Ancient Monuments

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Holy well known as St Ruan's Well, 160m south east of Bruggan Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Grade-Ruan, Cornwall

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Latitude: 49.9884 / 49°59'18"N

Longitude: -5.1889 / 5°11'20"W

OS Eastings: 171514.704

OS Northings: 14675.400375

OS Grid: SW715146

Mapcode National: GBR Z6.JVFD

Mapcode Global: FRA 0901.4UY

Entry Name: Holy well known as St Ruan's Well, 160m south east of Bruggan Farm

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006753

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 13

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Grade-Ruan

Built-Up Area: Ruan Minor

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Ruan Minor

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a holy well situated on the upper southern slopes of a small valley close to the village of St Ruan. The holy well survives as a small mortared, rubble-built stone building with a corbelled roof. It measures 1.7m square by 1.9m high with a rounded arched doorway in the gable end. The interior of the building contains the well head, around which there are three small seat ledges and an empty arched niche in the rear wall. A small granite gable cross, which came from the roof, is now in St Grade's church. It was removed prior to 1894. The building itself is of 15th century date and was restored in the mid-19th century. Quiller-Couch in 1894 reported it as being 'altered by restoration, but its former venerable and picturesque condition has been well preserved'.
The well is Listed Grade II (64585).

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-426880 and 610389

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 affect 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. Of these, over 200 are recorded from Cornwall, providing one of the highest densities of surviving examples. 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 early restoration, the holy well known as St Ruan's Well 160m south east of Bruggan Farm survives comparatively well and retains many of its original features. Its restoration indicates the regard in which it was held despite periods of religious iconoclasm. As well as being of architectural and historic interest, it will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, restoration, social and religious significance and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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