St Oswald's Well, 150m south of Woodhead

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018082

Date first listed: 12-Mar-1998

Map

Ordnance survey map of St Oswald's Well, 150m south of Woodhead
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

District: Warrington (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Winwick

National Grid Reference: SJ 60742 94099

Summary

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

St Oswald's Well is well preserved by the community and the owner and survives with most of the medieval fabric intact. Despite regular cleaning the silts at the bottom of the well will contain valuable evidence of the earlier environment and use of the well. The historical importance attached to the well makes it of great interest to the local community in an area where traces of pre-Reformation Catholicism are still to be found in rural communities.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes a stone well chamber supposedly on the spot where St Oswald was killed at the battle of Maserfelth. The well chamber is square and measures 0.7m across and is about 1.9m deep with three steps on the south side leading down to the water. A large stone slab has been placed over the aperture, covering half of the opening and protecting the remains from cattle or human access. The post and wire fence is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

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.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 30378

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Other
Cheshire SMR, (1987)

End of official listing