- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SX 01187 53253
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
Menacuddle Well survives very well, despite some restoration in the early 20th century. It is a good example of a holy well and is said to be one of the most beautiful in Cornwall.
The monument includes a medieval holy well, known as Menacuddle Well, situated
to the north of St Austell in southern mid-Cornwall.
Menacuddle Well, which is a Listed Building Grade II*, survives as a small
granite building over a well basin. It is orientated east-west with the east
wall built against the natural rock face. The structure measures 2.3m high by
2.74m wide and 3.45m long. It is constructed of large granite blocks and
mortar, while the roof is also of large granite slabs supported on three
massive ribs. In both the north and south walls is a pointed arched entrance
with moulded granite surround and decorated capitals. There is a small rounded
arched window in the west wall with an information plaque mounted on the
exterior next to it. The floor of the well house is paved with granite. Water
from a spring fills a stone basin at the east end of the well house, and
drains out through the south door.
Menacuddle Well is located in an ornamental garden in a valley running north from St Austell. This holy well is considered to date from the late 15th century, and is said to be one of the most beautiful holy wells in Cornwall. It was restored in 1922 as a memorial to a member of the Sawle family, owners of the Menacuddle Estate, who died in World War I. Traditionally the water was used for healing weak children and ulcers as well as various other illnesses. Local tradition was to throw bent pins into the water for good luck. The modern surface of the gravel footpath to the north, south and west of the well is excluded from the scheduling, where it falls within the monument's 2m protective margin, 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970)
Meyrick, J, A Pilgrim's Guide to the Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1982)
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
FMW report for CO 187, (1985)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 05/15; St Austell and Fowey Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
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