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The thatched well (below) in the village of East Marden is a well-known attraction in the South Downs, not far from Chichester. The village is recorded in the Domesday Book (as Meredone) and St. Peter's Church (in the background) is from the 12th century.

Thatched well, East Marden Attrib: Janine Forbes [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

According to the information on this pin and this South Downs National Park Authority pdf, the well is 200 feet deep, has an 18th century pump and was the only source of water in the village until 1924.

However, the story before the 18th century is unclear. The article Secret Villages of the South Downs relates this story on the well and Saint Richard of Chichester (d. 1253):

He is said to have performed a minor miracle hereabouts, when, in answer to the prayers of the villagers during a drought, he provided a spring of cold, clear water. Could this be the origin of the thatched well, which forms a landmark in the centre of East Marden to this day?

Is there anything in the historical record about whether the well pre-dates the pump (i.e. the water was brought up with buckets on a rope)?

Also, for how long has it had a thatched roof?


My reason for asking this (perhaps seemingly obscure) question is that I spent much of my childhood in this village. Unfortunately, none of the people I knew there at the time are still there (and I now live on the other side of the world).

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    If he commanded the serfs to dig it - then it was dug - not an issue of cost.. Serfs basically worked for the privilege of being able to live on the landowner’s land . – Solar Mike Jan 27 '18 at 14:21
  • You have misquoted that article, which asks rather than states the relation (my emphasis): "He is said to have performed a minor miracle hereabouts, when, in answer to the prayers of the villagers during a drought, he provided a spring of cold, clear water. Could this be the origin of the thatched well, which forms a landmark in the centre of East Marden to this day?" – Pieter Geerkens Jan 28 '18 at 6:19
  • @Solar Mike. Fair comment which I should have thought of before. – Lars Bosteen Jan 28 '18 at 7:04
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    @SolarMike: That is a gross mis-characterization of feudalism, and especially English feudalism. The lord had the right to only a relatively modest number of days labour from each serf, typically around 40, and that was needed to farm his own fields, harvest them, serve his table, groom his horses, smith his armour and weapons, etc. Serf labour was a very far cry from free to a lord. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 28 '18 at 7:09
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    @LarsBosteen Don't put refinements in the comments - they belong in the question. Surely you know that by know with > 7400 rep. Comments are ephemeral and subject to possible arbitrary deletion at any time. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 28 '18 at 7:10
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This story is not present in the 1815 book, A History of the Western Division of the County of Sussex: Including the Rapes of Chichester, Arundel, and Bramber, with the City and Diocese of Chichester, Volume 1, p.134, which says East Marden is "ill supplied with water." According to A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4, the Rape of Chichester (1953) pp.107-108, the church dates to the 13th century and none of the parish's other buildings earlier than 1728; it makes no mention of the well. (Note that the word Rape in the titles of these two cited works is a term for a territorial subdivision of (apparently only) the county of Sussex.)

  • Strange that the 2nd reference should make no mention of the well at all. An interesting read though - thanks for that. +1 for effort. – Lars Bosteen Jan 29 '18 at 14:48

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