Chapel Well, Towan


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018693

Date first listed: 13-Dec-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Chapel Well, Towan
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Pentewan Valley

National Grid Reference: SX 01454 48893


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.

Chapel Well survives well despite some restoration in the early 20th century. It is a good example of a holy well, having a basin inside a well chamber and a well house over the top. It is built of Pentewan stone, with an unusual decorative bracket for a figure.


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


The monument includes a medieval holy well, known as Chapel Well, at Towan. Chapel Well, which is Listed Grade II, survives as a small building of Pentewan stone, placed over a well basin, and built back into the hillside. Pentewan stone is an intrusive white elvan from the south coast of Cornwall, which was used for intricate carvings during the medieval period in Cornwall. The structure measures 2.14m east-west by 1.87m north-south. The gabled roof slopes steeply above the walls and there is a pointed arched doorway decorated with a simple moulding in the east face, giving access to the well basin. The well basin measures 1.6m east-west by 0.86m north-south and is 0.7m deep. The well basin is usually dry, but does on occasion fill up with clear water. The marshy area of ground around the well has been drained and a nearby stream diverted, so the original water supply to the well has been disrupted. On the west wall of the well chamber is a decoratively moulded bracket or platform of Pentewan stone originally designed to display a figure, probably of the saint to whom the well was dedicated. In the south wall, just inside the entrance is a small rectangular niche. This holy well is known as Chapel Well, and the structure has been interpreted as a baptistry chapel of 16th century date. In 1521 a parcel of land on the Manor of Tewington was called chappel lond, and Towan was part of the manor. The Tithe Apportionment Map of 1839 names a field `Chapel Park' and another field `Chapel Close'. It has been suggested that the chapel and well originated in the early medieval period and were maintained by the Manor of Tewington. The well was restored in 1937 by the St Austell Old Cornwall Society. The iron gate and the wall immediately to the east of the well, and the post and wire fence to the west where they fall within the well's protective margin 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: 31837

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970)
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
Preston-Jones, A, FMW report for CO 134, (1990)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 05/15 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing