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Holy Well 100m north east of St David's church

A Scheduled Monument in Davidstow, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.6566 / 50°39'23"N

Longitude: -4.6164 / 4°36'58"W

OS Eastings: 215162.046927

OS Northings: 87366.309241

OS Grid: SX151873

Mapcode National: GBR N7.7VDR

Mapcode Global: FRA 176B.RCC

Entry Name: Holy Well 100m north east of St David's church

Scheduled Date: 18 July 1974

Last Amended: 16 November 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018692

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31836

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Davidstow

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Davidstow

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval holy well situated in a field to the north
east of St David's church at Davidstow.
The holy well, which is Listed Grade II, survives as a small stone
semicircular structure with a granite faced facade and turf covered roof over
a well basin. The well house measures 1.57m high by 4.6m long and is 4.05m
The rectangular well chamber measures 1.5m high by 2.8m long and is 1.1m wide.
It is constructed of large blocks of granite, with some quartz and greenstone.
The ceiling is constructed of large slabs of granite, including a large
medieval cross base of greenstone, which measures 1.18m square. The water in
the well basin is clear and reaches a depth of 0.49m. There is a modern wooden
door with iron fittings on the entrance which replicates an earlier 19th
century door which had become rotten. The facade is constructed of granite
blocks forming a wall to either side of a rounded entrance, with the wall
forming a point above the entrance. Above the entrance is an inscription
which reads `Restored M W Oct 1871'. The semicircular wall behind the
granite facade is constructed of the local slate stone laid in a traditional
herringbone pattern. In front of the well entrance is a `pavement' of blocks
of granite 0.95m wide.
This holy well was first recorded in the mid-19th century, being restored in
1871 by Michael Williams who reused stones taken from a ruined chapel in the
parish of Lesneweth. The well was again restored in 1996 as the east side of
the granite facade was cracking and the walls were bulging in places and there
was a mature hawthorn tree growing on the roof. The walls were rebuilt and the
facade repaired, and the `pavement' in front of the entrance was created to
improve access to the well. It is not known where the cross base in the roof
of the well chamber came from.

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 north east of St David's church survives well despite some
restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a good example of a holy
well, having a basin inside a chamber and an elaborate entrance facade. The
well dates from the medieval period and is located close to the parish church.
Although there is no record of any traditions connected with this well, water
from the well was probably used for baptisms.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in East Cornwall, (1996)
Reynolds, A, Preston-Jones, A, Attwell, D, The Holy Well at Davidstow, (1997)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 08/18: Pathfinder Series 1325
Source Date: 1986

Source: Historic England

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