St Mary's Well, Jesmond


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018641

Date first listed: 11-Jan-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Dec-1998


Ordnance survey map of St Mary's Well, Jesmond
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Newcastle upon Tyne (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: NZ 25854 66503


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 Mary's Well is a well preserved example of this class of monument and is believed to date from the 17th century, although it may have origins in the medieval period. It is associated as a place of pilgrimage with St Mary's Chapel, the subject of a separate scheduling.


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


The monument includes St Mary's Well, situated in a fenced enclosure, 100m west of St Mary's Chapel, Jesmond. The visible remains, which are Listed Grade II, include a well, a flagstone paved area enclosed by walls, and steps leading down to the well from the south. The well is circular in plan. The lowest three courses of the well lining are of dressed sandstone blocks with curved inner faces and packed with pink-brown clay. These courses are lain on top of a millstone base. Above these are three uneven courses of roughly dressed stone. The well lining is surmounted by a capstone, which has `gratia' carved on it. The presence of two iron hinges to the right of the well opening and the stub of a retaining bar on the left indicate that the well opening was at one time enclosed by a door. The area of flagstones starts at the foot of the steps, in front of the well opening, and extends to the north. The area of flagstones is approximately 6m in length from the steps to the north wall, and in width it tapers from 1.5m next to the well opening to 1.1m at the northern end. The flagstones in front of the well opening are larger than the area to the north and have been shaped to abut neatly with each other. The area to the north has been lain with smaller flagstones and cobbles in an irregular pattern. The area of flagstones is enclosed by walls on three sides: west, north and east. The west wall stands to a height of 1.5m at its southern end and decreases in height to 0.5m where it joins the north wall. The north and east wall are to 0.5m high. Part of the east wall is one course lower and provides a seat. The steps lead down in a zigzag pattern, into the hollow from the south- west corner of the enclosure. The first edition Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map shows that the steps led straight down into the hollow from the south. This map also shows an access path coming in from the north. The well has been the subject of a partial excavation prior to restoration in 1982, which identified four phases of construction. Phase one relates to the lower three courses of the well lining and the area of large flags immediately in front of the well opening and has been dated to the 17th century by brick fragments. The second phase saw the addition of a bath structure to the north west of the well by William Coulson in the early 18th century. This is not visible but will be preserved beneath the surface. The third phase, dated to the early 19th century, includes the enclosing of the well with the addition of the upper courses of the well-lining, capstone and door. Associated with this phase is the demolition of the bath, and the foundation courses of the west wall. The fourth phase is the erection of the east and west walls and the extension of the cobbled area to its present form. Though the first historical reference to the well is in the 18th century and the present structure is believed to date from the 17th century, it is thought that there may have been a well of greater antiquity associated with St Mary's Chapel, which was a place of pilgrimage in the medieval period.

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: 32046

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Brewis, P, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in St. Mary's Chapel, and the Site of St.Mary's Well, Jesmond, , Vol. 4, V, (1928), 102-111
Fraser, R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in St. Mary's Well, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, , Vol. 5, XI, (1983), 289-300
SMR record no.146, Harbottle, B, Jesmond, St.Mary's Well, (1995)

End of official listing