Ancient Monuments

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Holy well 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages

A Scheduled Monument in Broad Clyst, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7996 / 50°47'58"N

Longitude: -3.4323 / 3°25'56"W

OS Eastings: 299155.043134

OS Northings: 100977.328753

OS Grid: SS991009

Mapcode National: GBR LL.YVNB

Mapcode Global: FRA 36PZ.JLX

Entry Name: Holy well 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages

Scheduled Date: 25 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019108

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29688

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Broad Clyst

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Broadclyst St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a holy well located immediately below Frogmore Lane
overlooking a tributary of the River Culm. The well head is enclosed within a
decorative 19th century well house, which is Listed Grade II, and it is
supplied by a spring which flows from higher ground immediately to the east.
The well house, which is constructed of local volcanic trap, is built into the
slope of the hillside and only the facade is visible; this comprises an
ashlar wall about 8m wide and 2.3m in height, the central focus of which is a
tall, recessed, rounded arch of Norman style, one of the inner orders of which
rests upon two cushioned capitals. A moulded string course runs the width of
the facade and is incorporated into the recessed arch. The stone well head,
which is flush with the ground level at the base of the arch, contains clear
water and it is fronted by an earth cut soakaway which is provided with a
stone terminal about 6m forward, and slightly downslope, of the well.
The land on which the holy well lies was owned in the mid-19th century by Sir
Thomas Acland who commissioned the building of two lodges and a chapel for
Killerton. These buildings were designed by C R Cockerell in a style which
borrowed heavily from Norman architectural preferences and which became
popular from about 1840. The distinctive Norman arch of the holy well suggests
that Cockerell was involved also in the design of the well house at Lower
Comberoy. Although it is marked as a holy well on maps of the 20th century the
well has no known dedication to any named saint.

The concrete manhole which lies within the monument's protective margin 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

The holy well 230m north west of Lower Comberoy Cottages survives in excellent
condition as an example of a distinctive architectural style popular at the
time of its construction in the mid-19th century. It represents a good
example of later post-medieval enhancement of a recognised bountiful water
source which had been recognised and mapped as a holy well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brown, T, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Holy and Notable wells of Devon, , Vol. 98, (1966), 154

Source: Historic England

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