St Winefride's Holy Well at Holywell Farm

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018702

Date first listed: 21-Jan-1999

Map

Ordnance survey map of St Winefride's Holy Well at Holywell Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

District: Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Clutton

National Grid Reference: SJ 47387 55243

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 of St Winefride is well documented and in good condition with most of its stonework intact. In spite of the replacement of the dam by a brick construction the bulk of the structure is original.

History

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

Details

The monument includes a well head and drain channel built of stone in the garden of Holywell Farm on the western side of the farmhouse. The well is one of a number of holy wells dedicated to the memory of St Winefride which were placed to mark the route of her remains when they were taken from Holywell in Clwyd, where she was martyred, to Shrewsbury Abbey. This formed a station on a medieval pilgrim trail which followed this route. The well is a circular basin 3.5m in diameter and 1.75m deep, lined with ashlar sandstone blocks and mortared below the water line. The bottom is silt and sand through which the water flows in several separate funnels. On the north side there is a gap in the surround which has been dammed with bricks in the recent past and a plastic pipe inserted to take away the overflow to a stone lined channel 2.5m long and 0.5m wide. At the end of the channel a ceramic drain takes the overflow into a stream which flows through the garden. The stonework is medieval and the top of the construction is worn down by the feet of visitors to the well.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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: 30380

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Dodgson, J, The Place Names of Cheshire, Volume 4, (1972), 84

End of official listing