Merry Christmas readers. For this time of year, what more appropriate well to discuss than Jesus Well at Minver, Cornwall? The spring head is covered by a quaint sandstone building with a slate roof and surrounded by a small wall to prevent low flying golf balls hitting it no doubt as it lies in a golf course. According to Hope (1893) the spring was visited by children suffering from whopping-cough, Quiller-Couch adding that children were dipped in the water. Quiller-Couch (1894) tells us that:
“People came from long distances to pay their devotions and use the waters, which were celebrated for many cures, and for the evils which befell scoffing unbelievers. Its virtues continued till late years. No longer ago than 1867, Mary Cranwell….who for a considerable period had suffered severely from erysipelas, and could obtain no relief from medical treatment, fully believing, as she stated to the author, from the repute of the well, that if she bathed in the water with faith she would be cured of her disease, went to the place, and kneeling beside the well recited the Litany to the Holy Name of Jesus, and bathed the diseased parts in the waters. She received relief from the first application; and repeating it the prescribed number of three times, at intervals, she became perfectly whole, and has never since suffered from the same malady.”
A strange custom.
Quiller-couch (1894) notes a strange custom where:
“At some wells a cross of rushes or straw is floated on the surface of the water, to sink or swim as Fate decides. Coins were also left on a niche in the well, or cast into its waters as an offering; this custom seems to have entirely disappeared in Cornwall at least, although at one well, Jesus Well, St. Minver, it was a distinctly remembered practice: it was probably a much older custom than the dropping in of pins; for setting aside the fact that pins were not in use until the sixteenth century, there is never any mention in the old accounts of the skewers of wood or bone of former days being among the offerings to the naiad.”
It was apparently named after a nearby lost chapel. Maclean, in his History of Trigg Minor, speaks of the old chapel, Jesus Chapel, which formerly stood not far from the well. It was described as:
“Upon the manor of Penmayne, about half a mile north of Rock, on the left of the road leading to St. Minver Church, is an ancient enclosed tenement, containing about four acres, called Chapel. A small chapel existed here until recent times. Mr. Sandys, writing in 1812, states that he had seen pieces of a Gothic window on the spot; but no remains are now to be found.” However, why this should be named after Jesus is unclear, unless its foundation was very ancient, and does as some new age antiquarians will let us believe dates from when Jesus ‘walked upon England’s pleasant land”.
Is it possible that the origins of the spring would be associated with Jesus, as local legend states an unknown pilgrim saint travelling over the dunes struck the ground with his staff and water arose. However this more probably St Enodoc. The well today Quiller-Couch (1894) states that:
“The well has fallen somewhat to decay during the last ten or twenty years; the archway has disappeared, as has also the front part of the roof, otherwise it looks much the same. Cattle were in the field in which the well stands, and had trampled down the ground around the building. It is about five feet square, and the interior is lined with beautiful ferns.”
Fortunately the well was restored and is surrounded by a small wall and the cows replaced by golf buggies. A stone slate set into the threshold reads: “Jesus Well, Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink Timor domini fons vitae.” Hopefully the spring will continue to be a rest spot for pilgrims for many centuries to come.