Holy well 380m north west of Trevornick


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Holy well 380m north west of Trevornick
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1020453 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 19-Oct-2019 at 02:43:27.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 77336 58896

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 380m north west of Trevornic survives reasonably well. Despite restoration of the well house, the structure remains substantially intact, and below-ground deposits associated with the monument will survive.


The monument includes a medieval holy well situated at the base of a steep south east facing slope south west of Newquay. The holy well has a well house thought to be of 14th or 15th century date, but partly rebuilt in 1936; an outer wall on the south east side dates from the reconstruction but incorporates a medieval archway and a culvert running between them. Overall it measures up to 7.1m north west-south east by 6.7m north east-south west. The holy well is Listed Grade II. The well house, which is built into a slope, is rectangular in plan, its external measurements being 2.25m north east-south west by 1.8m north west-south east. Its walls, some 0.4m thick, are of rubble shillet (local slate stone) with some larger rubble shillet quoins. The gabled roof, which is 2.2m high at its apex, is slate with raised edges of cut granites around 0.25m across and 0.08m thick, projecting some 0.05m beyond the walls. The doorway is in the centre of the front (south east) wall of the well house. It has a moulded granite surround, with a round arch formed of two stones, and jambs of two stones on either side, those at the base having chamfer stops. The doorway opening is 0.54m wide and 1.4m high. Internally the well house measures 1.4m north east-south west by 1.5m north west-south east and is 1.7m high in the centre, and 1.2m high at the sides. It conforms to the porch type of holy well, having an inner chamber over the water source, and an outer chamber large enough to admit several people at once, with benches to seat them either side of a channel carrying water from the source to the outside. The whole has a reconstructed lime rendered barrel vault ceiling, with two modern inscriptions in Cornish, one above each of the benches. The inner chamber is a central round arched aperture in the base of a shelf of thin rubble shillet running across the back of the well house. The flat upper surface of the shelf is 0.7m high above the floor in front, and 0.5m (on the north east side) to 0.6m (on the south west side) deep to the back wall of the house. The chamber is approximately 0.5m wide and high, and extends under the shelf to the back wall. Its opening appears to be formed of eroded cut freestone. The bottom of the aperture is formed by a basin, obscured by mosses but apparently cut from a single stone. It is roughly square, measuring up to 0.4m across, and 0.2m deep, with rounded corners and sloping sides 0.15m thick at the top. This collects spring water from the back of the chamber, which has a slanting cover, possibly formed of several stones. The basin stands just above the level of the floor outside with its front slightly overhanging the channel set into this, and has an incised line 0.03m wide and deep across the centre of its lip, facilitating the outward flow of water. The back wall of the well house has two niches, one in each corner, above the roof of the inner chamber. These are around 0.25m across, 0.2m high, and 0.3m deep. They have unworked local stone lintels,and sides of single roughly shaped freestone blocks. The main, outer part of the well house has a channel set into the floor, taking the water from the inner basin to the doorway. This channel is 0.9m long, 0.35m wide, and 0.15m deep. Its sides are formed of shaped and roughly finished granites 0.8m long and 0.3m wide, where people seated on either side would have rested their feet. Its front is a granite of similar dimensions set across the channel, so that it also forms the threshold of the well house doorway. This has a central drainage groove resembling that in the lip of the inner basin, but slightly larger, being 0.05m wide and deep. The benches along the sides of the porch are some 1m long, 0.25m deep, and 0.35m high. They are of rubble stone,resembling the well house walling, topped with roughly shaped slate slabs 0.02m thick, two on each side. The area between the well house on the north west side and the wall on the south east side is bounded on the remaining sides by slight scarps 0.3m-0.8m high. An old photograph of the well after restoration is thought to show a stony path with a culvert beneath it, now buried and/or collapsed, running straight across the centre of this area to the opening in the outer wall. The outer wall is 6.7m long north east-south west and 0.3m wide. It is constructed of rubble shillet with thin slate coping. The wall is 1.5m-2.3m high, rising in three steps over the central entrance. The pointed entrance arch is formed of eight granites with moulding, the base stone north east of the opening having a stop. This stone also has a rectangular hollow in its present outer face, probably the result of reuse as a trough. The door opening is around 0.8m wide and 1.8m high. A modern slate plaque is fixed above it on the inside (north west side) of the wall. This has an inscription giving the date of restoration and a religious motto.

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), 61, 82
Padel, O J, Cornish placename elements, (1985), 210-211
Henderson, C, 'Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in The Ecclesiastical History of the Four Western Hundreds, , Vol. V2 pt4, (1956), 135
Mattingly, J, 'Journal of the St Agnes Museum Trust' in A Well Without Water? The Holy Well at Chapel Porth, St Agnes, , Vol. 14, (1998), 4-14
SW 75 NE 9, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1971)
Title: Cubert Tithe Apportionment Source Date: 1840 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Enclosure No. 84
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1908 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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].