Ancient Monuments

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St Anne's Well

A Scheduled Monument in Rainhill, St. Helens

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Latitude: 53.4173 / 53°25'2"N

Longitude: -2.7543 / 2°45'15"W

OS Eastings: 349961.303567

OS Northings: 391426.869087

OS Grid: SJ499914

Mapcode National: GBR 9X6X.HQ

Mapcode Global: WH87B.NCML

Entry Name: St Anne's Well

Scheduled Date: 18 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019449

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32602

County: St. Helens

Civil Parish: Rainhill

Built-Up Area: Prescot

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Rainhill St Ann

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument includes a shallow well, lined with stone blocks, beside the
brook which separates the townships of Rainhill and Sutton St Helens.
The well is a square basin measuring 1.75m wide and about 1.2m deep. It is
constructed of dressed ashlar sandstone blocks with a level stone floor. Two
steps lead down into the bottom of the well from the west side. The basin has
been partly infilled with soil and only one course of stone is visible above
ground. Water appears to have seeped in from below the flagged floor.
The well had a reputation for healing diseases of the eyes in the 19th
There used to be a carved stone basin and stone conduit on the north side
which took water from the overflow of the well. These features are no longer
evident. A stone figure carved in relief stood over this feature representing
a female figure carrying a pitcher which, from the sketch made by Owen in
1843, appears to be medieval in date. The stone figure is also missing. A
burial ground was reported to have been found next to the well. This was
destroyed in the 19th century.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 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 known as St Anne's Well, is a well preserved example of a
shallow square basin with steps leading down into the bottom. The type is
medieval and there are three examples in the region. The basin is well
constructed of local sandstone and used to have an additional conduit and
stone basin. It was also associated with a burial ground.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Owen Mss, (1843), 77-78
Taylor, , Holy Wells of Lancashire, (1906), 192
Taylor, , Holy Wells of Lancashire, (1906), 487

Source: Historic England

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