Spring that ran red runs dry
7:00am Thu Sep 09, 2010
A spring that folklore suggests ran red with the blood of wounded soldiers during the Wars of the Roses flows no more.
Mr Eric Kirton, of the Pentagon Local History Society, at the site on Elston Lane, East Stoke, of an ancient spring, the Willow Rundle, that has run dry.
Mr Eric Kirton, of the Pentagon Local History Society, at the site on Elston Lane, East Stoke, of an ancient spring, the Willow Rundle, that has run dry.
It is claimed it was accidentally severed by the firm building the A46.

The Willow Rundle, made famous in the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487, is dry for the first time in 500 years.

It is said that it quenched the thirst of a dying soldier after he prayed for water during the decisive and final battle in the Wars of the Roses.

Legend has it that the soldier prayed to his patron saint for water as he lay fatally injured on Elston Lane, East Stoke, and pure clear water immediately gushed from a nearby bank.

He and his comrades drank their fill, causing the waters to run red with their blood.

A member of the Pentagon Local History Society, Mr Eric Kirton, says he believes it is the highways work that severed the spring.

The Willow Rundle is in a dip on Elston Lane. The A46 dualling works cut across the top of the lane.

Mr Kirton, 73, of Marsh Lane, Farndon, grew up at East Stoke.

He tracked the path of the spring using divining rods and says it flows to the left under fields that border Elston Lane and towards the roadworks.

He said: “I have never seen it dry.

“I have tracked it and it turns to the left under the hill where the highway is. It has severed it.”

Mr Kirton said he used to drink the water and knows it is pure.

“I was in the military police in Gibraltar in 1956 and my mother used to come here and collect water,” he said.

“She bottled it and sent it to me in Gibraltar wrapped in an Advertiser, because the water there was horrible to drink.

“It has been here for 500 years, and now it is gone. I think it is dreadful to lose a part of our history like this.”

Mr Kirton said meetings held previously with A46 contractors Balfour Beatty, who together with the Highways Agency publicise the quality of the archaeological work being done along the Newark to Widmerpool widening route, had brought assurances that care would be taken not to disrupt the spring.

“We were told they could avoid disturbing it, but the route seems to have been completely severed,” he said.

“They should have looked more deeply. If they found that they couldn’t dig without severing it then they should have let people know.”

The Battle of Stoke Field was the final time a Lancastrian king faced an army of Yorkist supporters.

Rebel John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and his mercenary army tried to overthrow King Henry VII and place Lambert Simnel, an Irish imposter claiming to be Yorkist claimant Edward Earl of Warwick, on the throne.

After a series of skirmishes, Henry’s forces moved towards Newark after hearing that the rebels had crossed the Trent.

They encountered the Yorkists formed in a long line from Stoke Wood, across the Fosse Way towards Elston. After a battle of several hours the rebels fled towards the Trent.

Many fled down a ravine that became known as The Red Gutter because it was said to have run red with the blood of slaughtered soldiers.

Of about 19,000 men in battle, 7,000 died, of whom 4,000 were rebels and 3,000 were Royalist. All the rebel leaders were killed and The Earl of Lincoln is said to be buried near the Willow Rundle.

The site on Burham Furlong on the outskirts of the village where Henry raised his standard to claim victory is marked by a stone memorial.

A spokesman for Balfour Beatty said: “Balfour Beatty has held and continues to hold discussions regarding the spring with several local stakeholders, including landowners and a historian.

“If we identify any reasonable measures that could be taken we will act accordingly.”

Mr Kirton was doubtful it would be possible to get the spring flowing again.

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