Trezance Holy Well and chapel enclosure


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018494

Date first listed: 09-Jan-1957

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of Trezance Holy Well and chapel enclosure
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Cardinham

National Grid Reference: SX 12475 69415


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.

Trezance Holy Well and its associated chapel enclosure survive well. Though the chapel itself has been demolished, its site within the enclosure is known. The well is one of the largest in Cornwall and was an important site in the medieval period. Until the mid-19th century water from the well was still being used for baptisms.


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


The monument includes a medieval holy well with an enclosure containing the site of a chapel at Trezance, on the south west edge of Bodmin Moor. The holy well survives as a small granite structure built into the bank on the southern edge of the enclosure. The well house measures 2.03m east-west by 1.85m high. The facade is constructed of large blocks of granite forming a wall to either side of the entrance which is a simple retangular doorway with two iron hinges on the east side, originally holding a wooden door. The large, rectangular well chamber is constructed of large granite blocks. The walls are approximately 0.68m thick and the well chamber measures 2.07m north-south by 1.66m east-west. The roof is flat and consists of large slabs of granite. The uneven granite floor of the well chamber forms the well basin where the water varies in depth from 0.05m to 0.22m. Water seeps out through the well entrance to join a nearby stream. The well has never been known to run dry. The holy well at Trezance is one of the largest in Cornwall and was an important site of pilgrimage in the medieval period. Up to the mid-19th century water was taken from the well to be used in baptisms. The rectangular enclosure above the well contains the site of the chapel. This enclosure survives as a stone and earth bank enclosing an area approximately 30m east-west by 15m north-south, which has been levelled into the hillside to form a level platform. To the north, east and west it survives as a low bank. To the south, it forms a substantial bank approximately 2m high as the ground slopes away downhill and the bank has been built up. Substantial remains of the chapel were still standing in the early 19th century, after which stone was reused as building stone in the farmhouse and outbuildings at Trezance and at another farm nearby. By the late 19th century the chapel had been demolished and the site planted with trees. The post and wire fence around the chapel enclosure, the pipe taking water from the well and the metalled drive to the north of the enclosure are 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.


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

Legacy System number: 31826

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
Consulted July 1996, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 1536,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 06/16; Pathfinder Series 1347 Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing