St Edith's Well
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1006086
Date first listed: 19-Dec-1968
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Stafford (District Authority)
Parish: Church Eaton
National Grid Reference: SJ 83527 16538
Holy well known as St. Edith’s Well, 330m SSE of High Onn Wharf Farm.
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 affect 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 and early post-medieval period.
The holy well known as St. Edith’s Well is a relatively good survival of this monument class and will contain evidence for its use and construction including environmental deposits and votive offerings from the time that the well has been in use.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 3 July 2015. The 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 holly well situated at the western corner of a field, south west of High Onn Wharf. A rectangular structure built of red sandstone ashlar blocks includes five steps which lead down to a water-filled rectangular basin measuring 2.1m by 1.5m. The well is associated with the Anglo-Saxon Saint Edith and there is a likely association with St. Editha’s Church in Church Eaton 1.7km to the north east.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: ST 188
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Pastscape: 75365, HER: DST5809 & NMR: SJ81NW7
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