DIPPING WELLS: A Gazetteer of Monmouthshire Wellsites
DIPPING WELLS – The Wellsprings Fellowship
|A Gazetteer of Monmouthshire Wellsites
by The Wellsprings Fellowship
The Wellsprings Fellowship spent 18 months researching Monmouthshire wellsites for a well trail leaflet produced through a community grant from the County Council. The printed leaflet contains a comprehensive circular well walk (and map) from Trellech that takes in several watery sites and a list of county wells with their Ordnance Survey National Grid References. Space did not allow for a more detailed description, and inclusion of privately owned wellsites, so we are including our full findings here.
If you wish to purchase the leaflet, please send a stamped self-addressed envelope, with £1.20 of stamps to cover cost, to the Wellsprings Fellowship. (NOTE as of 2016 a deadlink)
Prior’s Well (SO 3032 1405)
The well is a short way up on the right side of Holywell Road, and served as one of the water supplies to the Benedictine priory.
Wellsites recorded north of the Roman temple and south of the North Gate (ST 469 906)
As the county’s most complete Roman site, Caerwent deserves visitation. A report of the late l9th century excavation states: ‘The (Roman) town seems to have been well supplied with water, as, in addition to several wells, we have found numerous iron collars of the wooden water-pipes [which supplied] drinking water to all parts of the city.‘ Despite such fascinating finds, no wellsites are presently visible.
Castle well (ST 4866 8852)
The shaft well within the ward is similar to many found in other castles throughout the county.
What is most unusual is another shaft well (excavated in 1995) within the keep – an example of early indoor plumbing! The roof of this keep gives an excellent view SE to the Severn Tunnel at Sudbrook. When Victorian engineers were drilling through rock strata, they unleashed The Big Spring which flooded the works. At seven million gallons a day, it would still flood the tunnel if the spring water was not continuously pumped away.
Catbrook Village Well (SO 5135 0267)
Just step across the road from the church of St John the Baptist and down the well-kept green to the community well. The arched horizontal slab that acts as a cover is characteristic of Monmouthshire wells.
Two wells in the castle (ST 5342 9415)
The castle was served by two known water sources: the shaft well, inside the lower ward by Marten’s Tower, and a source below the castle walls on the Wye riverbank. The higher areas of the town were not so well-served for water as the castle and Benedictine Priory. Chepstow suffered for lack and quality of water until the early 20th century. Underground cisterns were built to conserve rainwater that yielded a ‘most unpleasantly vapid flavour’. Town pumps formerly stood on Bridge Street, near the west porch of St Mary’s Church and in Bank Square.
Cross Ash Village Well (SO 4166 1986)
Cross the B4521 opposite the shop and head up the hill to the village hall. The stone and brick wellhouse is in a soggy spot behind the hedge on the right hand side.
Cross Ash/Craig Water Basin (SO 4078 2022)
Take first right fork after the village hall and school. A short way along is a slate-roofed well house with a basin. The water is delicious to drink.
New Inn Farm Well (S04005 204)
Take first left fork past the village school. The first farm on the left is New Inn. Ask first at the farm to view the well. The farm used to be a coaching inn which may explain the unusually large stone-arched wellhead in the paddock across the road from the farmhouse.
Grosmont Castle Moat Spring (SO 4051 2442)
Nothing remains of the inner ward well except for a round circle of especially verdant grass located in the hall block east of the gatehouse. Inside the moat (now dry), almost opposite the west tower with a clearly defined path leading down to it, is the site of a former village well.
Grosmont Wayside Well (SO 4038 2459)
Walk southwards on the B4347 and turn right on the no through road. The well is on the right hand side just as the paved road ends in fields, gate and footpath.
There is a stone seat beside the well.
St Teilo’s well (SO 3752 1106)
Although this step and tunnel well is now in a private garden, it surely would once have been part of the church enclosure. The church at Llanarth is dedicated to St Teilo, one of the most watery saints in Wales. A 6th century contemporary of St David, Teilo gave his name to many wellsites throughout Wales-Llandaff, Llandeilo, Brechfa and Maenclochog, to name a few. Are there wells at his other Monmouthshire churches in LIantilio Pertholey and Llantilio Crossenny?
Village roadside spout (SO 526 037)
On the landward side of the A466 at the southern end of the village.
Village well (ST 4478 9666)
Take the lane to the right of the public house. Follow the rivulet that runs alongside the lane until you come to the well on the right side. The well is cared for and is a beguiling example of a simple, but efficient, well structure.
