Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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St Oswald's Well, 150m south of Woodhead

A Scheduled Monument in Winwick, Warrington

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Latitude: 53.4422 / 53°26'31"N

Longitude: -2.5925 / 2°35'32"W

OS Eastings: 360741.984209

OS Northings: 394098.582971

OS Grid: SJ607940

Mapcode National: GBR BXBM.JS

Mapcode Global: WH98C.4RR0

Entry Name: St Oswald's Well, 150m south of Woodhead

Scheduled Date: 12 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018082

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30378

County: Warrington

Civil Parish: Winwick

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Winwick St Oswald

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument includes a stone well chamber supposedly on the spot where St
Oswald was killed at the battle of Maserfelth.
The well chamber is square and measures 0.7m across and is about 1.9m deep
with three steps on the south side leading down to the water. A large stone
slab has been placed over the aperture, covering half of the opening and
protecting the remains from cattle or human access.
The post and wire fence is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath is included.

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

St Oswald's Well is well preserved by the community and the owner and
survives with most of the medieval fabric intact. Despite regular cleaning
the silts at the bottom of the well will contain valuable evidence of the
earlier environment and use of the well. The historical importance attached
to the well makes it of great interest to the local community in an area where
traces of pre-Reformation Catholicism are still to be found in rural

Source: Historic England


Cheshire SMR, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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