Monthly Archives: April 2012
Cornwall is a great county for those who hanker for the romance of ancient times, where ancient megalithic remains abound, old chapels and churches are found around every corner and every parish has their Holy Well. I am sure like me that their fascination in holy wells begun with a trip to Cornwall, where quaint picturesque stone well houses cover gurgling ancient spring heads whose name puts once in touch with those ancient evangelical times of the post Roman period. One such romantic well is that of Treloy near Newquay The site lay on private land and so I called at the farm house, the upstairs window swung open and an elderly lady appeared. I expressed my interest in visiting and she waved me on with permission given some rough directions to where I needed to go…mainly downhill into the wall. Of the site Quiller Couch (1895), although no name is given:
“At the top of Treskeys hill, in an orchard known as Treloy orchard, is a fairly celebrated holy well, in good preservation and much resorted to by artists and other visitors. No one appears to remember that it ever possessed any saintly name, or that there were any particular legends or ancient ceremonies connected with it. Some suggest that in addition to supplying water to the Arundells, whose property it was, it also supplied it to the monks at Rialton, but this seems rather improbable, considering the monks possessed a well close at hand in their own courtyard at the priory. The water is considered particularly good and never failing; the building over it is of fair size with stone seats. Although nothing is remembered of its holy origin, its sanctity has always been a thing taken for granted; and the fact that a chapel once stood near it seems sufficient to dismiss all doubt on the subject.”
Interestingly by Lane Davies (1970) time a name had been found. But sadly he noted that when visited in the early 1950s was difficult to reach and when he finally succeeded found a site of devastation, The destruction of the well being caused by an apple tree and in its wake it was difficult to work out what the site looked like, with stones lying all around. Fortunately, its restoration by Old Cornwall Society in it in 1953 and they did a fantastic job, revealing the old benches being in the process that a visit now would not reveal any evidence of dereliction with. The well consists of a small chapel pitched roof edifice, the spring following into a large rectangular channel full of water cress. St Peter or St Petroc?
In the vicinity of the well was a Chapel in 1283, noted by Hals in 1700 but no trace of it exists bar some possible some sections of stone work around the site. The moor below the well is called Pedyr moor and this presumably comes from the well or chapel. This has left historians to guess what the dedication of the well was, St Petroc and possibly St. Piran are suggested but St Peter appears to be the most obvious. But just because the moor had this dedication does not mean it the same as the well.
Noted for cures
As Quiller-Couch notes it was much frequented, Lane-Daves (1970) notes that the well was much frequented for its ability to cure sickness. Stratton parish records state that
“Gave to Grace Chinge to goe to the water by Lower St Cullome to seek help for her legge 5s. Gave the same time to Andrew Heddon towards the going to the well to seek help for his legg 5s. Pid forthehorse for her to ride there 6s”
Interestingly, this is one of the few wells whose attendance was supported post reformation. Today its visitors are fewer perhaps, bar the curious and those seeking rest and peace…and leave their ribbons or cloutties which appear to have festooned the trees around.
A probable holy well, if only in name or association is to be found in the London suburb of Chislehurst. This is a site missing from James Rattue’s survey of Kent holy wells. This is the Bishop’s Well, which is said to be one of the springs consecrated by the Bishop’s of Rochester during their tenure at Bromley. It was enclosed in the private grounds of Old Crown Cottage, along Crown Lane, but was once accessible via small path from the road.
Evidence of worship
Interestingly there is anecdotal evidence of worship at the well, For I was informed by the owner in the late 1990s, a Mr. Bill Orman, that when the previous owners had taken over the property in the 1940s, the well was surrounded by a number of small crosses, which sadly they disposed of. Could these have been evidence of pilgrimage to the well or left by those healed by its waters?
Will the real well reveal itself?
The well shaft is of considerable depth, and older brickwork is visible towards its bottom. The top is enclosed in a square brick chamber, and water still fills the chamber below. When I peered down, as can be made out in the photo, was the remains of a badger! There is some dispute regarding the exact site, and I was shown another well, capped and fitted with an old pump, lying in the grounds of Bishop’s Well House. However, despite the name, it is generally believed that the Old Crown Cottage’s well is the said site, and that this other well being above the other draws water from that. The owners hope to make the well into a feature for the garden although I have not contacted them since then to discover if this was done!
Looking like a village lock-up or even a cottage than a well, is the Holy Well. It does not appear to have a name, although in perhaps recent times, the saints Godric and Aelric have been associated with it. The gate has their names on it. It appears likely that there was an association between the site and these saints but nothing is clear, Of these saints 12th century, Godric is associated with Finchale although he was born in Walpole Norfolk. He lived as a hermit and his cell is supposed to be where Finchale Priory is. Another interesting account suggests he was a pirate.. Wolsingham was also associated with a miracle where a young girl was killed by a horse was brought to life and it would be nice to think that the well’s waters may have had a role. Aelric is said to have been an older hermit who Godfric befriended and lived with.The well house has a barrel ceiling with a heavy slate roof. Peering through the gate one can see that the spring fills a large stone lined chamber lined like bath, suggesting perhaps that it functioned as a bath house.
Gainford village is one of the most delightful Durham village and is certainly is very charming in the spring, with the main square bathed in a golden glow of daffodils. Just below the church, is St. Mary’s Well, which flows with some speed into a trough and forms a channel through a sea of wild garlic. Little is known of the well, except that it was used for baptism.
Returning to the square, the high quality Georgian housing, indicates its great expansion due to the most notable spring, the Spa, a sulphurous spring! This is found outside the village and is signposted off the A67 Barnard Castle road but beware it’s not easy to see and park immediately! Here a step path dives down to the River Tees where the springhead can be seen. One can smell the spring before selling it as it lays in a small wooded area. One can quite imagine quite a concourse of people attending the spring walking as they would have done the long Teeside path from the village, many of which appear to have left evidence of their visit in the graffiti imbedded in the sandstone rock nearby. The spring head has been recently repaired, with the very old and worn font basin lying beside it. The spring head consists of a smaller font or bowl within a larger one. Water flows at great speed from the central basin and has two overflow spouts which lead to a rock-cut groove to the river. The site is quite a refreshing and relaxing site and tasting the water.