Holy well of St Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020452

Date first listed: 24-Apr-2002


Ordnance survey map of Holy well of St Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Just-in-Roseland

National Grid Reference: SW 84710 33098


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 Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church, survives well. Despite evidence for partial rebuilding of the well house, the structure remains substantially intact, and below-ground deposits associated with the monument will survive. The recorded practice of dropping pins into the water to make wishes illustrates the connection of wells with folkloric rituals; and the early association with a chapel and its burial ground and a natural or semi-natural saint's chair rock feature may provide important evidence for medieval Christian religious practices and related customs, illustrating the likely pre-Christian veneration of the spring and rock.


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


The monument includes the medieval holy well of St Mawes is situated on a fairly steep south east facing slope above the harbour in central St Mawes. The holy well has a well house built into the ground on all sides so the whole of its lower part forms a cistern. It is sub-rectangular in plan, the long side on the WNW bowing outwards. It measures around 2.5m WSW-ESE by 2m NNW-SSE externally; and internally, 2.1m WSW-ENE by 1m (below ground) to 1.2m (at ground level) NNW-SSE. The holy well is Listed Grade II. The base of the structure is cut into natural rock by at least 0.5m. The walls above, around 0.4m wide, are mostly of shillet rubble (local stone), limewashed on the inside. The inner face of the cistern on the front (or ENE side) is formed of three roughly rectangular, shaped granite slabs or blocks, one above the other; and some rounded stones, apparently water-worn, are visible in its NNW side. The well house has a pointed arched roof, with a modern flat outer surface of random slate paving 1.4m-1.6m above ground level in front, on the rear of which is a gravestone or memorial dated 1855. The front (ENE) wall of the well house, partly rebuilt in modern times, has a central doorway with a pointed arched opening approximately 1m wide and 1.1m high above the ground. The upper part of the opening arch on its SSE side is formed of two carved, chamfered shillet stones. Around the opening is a relieving arch of unworked shillet slabs some 0.2m-0.3m long, with a slightly larger keystone, the top of which stands just proud of the roof surface. The carved and inscribed oak door is modern, as is a slate plaque naming and dating the well, fixed to the adjoining cottage. Spring water trickles into the base of the well house at several points, notably at the north west and south east corners. The granite stone forming the base of the inner face of the front wall of the well house, below ground, has a roughly central opening some 0.3m wide and 0.3m high cut through it, allowing water to drain out. This is thought to be linked by a buried culvert or pipe leading to a standpipe to the south east, beyond this scheduling. The well is closely associated with a medieval chapel and burial site and a rock feature known as St Mawes' Chair, beyond this scheduling. The 19th century memorial stone and all modern drain fittings and dustbins are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. The well house and the ground beneath it is included in the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32954

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970), 69
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894), 145-150
Whitaker, J, The Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall, (1804)
Henderson, C, 'Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of West Cornwall, , Vol. NS 3 pt2, (1958), 245-246
SW 83 SW 20, Quinnell, NV, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1968)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: St Just in Roseland Tithe Apportionment Source Date: 1840 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
TS at St Just Parish Council, Pollard, MS, Letter to Father Carruth, (1940)

End of official listing