St Cleer's Well and cross


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Cleer
National Grid Reference:
SX 24949 68304

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.

This holy well survives well and is the only example of a well house with an open porch-like design in Cornwall. The pillars, arches and capitals are carved with simple mouldings and patterns which are unusual in Cornwall at this date. It is a good example of a well house built over a well basin, with a contemporary wayside cross still in situ to the south. It maintains its function as a well; there is clear water in the well basin.


The monument includes a medieval holy well known as St Cleer's Well, and a medieval wayside cross situated in a small walled enclosure to the north east of the parish church at St Cleer in south east Cornwall. St Cleer's Well survives as a small granite building over a well basin. The structure measures 3.38m east-west by 3.08m north-south. The building is constructed of large granite blocks and mortar, and forms a very open, porch like structure. The north, south and west walls are each supported by two rounded arches with pillars in between, giving access to the interior of the well. The arches and pillars are mounded and the capitals at the top of the pillars are decoratively carved. Above the arches in the west wall is a rectangular niche with a statue of a robed figure in it. The east wall has two small, low arches set within a pointed recess; above these arches is another rectangular niche. Above this arched structure is a steeply sloping gabled roof constructed of granite slabs and inside the roof is vaulted with a massive central rib. At each corner of the roof is a rounded pinnacle, and at the apex of the roof on the west side is another, larger and slightly more ornate pinnacle. Inside this well house is a rectangular well basin containing clear water. To east and west large granite slabs cover the edges of the well basin, large granite blocks to either side also extend beyond the edge of the well basin. A modern metal grill covers the exposed area of the well-basin, which measures 1.3m north-south by 1.14m east-west and is 0.66m deep. On the east wall is a niche with a slightly pointed top to it, and a granite plaque inscribed `St Cleer holy well restored 1864'. The well is Listed Grade I. The wayside cross is located 5.12m south of the well and survives as an upright granite head and shaft. The head has unenclosed arms, a form called a `Latin' cross, its principal faces orientated east-west. The overall height of the monument is 2.2m. The cross measures 0.75m across its side arms each of which are 0.18m thick. Both principal faces of the head are decorated with a Latin cross in relief, the lower limb extending down the shaft is formed by two incised lines. The shaft is 0.34m wide and 0.2m thick. The shaft is cemented into a rectangular granite base, which measures 1.04m north-south by 0.89m east-west and is 0.23m high. The cross is Listed Grade II. St Cleer's Well and cross are believed to date from the 15th century and to be contemporary with each other. In 1850 when the antiquarian Quiller Couch visited the site the well was in ruins, the back wall still standing covered in ivy. In 1858 the well and its surrounding area was brought by Henry Rogers of Penrose, Helston, who in 1864 had the well restored as a memorial to his grandfather, John Jope once vicar of St Cleer. The well is believed to have been a bowsening or immersion well, originally it would have had a sunken cistern to the west of the well house, a reservoir beneath the well house and a pool to the east. The well basin is believed to have originally been semi-circular. After the restoration in 1864 the basin was covered with granite slabs, one of which has since been removed so that the water can now be seen. The well had the reputation for curing the lame, the blind and the insane. It possibly belonged to a nunnery of Poor Clares in Liskeard or in St Cleer parish. The gravel surface around the well and cross, where it falls within the monument's protective margin, 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.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in East Cornwall, (1996)
Leggat, P O, D V, , The Healing Wells Cornish Cults and Customs, (1987)
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
Consulted 1997, FMW report on CO 192,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 26/36; Pathfinder Series 1348 Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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