So what has changed recently?
30.11.2014 – Ffynnon Eilian, Llaneilian updated
03.11.2014 – Ffynnon Sanctiadd, Carnguwch added
29.10.2014 - Ffynnon Aelrhiw updated
28.10.2014 – Ffynnon Fair, Nefyn added
23.09.2014 – Ffynnon Fyw, Mynytho updated
The Nefyn road out of Llanaelhaearn climbs steeply up towards Bwlch yr Eifl. On the right rises Tre’r Ceiri, which so often as we pass seems to be cloaked in mist, its top is home to the amazing remains of an Iron Age hill fort later a Romano British settlement; stone hut circles and ramparts appear scattered randomly everywhere across the hill top. On a clear day the summit provides views of the sea on both sides of the peninsula – Nefyn to the north and Abersoch to the south. Nearby, on the opposite side of the road slightly dwarfed by its neighbour is the rounded, cairn topped Mynydd Carnguwch.
St Beuno’s church at Carnguwch and its associated holy well shelter close to the foot of the mountain, around the far side from Tre’r Ceiri. It is best reached by a lane to the left, signposted to the church just as you reach Llithfaen. From this lane a downwards sloping track leads towards the church which sits in the middle of a field. Established since at least the 13th century, it was substantially rebuilt in the 19th century but soon after abandoned as the population centre moved away from the surrounding farming communities towards expanding Llithfaen and new churches were built there to save worshippers the muddy slog across the fields. Now deconsecrated Beuno’s church is maintained by a Friends of Carnguwch Church group. The church was locked, with no indication of where to find a key, so we couldn’t visit it, but signs of recent work and new windows on one side suggest that it is still being looked after.
The original church it is claimed was founded by Beuno, from his based up the road at Clynnog his influence spread along the Llyn. Some texts give a nod to a little known St Cuwch though evidence for her influence, or even existence is minimal. The only story that any text seems to quote regarding the church and its well derive from Myrddin Fardd’s note that a vessel of well water was kept by the door of the church and a brush, known as ysgub y cwhwfan was used to sprinkle water over each member of the congregation as he or she entered the church. Fardd implies that this custom remained within living memory when he collected information in the early twentieth century.
The holy well, Ffynnon Sanctaidd is known to lie close by the church. Fardd says that at one time it was surrounded by a stone construction with steps down to the water on either side. Of this little if anything remains. There are a number of small springs close by marked on the map, and at least two different reports as to which is Ffynnon Sanctaidd. We examined several, and the most likely looking candidate appeared to be that documented in around 2005 during a widespread survey of the wells on the Llyn Peninsula by Gwynedd County Council although the grid reference on their record is a kilometre out. This spring lies some 300 yards to the north east of the church at the foot of a steep bank marking the division between the foot of Mynydd Carnguwch and the plain of the River Erch.
A strong spring rises at this point forms a stream flowing southwards towards the Erch. Although no evidence of structure remains there is stone littered around and in the stream bed. The pool is in a small hollow in the landscape suggesting that steps may well have once been needed for access.
Continue on along the track around Mynydd Carnguwch and you return to the main road. In the field on the right hand side as you approach the junction the remains of a building can be seen. This was the cottage of Cae Garw, and beside it another well once in much repute and visited for cures for rheumatism and warts. Again, in line with a very common tradition a pin was cast into the well, one for each wart, to obtain a cure.
Early maps show a spring immediately to the south of the house, and the ground here is till very boggy with reeds growing from it. However, an earlier description of Cae Garw gave it as a strong stream issuing from the ground. It seems as though the spring has now been tapped to form a local water supply. Towards the eastern side of the field there is a large concrete tank, from which an overflow streams across the field. We assume that this now represents the flow of Ffynnon Cae Garw.
Very very little is written about Ffynnon Fair, St Mary’s Well, in Nefyn which might be considered surprising considering its prominent position by the side of the main road through the town. This location, on the main route from Caernarfon to Aberdaron leads to the inevitable assumption that this was once a significant well on the Bardsey pilgrimage trail, falling as it does in quick succession after the important wells of St Beuno at Clynnog and St Aelhaearn at Llanaelhaearn. Nefyn was a thriving town throughout the pilgrimage period and home to a priory close to the well site.
