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CAPTIONS; A line drawing of the old well, the well photographed in 1985 and a map of the site.

ONE holy well that survives to this today (just!) is Queen Anne's Well, Slough. It may still be seen from the public footpath that runs nearby. But the well itself is inaccessible. In any case, the water now bubbles up out of mud instead of from the stone trough that once adorned the well. So sadly it would not be advisable to drink the water. However, for those who want to go holy well hunting this well is an ideal starter. Map of the site.

Drive to the Montem Sports Centre, Montem Lane, Slough, and park in the centre's car park. You may wish to visit the sports centre first of course! But you must certainly visit the Montem itself which stands nearby and is probably the earliest religious site in the town. It is however in a poor state.

To find the well, follow the footpath indicated on the map above and keep an eye out on the opposite bank. At one point you should notice a spring of water coming out of the bank on the other side. This is Queen Anne's Well. As with most holy wells, it is a spring rather than the archetypal well. Although the water should not be drunk, it is remarkably clear - no doubt as clear as it has been for hundreds of years. No wonder man has ascribed magical powers to such springs.

Looking at the poor state of the bank and occasional rubbish dumped into the river, it is hard to imagine that Royalty once visited the well and sang its praises. Compare the sketch made in the 19th century with the modern well. The spring was once renowned for the beneficial effect of its water on weak eyes. The Stuart Queen Anne was so pleased with the water she had the spring lined with stone and a carved headstone made showing the Royal cipher.

Historian Michael Bayley reported in 1970 that this headstone "went to make a horse trough and the rest was broken up to form a lily pond in the 1920s to discourage the villagers from using the well and the right of way past it." He went on: "Queen's Cottage stood on one side of the footpath and King's Cottage on the other, showing its antiquity. The spring is near an artificial mound, Montem, and was by a river crossing; in this case, of an old branch of the Thames dammed off in the 13th century. Up and down the middle and lower Thames these three things in association - a hill or hillock, a holy well and a ford - are usually connected with the name Anne, either Saint or Queen. The lady in question is the pagan British deity Sanct Anner, the Holy One of the Heifer. The name of Anna was held by the Priestess of Dionysus in Rome as late as 3BC. In art the lady's heifer is shown red denoting a heifer and not a cow, and indicating that its lady is a virgin".

It is known the well was used as late as the reign of George II and historians writing in 1858 said inhabitants recollected water being carried to the castle for Queen Charlotte in carts and buckets placed across the back of a donkey. It would almost certainly have formed part of the ornamental gardens that once adorned this spot. Today's villagers recall how rubble has been tipped on the well with the building of the school nearby. Curiously one resident recalls a stone bearing this inscription: "The two monkeys, Romeo and Juliet". Could this have any connection with the local Stab Monk tradition?