Holy well 480m north west of Beaford Mill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Torridge (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SS 54156 14842

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 480m NNW of Beaford Mill survives comparatively well and contains both architectural and archaeological information concerning this class of monument.


This monument includes a holy well overlooking the River Torridge on the west facing valley side. It lies 20m north of an unnamed stream which flows into the River Torridge, and survives as a double wall built of mortared local stone. It measures 18m long, 1.9m wide and up to 2.6m high. It has a hollow centre, and curving ends. Set into the western wall at the northern end is an alcove over the well basin. The alcove has a corbelled roof and measures 1.12m long from east to west, 0.8m wide from north to south, and is 1.17m high. Within the alcove is a stone lined basin which maintains a constant water level and measures 0.82m in diameter and at least 0.43m deep. To the west of the alcove is a stone built rectangular trough. This measures 3.95m long from north to south and 1.9m wide from east to west. The northern and southern walls are both 0.43m thick and measure 1.8m high at the point where they join the double wall to the east and 0.5m high at the point to the west. The western wall forms the front of the trough from which the basin is approached. This measures 0.3m thick and is 0.5m high. The base of the trough is of solid construction with some overlying loose stone. Although the dedication of the well is not known, it was associated with Hartland Abbey and originally linked to the old manor called Abbots Hill which lies to the north west. It lies at the edge of what was originally the Holy Orchard.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
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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