Gunstone leper well
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1006058
Date first listed: 17-Oct-1978
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: South Staffordshire (District Authority)
Parish: Brewood and Coven
National Grid Reference: SJ 87029 04783
Holy well known as The Leper Well 320m south east of Leper House.
Reasons for Designation
Holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations. The custom of venerating springs and wells as sacred sites is also known to have characterised pre-Christian religions in Britain and, although Christian wells have been identified from as early as the 6th century AD, it is clear that some holy wells originated as earlier sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued throughout the medieval period. Its condemnation at the time of the Reformation (c.1540) ended new foundations 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 and its capacity to effect a desired outcome for future events. 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, or larger buildings, decorated in the prevailing architectural style and facilitating access with features such as steps to the water source and open areas with stone benching where visitors might shelter. At their most elaborate, chapels, and sometimes churches, may have been built over the well or adjacent well house. The number of holy wells is not known but estimates suggest at least 600 nationally. They provide important information on the nature of religious beliefs and practices and on the relationship between religion and the landscape during the medieval period.
The holy well known as The Leper Well 320m south-east of Leper House survives well. The area covered by the scheduling has the potential for undisturbed or waterlogged remains associated with the veneration of the well. Its connection to the parish church and a possible leper house provides a good example of the association of holy wells with religious practices, and of the longevity of the popular reverence and traditions linked with this monument type.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 2 June 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.
The monument includes a well situated just west of Whitehouse Lane and approximately 80m north east of Moat Brook in Gunstone. The well is brick built and oval in plan, measuring 1.2m by 1.5m and up to 1m deep. Steps lead down into a well basin and a ledge runs around its internal edge. The water is sulphurous and would have been used as a remedy for leprosy and other skin diseases. The well was described by Robert Plot in his publication of The Natural History of Staffordshire published in 1686 and mentions the water’s medicinal qualities. A house for lepers is believed to have been built near Gunstone which may be on or near to the site of Leper House. Tradition has it that the lepers were blessed by the priest from the church in Codsall, just over 800m to the south west, then made their way down the hill, across Moat Brook to bathe in the sulphurous waters of the lepers’ well. The monument is also a Grade II listed building.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: ST 249
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Raven, M, A Guide to Staffordshire and the Black Country, the Potteries and the Peak, (2005), 9
HER: DST5885/00229, NMR: SS80SE4, Pastscape: 75153
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