On the banks of the river Nidd, near the town of “Knaresborough” in North Yorkshire, is one of the oldest “entrance charging” tourist attraction in England. It’s a scary well that was once believed to have been cursed by the devil, for whatsoever object the dripping waters touched, had been turned to stone. The leaves of creepers, sticks, even dead birds. Folks also observed the side of the well looked like a giant’s skull. Most people escaped it because they thought that they too would be turned to stone if they touched it. The daring ones started leaving everyday objects adjacent the waterfall to watch them slowly turn to stone over just a few weeks.
You can spot a Victorian top hat and a lady’s bonnet left at the waterfall in 1853 and other trinkets like teddy bears from in recent times. The initial written reference to the well was by John Leyland, antiquary to Henry VIII, who stayed the well in 1538. He wrote that the well was very familiar and visitors drank and showered under its falling waters, as they were thought to have phenomenal healing powers. However, around this time, the legendary soothsayer and prophetess Ursula Southeil, who is better recognized as Mother Shipton, started to gain fame.
According to the “Mother Shipton”, a local prostitute daughter was born in a cave, now identified as Mother Shipton Cave, not far from the cursed Petrifying Well. Mother Shipton was reputed to be shockingly ugly, even as a baby, which was attributed to her father being the devil. Since her juvenile, Mother Shipton distorted body aroused the curiosity of her neighbors. But Mother Shipton gave them a lot of other things to talk about with her lyrical prophecies, i.e. “Nostradamus”, Mother Shipton is said to have prophesied the Great Fire of London in 1666, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 as well as the invention of cellular phones.
As Mother Shipton bad reputation grew, so did the notoriety of the petrifying well. However, in 1630, “King Charles I” sold the land where the Petrifying Well sits to a local gentleman named “Sir Charles Slingsby”. By then the well was so renowned that Slingsby began charging peoples for guided tours around it. In doing so, “Slingsby” mistakenly created England’s first visitor attraction. Finally, scientific analysis of the water exposed the magic behind the petrification process. The water has rich mineral content that precipitates over objects forming a hard shell of mineral over it in much the same way as stalactites and stalagmites form in a cave. Is it amazing; however, is the speed at which petrification occurred. Rather than centuries, little toys like teddy bears can petrify in just 3 to 5 months. Teddy bears are so popular because they’re porous which permits water to soak in and petrify the toy inside out. Other has left personal items such as rings and clothing, kitchen utensils, and even a bicycle.