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Dupath holy well, 45m NNE of Dupath Farm

A Scheduled Monument in St. Dominick, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5002 / 50°30'0"N

Longitude: -4.2927 / 4°17'33"W

OS Eastings: 237499.090333

OS Northings: 69219.704525

OS Grid: SX374692

Mapcode National: GBR NP.KTD1

Mapcode Global: FRA 17WQ.ZC4

Entry Name: Dupath holy well, 45m NNE of Dupath Farm

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 30 November 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013663

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15407

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Dominick

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Callington

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a large and elaborate late medieval holy well house over
a flowing spring, situated 1.5km ESE of Callington in north east Cornwall.
Adjacent to the well house is a medieval circular trough that collects the
outflowing water. The holy well is located on the upper slope of a small
valley containing a minor tributary of the River Tamar. The well house is a
monument in the care of the Secretary of State and is Listed Grade I.
The holy well survives with a rectangular well house measuring 3.9m north
east - south west by 3.59m north west - south east externally, with the
entrance in the south west end. The walls are built from large neatly squared
and finely jointed granite blocks, a masonry type called ashlar. The blocks
are often massive, up to 3.5m long, and laid in regular courses up to 0.49m
thick. The walls rise 2.35m high at eaves level, passing through six courses,
though adjoining higher ground masks the lower course of the south east wall.
The south west and north east gables are similarly constructed but with
generally smaller blocks and rise to c.4m high at roof ridge level.
The south west doorway has a depressed arch, hollow-moulded on its outer side.
It is set within a sunken surround with raised moulding along its outer edges.
This doorway and surround are framed by massive jamb and lintel slabs flush
with the south west wall face. The doorway's threshold is a reused window
sill, chamfered along its inner edge and with infilled sockets for glazing
bars along its upper face. A modern wooden door with iron fittings closes
against the doorway's inner face.
The well house is lit by a small vertical slit window in each side wall and a
larger decorated window of two lights in the north east wall. The slit windows
are unglazed, up to 0.48m high by 0.1m wide, with inwardly-splayed sides. The
main window, in the north east wall, is 1m high and 0.94m wide overall,
divided into two courses up to 0.38m wide by a single mullion. Both lights
have depressed arched heads, carved from a single slab, with hollow-moulded
edges except for the inner edges of the mullion: its north west inner edge is
chamfered while its south east inner edge has a roughly battered chamfer. The
mullion is also slightly shorter than the thickness of the window opening, a
group of discrepancies taken to indicate that the mullion is reused in its
present position. The window's lights also have square sockets for glazing
bars: three horizontal and one vertical, though again the mullion differs in
having two additional lozenge-shaped sockets in its north west face.
The well house is roofed by courses of granite slabs spanning the length of
the building, seven courses on each side and two slabs to each course,
supported by the gable and a single internal arch. The outer faces of the
slabs are bevelled to match the 45-50 degree pitch of the roof, with only fine
jointing visible between slabs and courses. The lowermost course along each
side overhangs the wall face by up to 0.17m. A course of shorter slabs forms
the ridge of the roof. From the lower edge of the roof at each corner of the
well house, a slab known as a kneeler, projects a little to each side to
support a small square-section pinnacle. The pinnacles have small raised
enrichments called crockets along their edges and the most intact pinnacle,
above the eastern corner, is 0.9m high. A similar pinnacle rises from the top
of the north east gable. The south west gable terminates as a small
rectangular platform surmounted by a large bellcote. The sides of the bellcote
are formed by two upright tapered slabs whose parallel inner faces bear
sockets for the bell pivot. These sides support a highly decorative canopy
carved from a square slab, with cable moulding along the lower edge and mock
battlements carved around the sides. A small crocketed pinnacle rises from
each corner of the slab, with a similar larger pinnacle rising from the
The well house walls are generally 0.27m-0.3m thick, but rise to 0.44m thick
in the south west wall to accommodate the large entrance opening and the
bell cote above. This gives the building internal dimensions of 3.15m long,
north east - south west, by 3m wide, north west - south east. The interior
faces rise 2.4m to the lowest row of roof slabs, with the gables rising to
4.05m. The interior is divided into two sectors by the roof support arch and
by two granite sill slabs crossing the floor beneath the arch. These mark off
a south western area, 1.53m long, beside the entrance, in which the spring is
channelled across the floor, and a north eastern area, 1.35m long, dominated
by the well pool and lit by the main window.
The south west area is lit from each side by the two slit windows, their
splays partly masked by the arch pillars. Much of the present floor in this
area comprises mortared slate paving from a relatively recent restoration, but
granite slabs along the north west and south east sides are considered earlier
features. Also the result of recent restoration is a granite gutter which
carries water from the spring, under the south east end of the threshold slab,
and then crosses the floor to a gap between the two sill slabs beneath the
roof arch. A 19th century account describes the water flowing unchannelled
from the spring.
After passing between the two sill slabs, the gutter discharges the water into
the well pool, occupying most of the north east sector of the interior. The
pool measures 2.45m north west - south east, across the width of the well
house, by up to 0.7m wide and 0.2m deep. It is defined to the south west by
the granite sill slabs beneath the roof arch and to the north west and south
east by granite floor slabs beside the walls. The north east side of the pool
is defined by slender granite edging slabs, separated from the north east wall
by a narrow strip of recent mortared slate paving. Water flows out of the pool
across that recent paving, leaving the well house through a hole near the base
of the north east wall. From there the water pours over the lip of a medieval
circular stone trough, 0.59m in external diameter, 0.41m high and with walls
0.07m thick. The trough resembles a small mortar and is decorated on its
outer surface by four opposed flat vertical ribs, each 0.13m wide and 0.05m
high. Water leaves the trough through a hole near the base of its NNW side,
flowing into the head of an adjoining modern drain.
The roof support arch within the well house is supported on plain pillars, up
to 1.75m high, against the north west and south east walls and each largely
carved from a single slab, up to 0.33m wide and 0.22m thick. Each pillar
supports a plain capital, bevelled on its innermost face only. From this
springs the single granite rib forming each side of the arch, meeting at a
large but simple bevelled keystone. The ribs forming the arch are finished
differently on each face: their north west faces have a rough surface with
shallow hollows along their lower edges; their south east faces are smooth
with pecked pitting and a chamfered lower edge. A narrow gap between the ribs
of the arch and the inner faces of the roof slabs is filled by mortared
The holy well house has been dated to c.1510 and incorporates architectural
features typical of the 15th century to the early-16th century. It was built
on land that was then named `Theu Path', acquired by the Augustinian canons of
St Germans in 1432 and remaining in their possession until their priory was
dissolved in 1539. A tradition persists that this holy well is located close
to a chapel dedicated to St Ethelred, licensed in 1405, though the
identification of that chapel with this site remains insecure.
In the mid-19th century the antiquary Thomas Quiller-Couch recorded the
well house as considerably overgrown and other late 19th century writers also
note that the monument had relatively recently attracted an apocryphal legend
to account for its construction. The well was partly restored during the 19th
century by the Revd H M Rice, the rector of South Hill and Callington. Further
consolidation and drainage at the monument was undertaken by the Ministry of
Works and their successors after the monument passed into Guardianship in
All English Heritage notices, fittings, fences, modern drain pipes and their
trenches are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is