St Cybi’s Well (ST 3746 9666)
Cybi has well dedications, in Wales, that stretch from Holyhead in Anglesey to this Llangybi. But Ithel, the local king, tried ejecting him when Cybi and his company came ashore from the Usk. After being struck blind and his horse being killed, Ithel relented. He got his horse and sight back and, in gratitude, gave the saint a handbell and land for a church. The well is along the right side of the lane that runs eastwards from the church. It is boarded up but some surrounding stonework can be seen and water still pours from the well. Won’t someone care for this well?
Spout (capped) and horse trough (ST 3070 0907)
Apparently there are holy wells at Llanover but this well edifice, built in 1875, recalls the ‘bee of Gwent’, Lady Llanover. She became more Welsh than the Welsh; designing costumes of national dress that won an Eisteddfod award, steeping herself in national lore and leaving this extraordinarily romantic well structure complete with three Welsh inscriptions inviting all to drink but not to forget the bee of Gwent. One verse translates to;
‘Water, O Lord, is the drink,
The Gwent bee was a big teetotaller and managed to close all but one pub (the Goose and Cuckoo) in the vicinity. She is certainly well remembered for that! Her watery monument, fascinating as it is, is sadly marred by being immediately on A4042; but well worth a look. For more horse trough listings see Mark Langley’s Monmouthshire Horse Troughs list.
Round, roofed wellhouse (ST 3167 0793)
Turn right off the A4042 at the southern end of the village and turn right again at Well Cottage. At the bottom end of the garden, by the footpath is an exquisite stone-built wellhouse now used to store garden rubbish. Further up the garden is a fake wooden well structure – the type garden centres sell.
St Tewdric’s Well (ST 5227 9117)
The death of the Romano-Celtic king Tewdric is an extraordinary event associated with this renowned well. Tewdric was called out of spiritual retirement by his son and heir Meurig to stop the pagan Saxons threatening the kingdom of Morgannwg. They successfully fought off the Saxons at Pont y Saeson on the Angidy, near Tintern, but Tewdric suffered a mortal head wound. Two stags emerged from the forest were hitched to a cart and drew the wounded king to his final resting place at Mathern – the place of the king. The well is beside the road, between the village and Mathern church.
Medieval Shaft Well, 22-24 Monnow Street (SO 5067 1272)
The Monmouth Archaeological Society has unearthed several shaft wells along Monnow Street. These wells and the finds surrounding them, particularly from cess pits, attest to the busy medieval life of the town.
Appointments to view the excavation can be made through the Society (telephone 01600 714136).
Castle well (S0 4144 0835)
In addition to the obligatory siege-proof well, the castle once boasted innovative gardens enhanced by a fountain and pool. The pleasure grounds are recalled in a l6th century poem;
‘Not farre from thence, a famous castle fine
Raglan Town Pump (SO 4144 0835)
Appropriately enough the town pump and well are directly in front of the Ship Inn.
St Arvan’s Fountain (ST 5182 9645)
Many drinking fountains were erected in towns and villages during temperance times.
No extant well is visible at the castle but there is a superb water-gate with steps leading down into a leat of the Monnow. The water gate was adjacent to the castle kitchen and it is easy to imagine sculleries dropping roped buckets into the swirling Monnow to collect water for the washing up! Other watersites in the village are:
St Bridget’s Church Spout (SO 4556 2036)
Memorial water trough to town worthy (SO 4570 2019)
War Memorial trough (SO 4573 203)
Catbrook-Trellech Road (SO 5503 0087)
Catbrook at Friars Row (SO 5304 0076)
Tintern residents used the pure Catbrook water and drew it from several sites; the first a 100 yards or so up from the valley road (A 466) beside a bridge that crosses the Catbrook. The other site has been recently restored and is behind a metal grillwork gate on the riverside of the A466.
Chapel Hill Bakehouse Well (SO 5256 0011)
Approximately one mile west of Tintern, a wooden gate on the road opposite the red brick bakehouse leads to one of the community’s wells.
Fountain Inn Well (SO 5035 012)
Just north of the car park of this famous watering-hole is a footpath signposted to the left. The path leads over boggy ground and a footbridge to a green-painted pump. Despite its new coat of paint, the pump does not seem to be working.
Tredunnock Village Well (ST 3792 9478)
Across the road from the entrance to St Andrew’s Church is a shaft-well with a roofed cover.
The Basin (SO 5278 0773)
This community well was rebuilt and covered in the 1940s due to an outbreak of meningitis. It is beside the road.
Village Pound Troughs (SO 5009 5020)
Virtuous Well (SO 5030 0510)
For a full description of the wells around Trellech read the article by Wellsprings Fellowship member Stephanie Poultner.
Usk Town Pump (SO 3756 0081)
Cross the Usk River and walk up the town high street. The pump, with accompanying trough, is along the right side.
White Castle Well (SO 3797 1677)
The sparkling waters of the castle moat are now a haven for wildlife. The shaft well is inside the inner ward, opposite the kitchen and brewhouse.