The Petrifying Well

Over the years, millions of people have come to see for themselves the amazing powers of the Petrifying Well. This ancient well, formerly known as the Dropping Well, is believed to be the only one of its kind in England. At the time Mother Shipton was born, Knaresborough townsfolk believed the well to be magic and never ventured near it. They had seen small twigs, leaves and perhaps a dead bird turned to stone in the well’s falling waters.

They were very superstitious in those days and believed that if they touched the waters they too would be turned to stone! They also noticed the side of the well looked like a giant’s skull. The earliest written reference to the well was by John Leyland, antiquary to Henry VIII. He visited the well in 1538 and noted that it was very well-known and visited by many to drink and shower under its falling waters, as they were believed to have 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”! 

The water has a very high mineral content, please DO NOT be tempted to drink it!

In 1630 the section of the Royal Forest that now forms our park was sold by King Charles I to a local gentleman, Sir Charles Slingsby. By then the well was so famous and visiting it was so popular that he placed it on exhibition and charged for guided tours around it. He had no idea he was creating England’s oldest visitor attraction! It is only in the last 150 years that scientific analysis has revealed exactly what lies behind the magical petrification process. It is in actual fact a natural phenomenon due to the high mineral content of the water. Compared to a stalactite or stalagmite, the items petrify very quickly.

Today’s visitor to the Petrifying Well can see a whole host of everyday objects slowly being petrified in the cascading waters. The most popular item is a teddy bear or soft toy which usually takes between three and five months to turn to stone. Stone teddy bears are available to buy from the shop.

The Wishing Well

Around the back of the petrifying well, up the steps you will find the wishing well. During a visit to the park 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 three hundred years. 

Many visitors advise staff that their wishes have come true and they are back to make another one. The park has even received phone calls from visitors wanting to pay by credit card and send cheques for a member of staff to make a wish on their behalf! Bottles of wishing well water can be bought from the shop.

Quick Facts

  • This well is the only one of its kind in England.
  • The well is made of two types of rock - tufa and travertine.
  • It takes between three and five months to petrify a teddy bear.
  • 700 gallons or 3,200 litres of water flow over the well everyhour - summer, winter, rain or drought!

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  • 2016 Mother Shipton’s Cave Leaflet image

    2016 Mother Shipton’s Cave Leaflet

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