Holy well 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019108

Date first listed: 25-Nov-1999


Ordnance survey map of Holy well 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: East Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Broad Clyst

National Grid Reference: SS 99155 00977


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 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages survives in excellent condition as an example of a distinctive architectural style popular at the time of its construction in the mid-19th century. It represents a good example of later post-medieval enhancement of a recognised bountiful water source which had been recognised and mapped as a holy well.


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


The monument includes a holy well located immediately below Frogmore Lane overlooking a tributary of the River Culm. The well head is enclosed within a decorative 19th century well house, which is Listed Grade II, and it is supplied by a spring which flows from higher ground immediately to the east. The well house, which is constructed of local volcanic trap, is built into the slope of the hillside and only the facade is visible; this comprises an ashlar wall about 8m wide and 2.3m in height, the central focus of which is a tall, recessed, rounded arch of Norman style, one of the inner orders of which rests upon two cushioned capitals. A moulded string course runs the width of the facade and is incorporated into the recessed arch. The stone well head, which is flush with the ground level at the base of the arch, contains clear water and it is fronted by an earth cut soakaway which is provided with a stone terminal about 6m forward, and slightly downslope, of the well. The land on which the holy well lies was owned in the mid-19th century by Sir Thomas Acland who commissioned the building of two lodges and a chapel for Killerton. These buildings were designed by C R Cockerell in a style which borrowed heavily from Norman architectural preferences and which became popular from about 1840. The distinctive Norman arch of the holy well suggests that Cockerell was involved also in the design of the well house at Lower Comberoy. Although it is marked as a holy well on maps of the 20th century the well has no known dedication to any named saint.

The concrete manhole which lies within the monument's protective margin is 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: 29688

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Brown, T, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Holy and Notable wells of Devon, , Vol. 98, (1966), 154

End of official listing