What we see today, however are the remains not of a holy well but of Victorian municipal building, the well, the original of which may not have been at this precise location, having been converted to a town water supply in 1868, a fact commemorated by two plaques, one in Welsh, the other in English on either side of the building. Steps lead down from the roadside to a metal grill through which the remains of silted water can be seen, but we cannot determine whether the foundations are the remains of an earlier pool or whether the whole is the work of the nineteenth century.
St Cawrdaf’s Well
The former parish of Abererch, now included within that of Llannor, extended to the north and west of Pwllheli. The church is dedicated to St Cawrdaf, and his holy well is to be found in a field some half mile to the north west of the church. Parts of the church building date from the fourteenth century, although as with many of the local churches it was substantially reconstructed in the nineteenth century
In the field of Welsh saints where nothing is particularly certain Cawrdaf’s history is murkier and more vague than most. He appears in early stories with links to King Arthur. He was probably a missionary to the area and a disciple of St Seriol, the church at Llangoed on Anglesey, close to Seriol’s monastery, is also dedicated to Cawrdaf
Bartrum mentions that his name appears on the list of “seven happy cousins” alongside Cybi, Beuno, Dewi and Seriol, which must surely be a good company to be in; although once again he points out that some sources omit Cawrdaf from the list including instead alternative happy cousins in his place.. His feast day is celebrated on December 5th.
The well is now enclosed in a small brick building, completely overgrown with brambles which made a close examination of the structure impossible. Myrddin Fardd records that the well was once reputed to cure all ills. The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments reported in 1964 that the building stands on a surround of stone slabs which “may be ancient”. The stones do remain but could only just be glimpsed through the thorns.
The water still flows, however, demonstrated by the steady stream that emerges from the front of the structure flowing across the field before it.
There are two other noted wells in the parish, one supposedly dedicated to Cadarch, who some histories have suggested was Cawrdaf’s brother although others fail to associate in any way with the area; the other is Ffynnon Gwynedd, a well Fardd records to have been used in divination. I was unable to get access to either of these on this visit, but hopefully will have a chance to report on these in future.
St Patrick’s church at Llanbadrig stands high on the cliff tops looking out across the Irish Sea and the Wylfa power station near Cemaes. A wedding was just finishing as I arrived and I waited as guests released mauve helium balloons which floated away along the cliff top path.
The guests and I were clearly lucky this July day, Angharad Llwyd described very different weather conditions at the church:
The church is built most inconveniently upon a cliff washed by the Irish sea, and so near the sea that during the prevalence of northerly or north-westerly winds, the waves break over it with such violence, as to interrupt, and frequently to prevent the performance of divine service, and even the funeral service has been unavoidably deferred for several days, during the continuance of those winds, at which times the church is altogether inaccessible.
St Patricks has popularly always been associated with the Irish patron saint, its feast day occurs on March 17th. One story has it that he was shipwrecked on the small rocky outcrop known as Middle Mouse or Ynys Badrig, a hundred yards or so offshore. He managed to swim ashore where he found a welcoming cave and spring of fresh water. Thanking God for his unlikely survival he founded this church on the spot. The more mundane though probably more realistic alternative is that this was the bay from which he set sail on his journey to Ireland.
More usual now is to attribute its founding instead to Padrig ab Alfryd of Arfon. Francis Jones in his Holy Wells of Wales attributes the well to this saint, following the line of Baring Gould and Fisher’s Lives of the British Saints. Bartrum’s 1993 Welsh Classical Dictionary also gives Padrig ab Alfryd as the church’s titular saint. [2,3,4] Padrig was a member of Cybi’s community at nearby Holyhead.
Deborah Crawford  has recently put up a very spirited and convincing argument for the reassociation of the site with the Irish apostle. I tend to think that this is the correct attribution, although it is not my purpose here to take sides.
The well and cave are on the headland between the church and the sea. Neither is particularly easy to access. A study of ten years or so ago looked at the potential of including reference to the well on the local tourist trail, but nothing seems to have come of it, probably on safety grounds, and the vicar, as he locked up the church after the wedding, warned me to take care getting down there.
