Spanish Liquor Day in Wychwood Forest
30 April 2021 (Updated 7 September 2021)
The people of various West Oxfordshire villages have kept up an unusual annual tradition of collecting spring water from a particular well in Cornbury Park and mixing it with liquorice to make 'Spanish Liquor', a mixture believed to have healing qualities.
A Palm Sunday tradition
The activity was carried out every year on Palm Sunday. Children and adults would put a few pieces of liquorice (and other sweets) into a bottle and walk with it into Cornbury Park to fill up the bottle with water from the well there known variously as Chalybeate Well, or Iron Well.
The resulting liquorice and spring water mixture was known as 'Spanish Liquor', and was believed to have healing or medicinal qualities. 'Spanish' was once a fairly common term for liquorice, a nod to where the chewable liquorice root was grown and imported from.
According to charlburygreenhub.org there are variations on this tradition recorded in different villages in the wychwood area, including Leafield, Finstock and Charlbury. What varies is the exact ingredients mixed with the spring water, and the precise well from which the spring water was to be collected.
For example, some Finstock folk preferred to visit the Lady Well at Wilcote to collect their water, while other people mixed sugar and peppermint with their liquorice to make their mixture.