Ancient Monuments

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St Rumon's Well, 16m north of church

A Scheduled Monument in Romansleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 50.9708 / 50°58'14"N

Longitude: -3.814 / 3°48'50"W

OS Eastings: 272727.008007

OS Northings: 120612.410233

OS Grid: SS727206

Mapcode National: GBR L2.M1L9

Mapcode Global: FRA 26WJ.ZYM

Entry Name: St Rumon's Well, 16m north of church

Scheduled Date: 31 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015144

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28602

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Romansleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Romansleigh St Rumon

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a baptismal stone-lined holy well housed within a small
stone built rectangular building, with steps leading both to the entrance and
into the well itself. The monument lies 16.05m north of the church, just
beyond the northern periphery of the churchyard boundary at Romansleigh, and
at the end of a public footpath into the village.
The building which covers the well is rectangular in shape and measures 2.28m
long by 2.1m wide and is 1.21m high. It is stone built and covered with large
capstones. The entrance to the well is on the western side of the building and
measures 0.91m wide. Access is via a footpath which leads right around the
building and has some steps leading into the well itself. The well is stone
lined, has a diameter of 1m and still contains water. The well was
reconsecrated to enable baptism of local children in living memory. It is
dedicated to St Rumon. There are no traces of medieval decorative stonework,
and the building was thought to have been partly restored during the mid-
twentieth century, but it is of medieval origin.
The well is surrounded to the south, west and north by land boundaries. To the
south is the churchyard bank 0.75m wide by 1.25m high. Some slippage has
occurred onto the southern part of the building from this bank, since the
churchyard bank is higher than the well building. To the west, the boundary
marks the western edge of the footpath to the well entrance. It is 0.75m wide
and up to 1.1m high. This bank curves around to the north where it maintains
its width but decreases in height to 0.7m.
The path surrounding the well is 1m wide; it leads from the well entrance
to a hollow way on its eastern side which measures 1.7m wide and up to 1.1m
deep. This leads into the village of Romansleigh, and represents the part
remains of a much longer trackway from local farms to the village. Although
there is now an entrance into the churchyard from this path, just east of the
well building, this is a recent addition.

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

Despite part restoration of the building covering the well, St Rumon's Well
survives comparatively well and contains both architectural and archaeological
information concerning this frequently visited monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Devon, (1989), 703
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS72SW5, (1990)
Information from Mr D.J. Tucker, (1995)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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