Having dealt with the likes of Ffynnon Fair by Aberdaron, however, Ffynnon Badrig offered few problems. A steeply sloping track close to the stile leads down to the rocks around Patricks cave, Ogof Padrig. On the way down you should look out for the imprints of the saint’s feet in the rock, I don’t think I spotted them. The cave might have provided a welcome refuge from the storm, but filled with massive boulders it does not look like a place that any saint would want to live in for long.
There is though that important fresh water spring. Possibly more than one, since pools of fresh water are dotted around the area, flowing through channels in the rocks down to the sea. There is one large pool formed in a rocky cleft on the path, visible from the top, as you climb down. This is fed from a small spring in the rocks. This I initially take to be Ffynnon Badrig. There are some accounts place it below the cave and there may be a spring within the case itself although i couldn’t see any evidence of it below the large rocks on the cave floor. There are certainly substantial volumes of fresh water running in pools and streams in front of the cave.
Is one specific pool then Ffynnon Badrig? There is no evidence or record of any structure having existed that might point to specific use. I suspect that in its modern interpretation it is the body of fresh water in its entirety that forms Ffynnon Badrig, whether the source of this is a single spring or two or more springs drawing from the same subterranean source.
This is a view of the large pool at the foot of the pathway
This is water from the springs below the cave which flow down towards the cliff edge and into the sea. from existing documentation I believe that this body of water best represents Ffynnon Badrig.
Ffynnon Badrig was well known in older times. The Gruffydd’s  tell us that its water was once in demand for treating the disorders of children and that it was bottled and sold in fairs and markets across Anglesey. It was also claimed to be effective for rheumatism and toothache.
The Gruffydd’s book also suggests that there is a second Ffynnon Badrig in the east of the parish near Northwen. I have tried tracking down this spring but as yet have been unable to pinpoint it.
 Angharad Llwyd(1833) . The History of the Isle of Mona, Ruthin
 Francis Jones(1954) . Holy Wells of Wales. Cardiff UP.
 S Baring Gould and J Fisher (1908) Lives of the British Saints
 Peter Bartrum (1993) Welsh Classical Dictionary. National Library of Wales
 Deborah Crawford (2014) The Saint of Llanbadrig: A Contested Dedication. E-Keltoi 8 (57-95)
 Eirlys and Ken Lloyd Gruffydd (1999) Ffynhonnau Cymru. Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst
St Iestyn’s Well
Llaniestyn is a small, sparse parish close to Llanddona in the south eastern corner of Anglesey. Iestyn, its patron, is said to have been a nephew of local hero Cybi, and a brother to Saint Cyngar. A second parish is dedicated to him on the Llŷn Peninsula and he was also active further south, in Cornwall and Brittany. Some commentators suggest that he is the same saint as Justin or Just. His feast day is celebrated on October 10th.
The main item of note in the church is a striking 14th century relief of Iestyn, in the distant past it was thought to be his grave slab, but its date shows that it couldn’t be. It used to lie flat by the altar, but which is now upright on one of the walls. The parish was once a part of the lands of the priory at Llanfaes. Angharad Llwyd describes a stained glass depiction of St Catherine here in the early 19th century, but there is no evidence of it now, or any other recollection of it.
Iestyn’s well is rarely referred to in any of the descriptions of the parish. The only account that I have found is that in Jones’ Holy Wells of Wales, which is repeated in the Gruffydd’s Fynhonnau Cymru . They record that water from the well was taken into the church for use in baptisms; and also that the local population refused to drink from the well believing the water to be cursed. This may be due to the local tradition of taking corpse pennies, the coins use to close the eyes of the dead, and throwing them into the well following a funeral.
I have been given two potential locations for the well. Jones places it nearby in the corner of a field on Tyddyn Uchaf land; the Gruffydds qualify this by stating that it is to the north of the church. The most obvious location for this is marked on the map as a well beside the drive to the house now known as Tan-y-fynwent. Access to this location is very clearly unwelcome as shown below. I just assume that this is to prevent the unwary from falling victim to the curse.
There is another spring in the corner of a Tyddyn Uchaf field to the east, this too was inaccessible, and probably to far away from paths to be a prime candidate.
An alternative site that has been given is a well within a thicket to the east of the church. This is much closer to the road from Llanddona, but would have been accessible if the thicket has not been so dense in the past. Brambles and undergrowth restricted access, but the well is shown below.
Maybe this was the well, and maybe the curse is still active. Certainly for the rest of the day after taking these pictures my camera refused to work.