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.

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
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

The Dupath holy well survives well as an unusually late and large example of a
medieval holy well house, with relatively minor alteration and additions
resulting from the 19th and 20th century restoration and consolidation works.
It is the largest medieval well house over a holy well in Cornwall and is also
unusual in the quality of its construction and decoration.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Henderson, C, The Cornish Church Guide, (1928)
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894)
consulted 1994, CCRA Register entry for SX 36 NE/ 7,
consulted 1994, Cornmwall SMR entry for PRN 6803,
consulted 1994, DNH/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier, Deed Plan & assoc docmtn for CO 22, (1984)
consulted 1994, DNH/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier, Deed Plan & assoc docmtn for CO 22, (1984)
dated 25/8/1958 from Royal Inst Corn, Douch, H L, Letter to A D Saunders detailing Henderson's note on Dupath Well, (1958)
dated 25/8/1958 from Royal Inst Corn, Douch, H L, Letter to A D Saunders detailing Henderson's note on Dupath Well, (1958)
English Heritage, Cornwall Listing Scheduling Overlap list, 1992, SAM CO 22/List 514-8/2
Thomas, N, A Watching Brief at Dupath Holy Well, Callington, 1992,
Thomas, N, A Watching Brief at Dupath Holy Well, Callington, 1992,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map: SX 36 NE
Source Date: 1963

Source: Historic England

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