Medieval chapel known as Madron Well Chapel associated with Madron holy well


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 44651 32802

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. Chapels and sometimes churches may be built over or adjacent to the well. The number of holy wells is not known but estimates suggest at least 600 nationally. Of these, over 200 are recorded from Cornwall, providing one of the highest densities of surviving examples. 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. Despite the loss of its roof, the medieval chapel known as Madron Well Chapel and associated with Madron holy well survives comparatively well and retains many unusual and rarer features. It was used both for baptism and healing and is of comparatively early date. The association with its alleged destruction during the Republic governor implies that it was lucky to survive the fervour of religious iconoclasts during periods of turbulence. As well as its architectural and historic interest, it will retain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, abandonment, religious and social significance through time as well as its landscape context.


The monument includes a chapel, situated on the upper western slopes of a valley of an un-named river to the north west of Madron. The chapel stands within a small enclosure and survives as a single-celled, roofless rectangular building measuring approximately 7.6m long by 3.3m wide internally with an entrance in the north wall. Internally there is a single granite step to raise the chancel from the nave. There is an altar slab at the eastern end and in the centre a shallow square socket. Stone benches run along the north and south walls. Water from the nearby Madron Well (scheduled separately) is brought to the chapel via a leat entering the building in the south west corner and, after falling into a rectangular trough, flows into a channel which runs across the western side of the chapel and exits via a drain under the north wall. The baptistry chapel was dedicated to St Madern. Norden first recorded the chapel in about 1590 when he mentioned the supposed healing qualities of the water, and famously John Trelille was cured at the chapel in around 1640. Quiller-Couch mentioned several much later miraculous events. The chapel was allegedly unroofed and defaced by Col. Creely, the Parliamentary governor of West Cornwall, but Henderson reported seeing a manuscript of 1654 saying it was already long roofless. The chapel has been variously dated by Henderson and Pevsner to the 14th century whilst Thomas believes it to be Pre-Norman in origin with 12th century additions including the seats, altar and chancel division. The chapel is Listed Grade II (70415).

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-424435


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
CO 39
Legacy System:


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

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