P R O F I L E
Temple Local History Group
in conjunction with The Jacob's Wells Action Group
33 Springfield Grove
Telephone: +44 (0) 117 942 1760
This is a heritage site and not yet open as a public facility. It is an historic bathing resort and does not offer modern spa facilities. Since the late 1970s The Temple Local History Group have been conducting both field and desk research into the history of Bristol's springs and water supplies. In particular they have identified what was first thought to be a Jewish "Mikveh" purification bath that has given its name to the area Jacobs Wells. Apparently, current Jewish scholastic thought is that it was not a Mikveh, but a 'Bet Torahah' a washing place for the dead. The archaeologists believe that this is only part of the surviving structure and that if correct, is a much more significant find than first believed. The remaining structure is the most complete found outside the Holy Land! The Jacobs Wells Action Group seeks to secure recognition for this rare survival of the Jewish community who were in the area circa 1100 - 1290. Other aspects of Bristol's water heritage include the Hotwells Spa, which at one time rivaled the premier spas in the country for "the cure". In addition the establishment of religious orders around the city in medieval times resulted in various springs being used for public and maritime water supply and a vast system of underground conduits survive out of sight beneath the modern streets.
Jacobs Wells - The sylvan scene of the Sandbrook flowing into the Avon between Clifton Wood and Brandon Hill, just outside the city, was probably unchanged until shortly after the Norman Conquest, when Geoffrey of Coutances chose Bristol for his castle, on the site of Saxon fortifications. To help with financing this venture the Norman conquerors bought with them their own Jewish financiers. Thus Bristol became home to a small but gradually increasing group of Jews. In accordance with their religion and customs the Jews needed a secluded hillside for a separate cemetery together with two sources of water, one for the washing of their dead and the other for their purification rituals. The spring and chamber for preparing the dead for burial needed to be close to the cemetery and was known as the 'Tahara'.
The Mishnah, a first or second century compilation of Jewish practice set out the requirements and operation of the 'Mikveh' - their purification bath. A Mikveh could utilise either still or flowing water, however the rules for construction and use were different, and thus the distinction had to be clearly marked. Since these early beginnings Jacobs Wells have been used for a variety of purposes including water bottling and attention is now directed at preserving this heritage for the future.Pictures of the well used on this page were supplied by Temple Local History Group and are copyright.
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To find Jacobs Wells head to Jacob's Wells Road to the west of the city centre.
City Centre, Lowland
England - Southern