St Anne's Well


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019449

Date first listed: 18-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of St Anne's Well
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: St. Helens (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SJ 49961 91427


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 known as St Anne's Well, is a well preserved example of a shallow square basin with steps leading down into the bottom. The type is medieval and there are three examples in the region. The basin is well constructed of local sandstone and used to have an additional conduit and stone basin. It was also associated with a burial ground.


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


The monument includes a shallow well, lined with stone blocks, beside the brook which separates the townships of Rainhill and Sutton St Helens. The well is a square basin measuring 1.75m wide and about 1.2m deep. It is constructed of dressed ashlar sandstone blocks with a level stone floor. Two steps lead down into the bottom of the well from the west side. The basin has been partly infilled with soil and only one course of stone is visible above ground. Water appears to have seeped in from below the flagged floor. The well had a reputation for healing diseases of the eyes in the 19th century. There used to be a carved stone basin and stone conduit on the north side which took water from the overflow of the well. These features are no longer evident. A stone figure carved in relief stood over this feature representing a female figure carrying a pitcher which, from the sketch made by Owen in 1843, appears to be medieval in date. The stone figure is also missing. A burial ground was reported to have been found next to the well. This was destroyed in the 19th century.

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: 32602

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Owen Mss, (1843), 77-78
Taylor, , Holy Wells of Lancashire, (1906), 192
Taylor, , Holy Wells of Lancashire, (1906), 487

End of official listing