Holy well 80m east of St Just Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020713

Date first listed: 24-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of Holy well 80m east of St Just 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 84924 35692


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.

Despite the partial loss of the outer structure considered to form a porch, and limited rebuilding, the survival of the holy well 80m east of St Just Church is good. The location at the head of a creek illustrates the siting of holy wells by distinctive natural features, a practice thought to be of pre-Christian origin. The proximity of the well to a parish church, and the use of its water for baptisms at the church, provides a good example of the association of holy wells with other religious monuments, and of the longevity of the popular reverence and traditions linked with this monument type.


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


The monument includes a holy well situated on near level ground beneath a north west slope at the head of a creek, 80m east of St Just Church. It has a well house, subrectangular in plan, projecting from a bank some 1.5m high on its south and west sides, and measuring approximately 3.2m WNW-ESE, up to 2.3m SSW-NNE overall, and up to 1.4m high. The well house has a roofed chamber, the base of which retains the water; and walling in front (west) of this, considered to be the remains of an outer chamber or porch. The well, which is a Listed Building Grade II, is medieval in origin, with some rebuilding. The plan of the chamber containing the spring is subrectangular, its south wall curving markedly towards the rear of the well, so that its interior measures 1.5m WNW-ESE by 0.55m (at the front) to approximately 0.9m-1m SSW-NNE (at the back). The walls forming the sides and back of the chamber are of rubble shillet (local slate stone). They continue to a depth of 0.5m below the outside ground level, forming a cistern. The side walls are around 0.5m wide. The front is open, except for a large piece of stone set on one of its long sides across the threshold just over present ground level, so that the opening above it is 0.55m wide and 0.86m high. The threshold stone is 0.1m thick at its flat upper edge, but curves out on its inner face so that it is around 0.2m thick at its base. It is 0.5m high and at least 1.2m wide, continuing across the front of the side walls of the chamber. The upper edge of the stone is cut down by 0.02m where it meets the north wall of the chamber, possibly to facilitate the fitting of a door. The chamber has a flat roof, 1.4m above the ground level, formed of a single slab of cut slate 1.1m wide north-south and at least 1.3m east-west, with a regular thickness of around 0.03m. It is thought to be of 19th century date. The remains attributed to an outer structure consist of two roughly parallel 1.2m lengths of unmortared shillet rubble walling, extending WNW from either side of the front of the roofed chamber. These are thought to have been side walls, linked by an outer doorway or opening in front. The wall on the south side is visible as stone facing some 0.55m high protruding from the bank on the south side of the well mentioned above. The wall on the north side is approximately 0.7m wide and 1m high, and is faced with shillet on either side. Lower walling extends along the internal (SSW) side of the outer wall to the north. It is approximately 0.3m wide and 0.6m high, and is constructed of horizontally laid unmortared rubble shillet. By analogy with similar sites elsewhere, this may be a bench, which would have been topped with smooth flat stones. It would have provided seating for visitors seeking to cure their ailments with the holy well water, believed in medieval and post-medieval times to have healing properties. The holy well is closely associated with the medieval church of St Just, providing water for use in baptism.

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: 32959

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970), 69
Meyrick, J, The Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1982), 62
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894), 145-150
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:
Wright, PW (St Just churchwarden), to Parkes, C, (2001)

End of official listing