The Well that Turns Things to Stone in York

The Petrifying Well at Mother Shipton’s Cave is England’s oldest visitor attraction. It was first recorded by the king’s antiquary in 1538 and has been visited by millions of people since 1630. It is here that you can watch everyday objects turn to stone. Compared with a stalactite or stalagmite, the items petrify very quickly; a small teddy bear takes around 3 to 5 months. You can take a stone teddy bear home with you; they are available to buy in the gift shop. For many centuries people believed the water had 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”! Visitors also noticed that the side of the well looked like a giant’s skull.

Who was Mother Shipton?

Mother Shipton is England's most famous Prophetess. She foretold the fates of several rulers within and just after her lifetime, as well as the invention of iron ships, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

There are other fascinating things to view at this site as well, for example the cave. In 1488 a baby was born in this cave, known then as Ursula Sontheil but in time she became known as Mother Shipton. After a few years living in the cave with her mother she was taken in by a local family. During a visit, it is an old tradition to make a wish at The Wishing Well. The wishing well is fed by the same magical waters as the Petrifying Well and has been wished in for over 300 years. There are some important rules to follow when making a wish, so please read them carefully first. You can also buy bottles of Wishing Well water from the gift shop to take home as a souvenir. Petrified items donated by celebrities and TV programmes over the years can be viewed in the museum. Probably the most historic and valuable item is a shoe left by Queen Mary when she visited in 1923. The museum also contains a life size figure of Mother Shipton.

Online booking in advance is essential.

  • Monday – 10:00 to 16:30
  • Tuesday – 10:00 to 16:30
  • Wednesday – 10:00 to 16:30
  • Thursday – 10:00 to 16:30
  • Friday – 10:00 to 16:30
  • Saturday – 10:00 to 17:30
  • Sunday – 10:00 to 17:30

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