and its Vicinity (1856), dismissed these special powers:
This fine spring, one of the purest and most constant in the country, was believed like many others in the age of superstition, to possess miraculous healing virtues, and was frequented by visitors anxious to partake of its benefit; but the notion had been almost entirely exploded before the recollection of anyone now living.
He continues in a footnote:
Hitchins and Drew [The History of Cornwall] refer in 1824 to foolish ideas still entertained by some, about lucky effects in matrimonial connexions, produced by drinking the water and by standing on a certain stone in the well. But though isolated instances may have remained; yet such absurd fancies, together with faith in charms and other supernatural means, which survived still longer, as well as the dread of haunted houses, spells and witchery, formerly so potent had well nigh expired with the last century.
This is the Whitley Pump’s first west country twinning. It is less than three and a half hours away by train, where a drinking trough will greet you at the picturesque station.
- Liskeard Unlocked 2019
- Historic England Listing record (1203201)
- Tourist information Liskeard – Pipe Well
- John Allen (1856), A History of the Borough of Liskeard and its Vicinity pp353 & 354 via archive.org