Ancient Monuments

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Holy well 80m east of St Just Church

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

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Latitude: 50.1821 / 50°10'55"N

Longitude: -5.0139 / 5°0'50"W

OS Eastings: 184923.811998

OS Northings: 35691.575687

OS Grid: SW849356

Mapcode National: GBR ZJ.QL4Q

Mapcode Global: FRA 08DJ.SKB

Entry Name: Holy well 80m east of St Just Church

Scheduled Date: 24 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020713

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32959

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Just-in-Roseland

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Just-in-Roseland

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a holy well situated on near level ground beneath a
north west slope at the head of a creek, 80m east of St Just Church. It
has a well house, subrectangular in plan, projecting from a bank some 1.5m
high on its south and west sides, and measuring approximately 3.2m
WNW-ESE, up to 2.3m SSW-NNE overall, and up to 1.4m high. The well house
has a roofed chamber, the base of which retains the water; and walling in
front (west) of this, considered to be the remains of an outer chamber or
porch. The well, which is a Listed Building Grade II, is medieval in
origin, with some rebuilding.
The plan of the chamber containing the spring is subrectangular, its south
wall curving markedly towards the rear of the well, so that its interior
measures 1.5m WNW-ESE by 0.55m (at the front) to approximately 0.9m-1m
SSW-NNE (at the back). The walls forming the sides and back of the chamber
are of rubble shillet (local slate stone). They continue to a depth of
0.5m below the outside ground level, forming a cistern. The side walls are
around 0.5m wide. The front is open, except for a large piece of stone set
on one of its long sides across the threshold just over present ground
level, so that the opening above it is 0.55m wide and 0.86m high. The
threshold stone is 0.1m thick at its flat upper edge, but curves out on
its inner face so that it is around 0.2m thick at its base. It is 0.5m
high and at least 1.2m wide, continuing across the front of the side walls
of the chamber. The upper edge of the stone is cut down by 0.02m where it
meets the north wall of the chamber, possibly to facilitate the fitting of
a door. The chamber has a flat roof, 1.4m above the ground level, formed
of a single slab of cut slate 1.1m wide north-south and at least 1.3m
east-west, with a regular thickness of around 0.03m. It is thought to be
of 19th century date.
The remains attributed to an outer structure consist of two roughly
parallel 1.2m lengths of unmortared shillet rubble walling, extending WNW
from either side of the front of the roofed chamber. These are thought to
have been side walls, linked by an outer doorway or opening in front. The
wall on the south side is visible as stone facing some 0.55m high
protruding from the bank on the south side of the well mentioned above.
The wall on the north side is approximately 0.7m wide and 1m high, and is
faced with shillet on either side. Lower walling extends along the
internal (SSW) side of the outer wall to the north. It is approximately
0.3m wide and 0.6m high, and is constructed of horizontally laid
unmortared rubble shillet. By analogy with similar sites elsewhere, this
may be a bench, which would have been topped with smooth flat stones. It
would have provided seating for visitors seeking to cure their ailments
with the holy well water, believed in medieval and post-medieval times to
have healing properties.
The holy well is closely associated with the medieval church of St Just,
providing water for use in baptism.

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

Despite the partial loss of the outer structure considered to form a
porch, and limited rebuilding, the survival of the holy well 80m east of
St Just Church is good. The location at the head of a creek illustrates
the siting of holy wells by distinctive natural features, a practice
thought to be of pre-Christian origin. The proximity of the well to a
parish church, and the use of its water for baptisms at the church,
provides a good example of the association of holy wells with other
religious monuments, and of the longevity of the popular reverence and
traditions linked with this monument type.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lane-Davies, A, Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1970), 69
Meyrick, J, The Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1982), 62
Quiller Couch, L, Quiller Couch, M, Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, (1894), 145-150
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

Wright, PW (St Just churchwarden), to Parkes, C, (2001)

Source: Historic England

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