For Christmas Gary Branigan’s excellent and invaluable Ancient and Holy wells of Dublin arrived and a great book it is to. A real detailed field guide revealing how many fascinating sites there are in the Dublin area, and hopefully this will be the spearhead for similar studies in all the Republic’s counties. Until then here’s some of my explorations in the city, which however brief revealed some interesting sites.
St Patrick’s Well, Dublin St Patrick’s Cathedral
Despite being the site of a well, this is an interesting site and worthy a visit. The site of the well is marked in a garden in the south-west corner with a plaque reading:
“near here is the reputed site of the well where St Patrick baptised many of the local inhabitants in the fifth century AD
The site was found during road widening when a large upright cross slab was discovered which is believed to have been over the well. This cross slab can now be found in the cathedral which berars a wheel cross and Maltese cross. Below the now prostate cross reads:
“This stone was found on 18th June 1901 six feet below the surface on the traditional site of St. Patrick’s Well ie 91 feet due north from the north-west apele of the tower.”
Lady Well, Tyrelltown
This is a delightful well sadly spoiled by its location beside a busy Church road. The building’s core is thought to date from the fourteenth century and was originally dedicated to St Cuthbert changing in the 1300sew. In the reign of Henry VI it was looked after by an order, called the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicated to repairing Marian shrines and when this was finally dissolved at his death, the Gracedieu Nunnery looked after the site. A pattern was established here on the 8th September, and according to some sources continues still, where it was tradition to crawl on your hands and knees and thus lying on one’s stomach place your hand in the well chamber and drink directly from the well. With such a busy road I cannot image it being done with any degree of sanctity or safety. Its waters were said to good for sprains, cuts and rheumatism and like many other wells those attracted turned to drunkenness and violence and in 1790 a death occurred.
The well is painted white and blue, Mary’s colours, and above the well chamber is a figure of Mary in one of the finials at the end. The back finial has a cross and the front one has written upon it:
“I H S Holy Mary pray for us
O blessed mother and ever Virgin glorious queen of the world make intercession for us to our lord Amen
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee O sacred virgin obtain for me force against thy enemies”
Legend has it that once the spring was offended and it moved to the other side of the road.
St Winifred’s Well, Eustace Street
Sometimes the best intentions do not always come best and the rediscovery of this ancient well clearly has not been welcomed by all. The plaque reads:
“St Winifred’s Well
…St Winifred’s Well was a medieval well known to have been in Eustace Street, perhaps further up towards Dame Street. St Winifred…was revered in North Wales in the middle ages and like St Bridget in Ireland, her name was associated with wells and springs. It is not clear how a well in medieval Dublin came to bear her name. It is known that Dublin had trading contacts with North Wales from the 11th century onwards and settlers from there probably came to live in Dublin after the Anglo-Normans captured the city in 1170. One of these may have given the well its name…
The present well has been covered over by the Street at some point in the past. It has been restored to expose the ground water resource that flows all the time below the foundations of the city…
Joint project involving Dublin Corporation & Temple Bar Properties Ltd.”‘
Its rediscovery in 1990s has not really created a circular well head monument but rather a good vestibule for litter!
These three sites are only the tip of the iceberg and I heartly recommend this excellent book Ancient and Holy Wells of Dublin