This has to be a work in progress type of post, questions about Ffynnon Iestyn remain open, and I’m sure further visits will be required. Maybe next time it won’t be quite so rainy.
 and  – see references page
It is, perhaps, its location rather than any history or tradition that draws people to Ffynnon Eidda. Several correspondents recently have suggested that I visit and it always was on my to do list anyway. So last weekend we headed off up the steep climb onto Snowdonia’s Migneint moorland from Ysbyty Ifan. Trickily we chose the day of a massive cycle race and had to dodge upwards of 800 cyclists hurtling downhill towards us as we drove.
Ffynnon Eidda lies around 1500 feet above sea level at a road junction on the B4407 between Ysbyty Ifan and Ffestiniog. It is indeed an impressive structure, standing out on the edge of bleak peat bog moorland. The spring basin, some two feet square is roofed and provided with an entrance enclosure with stone seat. The water is supposedly cold and pure, good to drink, though today it was rather murky, full of pond weed and not all that appealing. The bottom of the basin was covered with coins, evidence of the regularity with which passers by must stop.
The front of the housing bears a number of plaques recording the name of the well, its rebuilding in 1846 and the motto “Yf a bydd diolchgar “ – drink and be grateful.
The well is recorded as a drover’s well, used by the cattle once driven over this pass, heading towards the A5 and away to England. Beside it is the remains of a banked and ditched enclosure which may have been associated with either the spring, maybe a cattle pen used as a stop off point by the drovers or with the farm which once stood close by. The well would have represented a landmark and a convenient resting and refreshment point on the difficult path between Ffestiniog and Ysbyty Ifan – from observations during our visit it still performs a very similar function today . It is marked and named on the OS maps back into the nineteenth century.
There is little record however of any wider significance of the well, although the Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru website does suggest that it may have been considered to have beneficial healing qualities at some time. Regarding the derivation of the name, Eidda appears associated to a few geographical features in the area and appears to be derived from the place name, Eidda being a small township to the west of Ysbyty Ifan.
Thomas Pennant crossed the route in the 18th century. He describes his journey through the “black and moory mountains” to see nearby Llyn Conwy, and although he would have passed the well he fails to mention the factm suggesting that at that time it was not considered significant.
Heading back down into Ysbyty Ifan we passed the final stragglers of the cycle race and, at the roadside entering the village, another stone walled and roofed well. This is Ffynnon Penrhyn, which has no claim to fame other than being an old village water supply. It too has its name and date, 1866, carved in the stone surround. It is fed by a metal pipe in the back wall through which the spring water still streams.
Parking outside the church, once the site of a medieval hospital run by the Knights of St John, which gives the village its name, we walked up to a third spring. This is the only one we saw today with any real claims towards healing properties. This is the chalybeate and sulphur well above Tŷ Nant.
Until around 1910 the well was enclosed in a wooden hut with seats around for visitors. Any remnants of the hut have long since vanished together with a wooden cover that used to protect the well. However, the slate floor remains giving an indication of the size. At one end there is a bath, with stone sides and bottom, into which the spring water is piped. The outflow runs away down the hillside, the dark brown colour characteristic of the iron rich chalybeate water once so valued as a cure. The mineral content is supposed to be very similar to that of the much more well known Trefriw spring. It is recorded that this well was much resorted to up to the 20th century, Children were sent to soak warts in the basin and bottles and tins of spring water were taken away for drinking. Aching legs and feet would be soaked in the ice cold mineral rich waters. Up to the early part of the twentieth century it was a popular meeting place for people of the village on Sunday afternoons an summer evenings.
The name of Ysbyty Ifan itself bears testament that it has long been a place of healing. In this case it was a hospital rather than a saint’s well that provided the focus and the cure. Our visit still found a couple of wells of note, and their condition and the settings made them well worth a visit.
Reference has been made to two articles in Llygad y Ffynnon, the publication of Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru, in issues from Christmas 2011 and Summer 2010.
It is some three years since we visited Henllan to find Ffynnon Wen, what would appear to have been an eighteenth century bathing house on the banks of the river Meirchion. This new article rambles around some of the other wells dotted around the village before coming to no particularly firm conclusions.
