A SIMPLE trip to the cellar of her home in Sheffield almost ended in tragedy for Francesca Bethell-Collins.
For the ground gave way to leave her dangling in a 9ft well that she had no idea existed.
Hanging on by her arms and elbows, Francesca pulled herself clear of the hole, which contained 6ft of water, and escaped with cuts and bruises at the property in Glossop Row, Oughtibridge.
“I saved my whole body from falling through and managed to get out,” she said. “My son showered me to get rid of the mud, grit and blood. I’m glad to be alive.”
Francesca has lived with son James, 12, and daughter Holly, eight, in the house for a year.
It was once part of a farmstead dating back hundreds of years but there was no sign of the well in a full structural survey that was carried out during the house purchase.
“The only thing they said was that there was damp in the property and I had noticed it had been getting increasingly damp.”
Neither were the previous occupants aware of the well, said Francesca.
The drama happened early on Sunday morning when she went into the cellar, which is also used as a larder, to get some wood to make a play shelter for the children.
“My left foot suddenly disappeared through the ground. The ground gave way and I fell up to my armpits.
“I scraped my leg and bruised my hip but luckily the stone flags did not collapse on top of me and I did not hit my head. My leg was dangling, I didn’t hit the bottom. I gathered my senses, got back into the house and called for the children to help me.
Now Francesca is taking advice on what to do to make the cellar safe – and is digging into the history of the area through the local archives.
“There was no sign of there being a well. It is beautifully round and very well built, with stone flags around it.”
Despite the scare, Francesca, who does voluntary work for the Steel Valley Project and the Forestry Commission, said she was “going to be positive as possible. I have got a well under the house and I am going to embrace it.”
The children “were very excited. A little worried, but very excited. My son immediately wanted to get an archaeologist in to dig for coins and treasure. My daughter is learning about springs and water systems at school! She wanted to go in with measurements and pictures.
“She also thinks I should make it a wishing well! I know what I shall be wishing for!” added Francesca, who is 40 next week.
“I have been laughing but deep down I am worried that there is an open well in the bottom of the house with children.
“Last week the children were down there with their friends.”