Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002616
Date first listed: 27-Oct-1971
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Devon (District Authority)
Parish: Dartmoor Forest
National Park: DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference: SX 57731 75867
Holy well known as Fice’s Well.
Reasons for Designation
Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. Holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations. Holy wells continued to be built throughout the medieval period but many had pre-Christian origins. Their construction was condemned during the Reformation (c.1540) but local reverence and folklore customs at existing holy wells often continued, in some cases to the present day. The holy wells sometimes functioned as sites for baptism but they were also revered for less tangible reasons, some of which may have had origins in pre-Christian customs, such as folklore beliefs in the healing powers of the water. Associated rituals often evolved, usually requiring the donation of an object or coin to retain the 'sympathy' of the well for the person seeking its benefits. At their simplest, holy wells may be unelaborated natural springs with associated religious traditions. Structural additions may include lined well shafts or conduit heads on springs, often with a tank to gather the water at the surface. The roofing of walled enclosures to protect the water source and define the sacred area created well houses which may be simple, unadorned small structures closely encompassing the water source. Holy wells provide important information on the nature of religious beliefs and practices and on the relationship between religion and the landscape during the medieval period and reflect changing attitudes by religious iconoclasts during periods of turmoil. Although attributed to John Fice, the holy well known as Fice’s Well is typical of its type, having a simple well house which was later adorned with an outer enclosure during the 19th century. This addition reflects the respect in which the well was held even though any original legends pertaining to its construction are no longer known with certainty.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 12 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes a holy well situated within the Black Brook Valley close to the river. The monument survives as a circular walled enclosure with a flight of access steps and contains a roofed, square stone built well building. The enclosure measures approximately 6.5m in diameter and is defined by a faced outer stone wall of up to 1.5m high with an earth ramp on the interior topped with a stone parapet. On the south east side are a series of nine stone steps which provide access. The well building is constructed from drystone walling and measures approximately 0.8m by 0.8m internally and is 0.8m high. Externally the side walls are approximately 1m high and composed of two courses supporting a square capstone which measures 1.1m long and wide and up to 0.2m thick. On the front edge of this capstone are two recessed panels containing the inscriptions ‘I F’ and ‘1568’ which stands for John Fice, identified by Revd Bray in the 19th century as being John Fitz of Fitzford, an astrologer, who with his family had a rather strange history. The original circumstances surrounding the construction of the well is unknown, although local legend about it being built by a thirsty traveller seems unlikely given its close proximity to the Black Brook. The well water is also reputed to have eye-healing properties. The area around the well was drained in the 19th century and the outer enclosure was constructed at this time. The well is listed at Grade II.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: DV 848
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Vol Two - The North, (1992), 81
PastScape Monument No:-439651
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing