Holy Well 100m north east of St David's church

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018692

Date first listed: 18-Jul-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Nov-1998

Map

Ordnance survey map of Holy Well 100m north east of St David's church
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Location

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

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Davidstow

National Grid Reference: SX 15162 87366

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.

The holy well north east of St David's church survives well despite some restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a good example of a holy well, having a basin inside a chamber and an elaborate entrance facade. The well dates from the medieval period and is located close to the parish church. Although there is no record of any traditions connected with this well, water from the well was probably used for baptisms.

History

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

Details

The monument includes a medieval holy well situated in a field to the north east of St David's church at Davidstow. The holy well, which is Listed Grade II, survives as a small stone semicircular structure with a granite faced facade and turf covered roof over a well basin. The well house measures 1.57m high by 4.6m long and is 4.05m wide. The rectangular well chamber measures 1.5m high by 2.8m long and is 1.1m wide. It is constructed of large blocks of granite, with some quartz and greenstone. The ceiling is constructed of large slabs of granite, including a large medieval cross base of greenstone, which measures 1.18m square. The water in the well basin is clear and reaches a depth of 0.49m. There is a modern wooden door with iron fittings on the entrance which replicates an earlier 19th century door which had become rotten. The facade is constructed of granite blocks forming a wall to either side of a rounded entrance, with the wall forming a point above the entrance. Above the entrance is an inscription which reads `Restored M W Oct 1871'. The semicircular wall behind the granite facade is constructed of the local slate stone laid in a traditional herringbone pattern. In front of the well entrance is a `pavement' of blocks of granite 0.95m wide. This holy well was first recorded in the mid-19th century, being restored in 1871 by Michael Williams who reused stones taken from a ruined chapel in the parish of Lesneweth. The well was again restored in 1996 as the east side of the granite facade was cracking and the walls were bulging in places and there was a mature hawthorn tree growing on the roof. The walls were rebuilt and the facade repaired, and the `pavement' in front of the entrance was created to improve access to the well. It is not known where the cross base in the roof of the well chamber came from.

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: 31836

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in East Cornwall, (1996)
Reynolds, A, Preston-Jones, A, Attwell, D, The Holy Well at Davidstow, (1997)
Other
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 08/18: Pathfinder Series 1325 Source Date: 1986 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing