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St Mary's Well, Jesmond

A Scheduled Monument in North Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Latitude: 54.9924 / 54°59'32"N

Longitude: -1.5974 / 1°35'50"W

OS Eastings: 425853.793357

OS Northings: 566502.471898

OS Grid: NZ258665

Mapcode National: GBR SRL.2R

Mapcode Global: WHC3K.FSK2

Entry Name: St Mary's Well, Jesmond

Scheduled Date: 11 January 1929

Last Amended: 2 December 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018641

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32046

County: Newcastle upon Tyne

Electoral Ward/Division: North Jesmond

Built-Up Area: Newcastle upon Tyne

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Newcastle St George

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes St Mary's Well, situated in a fenced enclosure, 100m
west of St Mary's Chapel, Jesmond.
The visible remains, which are Listed Grade II, include a well, a flagstone
paved area enclosed by walls, and steps leading down to the well from the
south. The well is circular in plan. The lowest three courses of the well
lining are of dressed sandstone blocks with curved inner faces and packed with
pink-brown clay. These courses are lain on top of a millstone base. Above
these are three uneven courses of roughly dressed stone. The well lining is
surmounted by a capstone, which has `gratia' carved on it. The presence of two
iron hinges to the right of the well opening and the stub of a retaining bar
on the left indicate that the well opening was at one time enclosed by a door.
The area of flagstones starts at the foot of the steps, in front of the well
opening, and extends to the north. The area of flagstones is approximately 6m
in length from the steps to the north wall, and in width it tapers from 1.5m
next to the well opening to 1.1m at the northern end. The flagstones in front
of the well opening are larger than the area to the north and have been shaped
to abut neatly with each other. The area to the north has been lain with
smaller flagstones and cobbles in an irregular pattern. The area of flagstones
is enclosed by walls on three sides: west, north and east. The west wall
stands to a height of 1.5m at its southern end and decreases in height to 0.5m
where it joins the north wall. The north and east wall are to 0.5m high. Part
of the east wall is one course lower and provides a seat.
The steps lead down in a zigzag pattern, into the hollow from the south-
west corner of the enclosure. The first edition Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map
shows that the steps led straight down into the hollow from the south. This
map also shows an access path coming in from the north.
The well has been the subject of a partial excavation prior to restoration in
1982, which identified four phases of construction. Phase one relates to the
lower three courses of the well lining and the area of large flags immediately
in front of the well opening and has been dated to the 17th century by brick
fragments. The second phase saw the addition of a bath structure to the north
west of the well by William Coulson in the early 18th century. This is not
visible but will be preserved beneath the surface. The third phase, dated to
the early 19th century, includes the enclosing of the well with the addition
of the upper courses of the well-lining, capstone and door. Associated with
this phase is the demolition of the bath, and the foundation courses of the
west wall. The fourth phase is the erection of the east and west walls and
the extension of the cobbled area to its present form.
Though the first historical reference to the well is in the 18th century and
the present structure is believed to date from the 17th century, it is thought
that there may have been a well of greater antiquity associated with St Mary's
Chapel, which was a place of pilgrimage in the medieval period.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 Mary's Well is a well preserved example of this class of monument and is
believed to date from the 17th century, although it may have origins in the
medieval period. It is associated as a place of pilgrimage with St Mary's
Chapel, the subject of a separate scheduling.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brewis, P, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in St. Mary's Chapel, and the Site of St.Mary's Well, Jesmond, , Vol. 4, V, (1928), 102-111
Fraser, R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in St. Mary's Well, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, , Vol. 5, XI, (1983), 289-300
SMR record no.146, Harbottle, B, Jesmond, St.Mary's Well, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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