Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Agnes Fountain

A Scheduled Monument in Selworthy, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.215 / 51°12'54"N

Longitude: -3.5695 / 3°34'10"W

OS Eastings: 290477.0932

OS Northings: 147370.010035

OS Grid: SS904473

Mapcode National: GBR LD.3PK7

Mapcode Global: VH5JX.2QTG

Entry Name: Agnes Fountain

Scheduled Date: 16 October 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020827

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35330

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Selworthy

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes Agnes Fountain, a holy well situated in woodland,
adjacent to a public footpath on a steep slope within Allerford
Plantation. There are extensive views west towards Porlock Bay and south
towards Allerford and Dunkery Hill.
The well, which is believed to be of medieval date, is formed by a number
of irregularly shaped stone slabs arranged around and below a spring which
flows downwards from the steep hillside to join the Aller Brook below. The
stone waterfall-like structure is 3.6m across and approximately 6.5m high
from the bottom of the slope, and comprises stone slabs ranging in size
from about 0.2m to 1.3m long. Further stones have been assembled in a
basin-shaped design beneath the spring where water collects before flowing
down into a narrow drainage channel.
All modern drainage gratings and pipes are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

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 stone structure of Agnes Fountain in Allerford Plantation is
well-preserved and in a stable condition. It is a good example of its
class of monument and is sited in a highly visible location close to a
waymarked footpath popular with walkers. Agnes Fountain has attracted
visitors continuously since its foundation which was believed to be during
the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Horne, E, Somerset Holy Wells, (1923), 52
SS 94 NW 6, National Monuments Record,

Source: Historic England

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