Henllan lay on the route of St Winefride’s pilgrims following her supposed route to Gwytherin from Holywell. The story tells that she first visited Deier at Bodfari, who quickly passed her on to Sadwrn at Henllan from whom she received instructions to join Eleri’s establishment at Gwytherin. Thus the route lies on the pilgrimage trail for followers of St Winefride, although there is no evidence of significant pilgrimage traffic until the post Reformation period. Gray Hulse  warns us that much of the factual basis behind the story is weak, the best dates for any of the historical characters involved place over 100 years between Winefride and Sadwrn and Deier, but on the well trail we find that adherence to the facts is rarely allowed to get in the way of a good story.
Gray Hulse notes that up to the 1620s there was a record of a relic of St Winefride being kept in Henllan, in the hands of a private Recusant family, an item which it is claimed had cured more than one visitor.
The church at Henllan retains its dedication to Sadwrn. It is first recorded in the 12th century, but has almost certainly been established on the site for much longer. Like so many others, the present building is a nineteenth century reconstruction with little of interest, although a much earlier doorway is preserved in the entrance to the new vestry. Its main claim of note being the towe which is still largely medieval in structure. This is not attached to the church, but stands above it on a rock some 30 yards away; Pennant, in his Tours of Wales in the 1780s records it when he visited what would have been a previous incarnation of the building
.. the parish church remarkable for the schism between church and steeple, the first having retreated into the bottom, the last maintains its station on the top of the hill.
There is little evidence around the village that it ever lay on a pilgrimage route. Some old field names remain, we find a residential street with the name Maes Sadwrn, and on the Denbigh road leading up the hill from where a friary once stood there is a Maes y Groes. Naturally the community had a well dedicated to Sadwrn. Lhuyd’s inventory from the 1690s records Sadwrns’s well as being in Foxhall’s grounds. Foxhall remains there a large estate to the south of the town but the traditions of the well have long since faded.
The Royal Commission’s report on the ancient monuments of Henllan made in 1911 included an investigation of one well under the heading Ffynnon Sadwrn. They give no indication to how they identified it as such. It must have been a known landmark in the area a century ago and bore the impressions of a medieval well, but even at that time I don’t believe that there was any surviving tradition to identify it as the historical Sadwrn’s well. It would appear to have been just a best guess, which shows that local memory of the well had vanished even by the late nineteenth century.. In its favour it is close to the present day gateway of Foxhall, it is not that far away from that Maes y Groes fieldname which must be a plus. and it lies close to the side of the main road from Denbigh into Henllan, if we assume that the present route follows the line of the historic route; although this is by no means obvious – there would have been more direct routes, The Commission reported that
There is an ancient spring in the bank on the left hand side of the road from Denbigh to that part of Henllan called ‘Bwlch Sadwrn’ and near to Foxhall House. A low footstone 3 feet wide stands in front of the well and the well chamber is protected on all sides by rough walling. There is provision for and evidence of former overflow on both sides of the road, but only a little water is now to be found at the bottom of the well.
The well is marked on the Ordnance Survey maps from the earlier part of the 20th century although it disappears from later editions. A CPAT survey in 2003 concluded that the area had been levelled and all traces removed.
That need not deter us however; fruitless searches are our forte, Hunting along the bank is difficult. Cars fly past and the verge is very overgrown, it is in fact managed as a nature reserve. There was certainly no sign to be seen of a 3 foot wide footstone. There is however, a chamber built into the bank at the point where the well was recorded. A stone lintel supports the bank above the cavity which itself appears to be stone lined inside the bank. There was no sign of any water within the chamber. Now I could not make up my mind whether this is indeed the final remains of the spring associated with this well or just some old drain from the fields, but I can’t say how carefully those CPAT people looked, it does however tally fairly accurately with the location indicated on the maps and that in itself is reason enough to note it here.
So, this well does, just, fit the criteria of being on Foxhall ground, however there is no clear evidence to suggest that it is Ffynnon Sadwrn, in fact it is very unlikely that it is. A previous occupant of Foxhall has stated that the well has been lost I have heard a suggestion that the well was on the path between Foxhall and Henllan and whilst maps do show that there are several other springs marked on the map on the Foxhall estate, none on a direct route between the house and Henllan. One appears to be in the middle of an alder grove with signs of a path leading up to it which might have been nice to investigate, however unfortunately most of these are on private land and thus inaccessible.
