Holy well at St Pancras Chapel
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Somerset West and Taunton (District Authority)
- Old Cleeve
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 04143 39888
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
Despite part of the well-head structure having been slightly dislodged in antiquity, the holy well in the garden of St Pancras Chapel survives in a good and stable condition. It has attracted visitors continuously since its foundation which was, at the latest, during the medieval period since which time it has been associated with the former chapel dedicated to St Pancras.
The monument includes a medieval or earlier holy well situated in the
garden of St Pancras Chapel, a former chapel which has been converted to a
cottage, located on the lower part of a steep slope that forms the west
side of the wide Washford River valley. The holy well is Listed Grade II.
The well-head covers a spring which flows continually from the side of the
valley. It is a simple square construction in red sandstone. Two large
stone slabs form a faux-gable above an opening which is 1.5m high above
the well-head floor and 1.3m across; the interior is stone-lined and 1.6m
from the back wall to the front opening. It has been suggested by an early
historian that the well dates from before the construction of the original
medieval chapel building and it is known from documentary evidence to have
been used as a healing well throughout the medieval period.
The two walls located either side of the approach to the well head are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Horne, E, Somerset Holy Wells, (1923), 50-1
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