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The Story Of Mother Shipton's Cave & The Petrifying Well

Mother Shipton is England's most famous Prophetess. She foretold the fates of several rulers within and just after her lifetime, as well as the invention of iron ships, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
The Story
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Mother Shipton's Cave

The Cave

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In 1488 a baby was born in this cave, known then as Ursula Sontheil but in time she became known as Mother Shipton. After a few years living in the cave with her mother she was taken in by a local family, after the Abbott of Beverley intervened. Ursula grew up in Knaresborough and often returned to her birthplace. This is not an underground cave network, the significance of this small cave is the legends and stories that surround it.

The
Petrifying
Well

the petrifying well at Mother Shipton's, a giant waterfall that turns all it touches to stone
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The Petrifying Well is England’s oldest visitor attraction. It was first recorded by the king’s antiquary in 1538 and has been visited by millions of people since 1630. It is here that you can watch every day objects turn to stone. Compared with a stalactite or stalagmite, the items petrify very quickly – a small teddy bear takes around 3-5 months. You can take a stone teddy bear home with you, they are available to buy in the gift shop.

For many centuries people believed the water had miraculous healing powers. In the early 1600s samples of water were examined by a medical physician. His report concluded that the waters from the well were a miracle cure for “any flux of the body”! Visitors also noticed that the side of the well looked like a giant’s skull.

the petrifying well at Mother Shipton's, a giant waterfall that turns all it touches to stone
blonde girl wishing in the wishing well, with the light glowing pink and reflecting in the water
girl wearing straw hat making a wish in the wishing well which is lit up with a blue light

The
Wishing
Well

girl wearing straw hat making a wish in the wishing well which is lit up with a blue light
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During a visit it is an old tradition to make a wish. The wishing well is fed by the same magical waters as the Petrifying Well and has been wished in for over 300 years. Many visitors have been in touch to tell us their wishes have come true! There are some important rules to follow when making a wish, so please read them carefully first. You can also buy bottles of Wishing Well water from the gift shop to take home as a souvenir.

Sir Henry Slingsby's Long Walk and Beech Avenue

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At the far end of the site is Beech Avenue. These Beeches are some of the oldest and tallest in the country. They were planted in 1739 by Sir Henry Slingsby to line the short walk from the old inn to the Petrifying Well and Cave. Unusually, because of the gorge, the trees have grown extremely straight. These famous Beech trees are such fine trees that their details are held by the Forestry Commission as a source of breeding seed. All the trees have preservation orders on them.

The trail that you follow was once part of a grand estate sold by King Charles I in 1630 to a local gentleman, Sir Charles Slingsby. Sir Henry Slingsby, Charles' grandson, landscaped the park and created the pathways you walk along today, known as Sir Henry Slingsby's Long Walk. This riverside path once welcomed the many visiting gentry who travelled from London to visit the spa in Harrogate. An important part of their day was promenading in the afternoon.

glass cabinets in the museum at Mother Shipton's Cave

The Museum

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Petrified items donated by celebrities and TV programmes over the years can be viewed in the museum. Probably the most historic and valuable item is a shoe left by Queen Mary when she visited in 1923. The museum also contains a life size figure of Mother Shipton.

Visit the adventure playground

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Children can visit the new adventure playground, which has a variety of equipment for all ages. There is also plenty of seating, perfect for a family picnic. Dogs are welcome in all areas of the park APART from the adventure playground due to health and safety.
Access to the adventure playground is subject to weather conditions.

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