Lovers’ well for king’s fair maiden needs a bit of TLC

Fair Rosamond's Well

Fair Rosamond's Well

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

A LOVERS’ well, said to be created by a medieval king for his mistress, needs major restoration work at Blenheim Palace.

The so-called Fair Rosamond’s Well is thought to have been built by King Henry II for his mistress Rosamund de Clifford 850 years ago.

She was famed for her beauty, and was called the “most beautiful woman in Christendom” and “rose of the world” in a 17th century poem Fair Rosamond.

But the well, down from the palace’s Grand Bridge across the lake from the house, is now in need of some love itself.

Witney Gazette:

Rosamond de Clifford, depicted in the main picture in a 1917 Oil on canvas painting by John William Waterhouse

Roy Cox, the palace’s rural enterprises manager, said: “Fair Rosamond’s Well is one of the most mysterious, historic and romantic locations in the country.

“It has been an inspiration for writers and artists down through the years and has been a focal point for more than eight centuries, attracting visitors from around the world.

“Over recent decades the well has become somewhat overgrown and at risk of becoming damaged.

“Our plan is to sympathetically restore the surviving well and its surrounding area and to provide people with lots more information about its rich past.”

The poem said that the well was part of a maze, or bower, with 150 doors, built by the king to hide Rosamund from his jealous wife Queen Eleanor.

It says that the queen poisoned Rosamond, but historians say this is not true – but do agree that she had at least one child during her relationship with the king.

Blenheim Palace carried out an archaeological dig to find the fabled maze, and while some underground structures were found, they are thought to be from more modern work.

However surveyors did find a metallic feature which could be ancient pipework to do with the well.

Today, the well has a spring of water that flows from a stone wall into a shallow pool surrounded by flagstones, and the water was – until recently – bottled and sold to visitors.

Ode to the Rose of the World

A section of Fair Rosamond, first published by Thomas Delone in 1612

THE king therefore, for her defence
Against the furious queene,
At Woodstocke builded such a bower,
The like was never seene.
Most curiously that bower was built,
Of stone and timber strong;
An hundered and fifty doors
Did to this bower belong:

And they so cunninglye contriv’d,
With turnings round about,
That none but with a clue of thread
Could enter in or out.

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