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Holy well of St Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church

A Scheduled Monument in St. Just-in-Roseland, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1588 / 50°9'31"N

Longitude: -5.0155 / 5°0'55"W

OS Eastings: 184710.097

OS Northings: 33098.384295

OS Grid: SW847330

Mapcode National: GBR ZH.G5RQ

Mapcode Global: FRA 08CL.RW1

Entry Name: Holy well of St Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020452

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32954

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Just-in-Roseland

Built-Up Area: St Mawes

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Just-in-Roseland

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes the medieval holy well of St Mawes is situated on a
fairly steep south east facing slope above the harbour in central St
Mawes. The holy well has a well house built into the ground on all sides
so the whole of its lower part forms a cistern. It is sub-rectangular in
plan, the long side on the WNW bowing outwards. It measures around 2.5m
WSW-ESE by 2m NNW-SSE externally; and internally, 2.1m WSW-ENE by 1m
(below ground) to 1.2m (at ground level) NNW-SSE. The holy well is Listed
Grade II.
The base of the structure is cut into natural rock by at least 0.5m. The
walls above, around 0.4m wide, are mostly of shillet rubble (local stone),
limewashed on the inside. The inner face of the cistern on the front (or
ENE side) is formed of three roughly rectangular, shaped granite slabs or
blocks, one above the other; and some rounded stones, apparently
water-worn, are visible in its NNW side. The well house has a pointed
arched roof, with a modern flat outer surface of random slate paving
1.4m-1.6m above ground level in front, on the rear of which is a
gravestone or memorial dated 1855. The front (ENE) wall of the well house,
partly rebuilt in modern times, has a central doorway with a pointed
arched opening approximately 1m wide and 1.1m high above the ground. The
upper part of the opening arch on its SSE side is formed of two carved,
chamfered shillet stones. Around the opening is a relieving arch of
unworked shillet slabs some 0.2m-0.3m long, with a slightly larger
keystone, the top of which stands just proud of the roof surface. The
carved and inscribed oak door is modern, as is a slate plaque naming and
dating the well, fixed to the adjoining cottage.
Spring water trickles into the base of the well house at several points,
notably at the north west and south east corners. The granite stone
forming the base of the inner face of the front wall of the well house,
below ground, has a roughly central opening some 0.3m wide and 0.3m high
cut through it, allowing water to drain out. This is thought to be linked
by a buried culvert or pipe leading to a standpipe to the south east,
beyond this scheduling. The well is closely associated with a medieval
chapel and burial site and a rock feature known as St Mawes' Chair, beyond
this scheduling.
The 19th century memorial stone and all modern drain fittings and dustbins
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included. The well house and the ground beneath it is included
in the scheduling.

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

The holy well of St Mawes, 80m east of St Mawes Methodist Church, survives
well. Despite evidence for partial rebuilding of the well house, the
structure remains substantially intact, and below-ground deposits
associated with the monument will survive. The recorded practice of
dropping pins into the water to make wishes illustrates the connection of
wells with folkloric rituals; and the early association with a chapel
and its burial ground and a natural or semi-natural saint's chair rock
feature may provide important evidence for medieval Christian religious
practices and related customs, illustrating the likely pre-Christian
veneration of the spring and rock.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970), 69
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894), 145-150
Whitaker, J, The Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall, (1804)
Henderson, C, 'Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of West Cornwall, , Vol. NS 3 pt2, (1958), 245-246
SW 83 SW 20, Quinnell, NV, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1968)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map
Source Date: 1880

Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map
Source Date: 1908

Title: St Just in Roseland Tithe Apportionment
Source Date: 1840

TS at St Just Parish Council, Pollard, MS, Letter to Father Carruth, (1940)

Source: Historic England

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