Back to the church now and outside the church door a mediaeval font has been mounted. The story told is that this was removed from the church in the 1850s following the donation of a newer, more ornate model. In a fit of cultural vandalism the old font was dumped in another well in the grounds of Llys Meirchion. It was not until the 1980s that it was recovered and placed in the church yard.
Ffynnon Meirchion, which has also been known as Ffynnon Abermeirchion, is regarded as the source of the river Meirchion which flows northwards for a few miles to join with the Elwy. Gray Hulse has reviewed the history of this amongst a number of local wells. In later centuries it represented a boundary marker, named and visited during the annual procession around Denbigh. He discusses the common use of wells, and other water features, as fixed, named reference points in the landscape which are regularly used as boundary markers. They are used for that reason, that they are fixed, indestructible features in the landscape that can be named and remembered from generation to generation. Although this use does not impute any specific holy nature to the well, the parish procession would stop at such points where the priest would say a prayer or bless the water as a symbol of the parishes prosperity. Thus the use of such wells is not necessarily evidence of any specific holy associations with the well although such properties have sometimes incorrectly been attached often at a later date.
However, Gray Hulse does point out that historian D R Thomas noted the one time presence of a chapel at this well which may give it some greater significance. There are no claims for sainthood for Meirchion, the name arises commonly locally, specifically in the nearby village name of Tremeirchion, and it is assumed it is derived from the dark ages ruler Meirchion Gul.
The situation of Henllan on the pilgrimage route following Winefride though, and the possible presence of a chapel here might raise the question of whether Ffynnon Meirchion played some role in the pilgrimage rituals in Henllan.. Indeed CPAT note that at one time there were reputedly four chapels in Henllan prior to the reformation which could not be identified by the nineteenth century..For a community of this size the point is made that this appears to be a significantly large concentration of chapels, although not conclusive since it may just be a function of better documentation for the area when compared to others of a similar size. 
Ffynnon Meirchion still exists within the grounds of Llys Meirchion, It avoided being recorded by Royal Commission’s inspectors so must have been considered of less importance or interest by that time. The best description I have of it is that it is enclosed in a small brick building topped off with concrete. So rather unassuming, though sadly being located within a private estate it was not possible to visit it to confirm this.
The last well on our tour lay just outside the church wall. It was in the back garden of a house built into the church wall. Although there are no claims to any spiritual use of the well, it was probably attached to the church as a water source. A path and stairway, long since closed off, have once provided a link to the well directly from the churchyard. The fact that parish paid for it to be capped off in the 1930s may suggest that it was church or public property at one time. It now lies beneath paving stones in the garden. The picture below shows the bottom of the pathway to the church, the steps now gone and blocked up by a wall and hedge. The well is under the paving stones to the right.
Thus at Henllan we find nothing but memories of wells and springs in all guises formal and informal. The well dedicated to the saint of the community, possibly once known for its healing capabilities or an important stop off on the pilgrim’s trail for both local residents and nationally. A spring tapped and developed by a local landowner, maybe from the Garn estate, keen to enjoy the health benefits and the fashion for outdoor bathing. A well once used as a marker in the landscape, to denote parish boundaries and visited as such, although possibly with a deeper and more important history. Finally wells as water sources, pure and simple. The house Bryn Fynnon lies to the south of the church; wells are marked down Lon Wilkin and then there is the well we visited – linked to the churchyard situated beside a pigsty. Probably used by the clergy, those responsible for the churchyard and maybe even church goers in days before public health was such an important concern.
I said at the outset that there was no firm conclusion other than a demonstration of the importance of water for so many reasons. I’m sure there is more evidence to be had to point us to the history of the wells in Henllan. This article was much inspired by some of the messages I have had lately through the website. As always any further information that can advance the record of these wells would be gratefully received.
 Tristan Gray Hulse (2002) The Documentation of Fynnon Ddeier: Some Problems Reconsidered. Living Spring Journal.
 CPAT Historical Settlement Survey – Denbighshire 2014. Henllan.
 CPAT Report 612 Early Medieval Ecclesiatical and Burial Sites in Mid and North East Wales. Field Assessment and its Impact on the Overall Study. 2004.
revised 10th June 2014