Legend has it that Mother Shipton was born in 1488 in the now famous cave near to the Dropping Well on the banks of the River Nidd. The earliest reference appears in a book of 1641, associating her with York. A later pamphlet of 1667 states that she was born at “Naseborough near the Dropping Well in Yorkshire”. She is famed as a prophetess, though there is a good deal of mystery surrounding prophesies attributed to her, many seeming to have been created or embellished in later times.
John Leland, Henry VIII’s official antiquary, makes no mention of Mother Shipton in his account of his visit to Knaresborough in 1558, although he visited, and was impressed by, the Dropping Well. Samuel Pepys recorded in his famous diaries, at the time of the Great Fire of London, that when Prince Rupert was at sea he heard about the Great Fire and said ‘now Shipton’s prophecy was out’. She herself was surely not a myth, the fascination of her prophecies enduring to this day.
The Dropping Well has appealed to visitors for centuries, attracted by the curious sight of objects, suspended in the cascade of water, apparently turning to stone. In reality, the objects are calcified by a deposit from the waters.
Although the origins of Mother Shipton and her prophecies may still be debated today, the Mother Shipton Cave and the Dropping Well remain very popular attractions in Knaresborough, delighting thousands of visitors every year.