Ancient Monuments

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Holy well 480m north west of Beaford Mill

A Scheduled Monument in Beaford, Devon

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Latitude: 50.9146 / 50°54'52"N

Longitude: -4.076 / 4°4'33"W

OS Eastings: 254155.960472

OS Northings: 114842.750694

OS Grid: SS541148

Mapcode National: GBR KQ.QM76

Mapcode Global: FRA 26BP.KVF

Entry Name: Holy well 480m north west of Beaford Mill

Scheduled Date: 18 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015142

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28618

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Beaford

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Beaford All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a holy well overlooking the River Torridge on the west
facing valley side. It lies 20m north of an unnamed stream which flows into
the River Torridge, and survives as a double wall built of mortared local
stone. It measures 18m long, 1.9m wide and up to 2.6m high. It has a hollow
centre, and curving ends. Set into the western wall at the northern end is an
alcove over the well basin. The alcove has a corbelled roof and measures 1.12m
long from east to west, 0.8m wide from north to south, and is 1.17m high.
Within the alcove is a stone lined basin which maintains a constant water
level and measures 0.82m in diameter and at least 0.43m deep.
To the west of the alcove is a stone built rectangular trough. This measures
3.95m long from north to south and 1.9m wide from east to west. The northern
and southern walls are both 0.43m thick and measure 1.8m high at the point
where they join the double wall to the east and 0.5m high at the point to the
west. The western wall forms the front of the trough from which the basin is
approached. This measures 0.3m thick and is 0.5m high. The base of the trough
is of solid construction with some overlying loose stone.
Although the dedication of the well is not known, it was associated with
Hartland Abbey and originally linked to the old manor called Abbots Hill which
lies to the north west. It lies at the edge of what was originally the Holy

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 holy well 480m NNW of Beaford Mill survives comparatively well and
contains both architectural and archaeological information concerning this
class of monument.

Source: Historic England

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