St Winefride's Holy Well at Holywell Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 47387 55243
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
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
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.
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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Dodgson, J, The Place Names of Cheshire, Volume 4, (1972), 84
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing