St Bertram’s Well

In a small village called Ilam not far from Dovedale can be found the place where in the past a member of the Royal household became a holy man with healing powers, when he died a shrine was erected in the church here at Ilam in memory of him. Many people still visit his shrine and leave prayers upon it in the hope of having them answered.

Ilam Church

His name was Bertram, later he was to become St Bertram and he was the son of the Prince of Mercia, the story goes that he fell in love with a Princess while on a visit to Ireland. Bertram brought her back from Ireland and as they were making their way back to the family home in Stafford his wife went into labour and started to give birth, so they were forced to stop in some woods. Bertram went to fetch a midwife, but on their return and to their horror they found that wolves had killed his wife and new born son.

St Bertram’s shrine in Ilam church, people’s written prayers can be seen on the shrine.

The shock of what he had discovered made Bertram become a hermit, and it is thought that many healing secrets were passed on to him from his Father who was thought to be Aethelbald, King of Mercia. On the death of his Father Bertram was forced to give up his hermits way of life for a while as he was needed to lead the Royal army against invaders. It is said that he managed to acheive this with the help of an Angel, as a Demon was said to be in league with the opposing force.

After this took place Bertram returned to Ilam where he once more settled into the hermits way of life. The place where he had used to heal people was centred around a well on a hill called Bunster, one of a range of hills overlooking Ilam and spreading over to nearby Dovedale.

This photograph shows St Bertrams well and also the remains of the healing tree which can be found on bunster hill.

The well was quite difficult to find as none of the locals who I asked were aware of its existence, but after a couple of hours searching the hills I managed to find it. The well is the spot where Bertram had used to live as a hermit, and where the waters would have been used by him when he was healing people. There had also used to be a healing tree growing next to the well, but it seems to have died of old age, however in the past people had used to nail a coin on the tree for some superstitious reason and I don’t suppose this would have done much to extend its lifespan!

Also according to local superstition it was said that if anyone removed the bark or wood from the healing tree when it was alive, that bad luck would befall them. The spot where St Bertram’s well lies is on one of the most powerful Ley-lines in the British Isles, it is 16 miles in length, running from Fool lowe in the High Peak of Derbyshire, going through Arbor Low ending at St Bertram’s well. Perhaps this has something to do with the healing properties of the water to be found here?

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