Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales

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Clorach Wells

Clorach wellsOne of the sites I most frequently receive inquiries about is Clorach, near Llanerchymedd. It is one of the most enduring and endearing stories associated with the early saints in North Wales. That of how the founders of the two great Anglesey monasteries, at Penmon in the south east and on Holy Island in the north west, would regularly trek across the island to meet at this central point to chat and set the world to rights.

The story tells us that Seiriol walking westwards in the morning and eastwards in the evening always had his back to the sun and thus never got a tan (regardless of how he spent the rest of his time). Cybi on the other hand always walked towards the sun.

The account has been set in verse by both Matthew Arnold and also by Sir John Morris Jones We give the first verse of the latter’s work here.

Seiriol Wyn a Chybi Felyn
Cyfarfyddent, fel mae’r son,
Beunydd wrth Ffynhonnau Clorach
Yng Nghanolbarth Mon
Seiriol the fair and Cybi the tawny
Met as it is said
Daily by the well of Clorach
In the centre of Anglesey

At the point where they met were two strongly flowing wells directly opposite to each other, one on either side of the road. These wells have had a reputation as an important site which is documented  back into at least the 18th century and probably long long before that.

The Rev John Skinner was shown and sketched the two wells during his 1802 tour of Anglesey, noting that both were enclosed in a reservoir of stonework. He doesn’t comment on any customs of the wells, other than repeating the story that they were the meeting place of the two saints. He does record being told that they were close to the former nunnery of St Claire which he locates about 1/4 mile to the north of the wells. There does not appear to be any other record of this nunnery having existed.

Carreg LleidrSkinner, and all subsequent visitors, also make particular reference to the nearby Thief Stone, Carreg Leidr (Leidr y Frydog),  a standing stone in a field close to the wells. Legend tells that this represents a man who stole the chained Bible from the nearby church, and was turned to stone as a result of his deed. The square protuberance at the top being the Bible still in his hands. The legend frees him to run three times around the field each Christmas Eve before returning to his station.

The wells are mentioned, though not described by William Cathrall in his 1828 History of North Wales where he notes that the two are remarkable not for their healing powers but for their history in relation to the two saints. Although Angharad Llwyd in 1833 notes that the wells are still held in high estimation she doesn’t refer to any particular virtues of the waters.

The earliest reference to healing attributes that I’ve seen occurs in The Lives of the British Saints which states that people would formerly visit the wells for cures for various diseases .  Francis Jones’s Holy Wells of Wales includes a reference to an 1893 document  which states that Ffynnon Seiriol would be visited in the dead of night  in the nineteenth century  and water would be taken to cure sick people. There does not appear to be a record of any  specific complaints for which the waters were used.

The Gruffydds’ book adds to this the tradition that the spot was considered a good place for couples to meet up to reconcile differences following an argument.Thus we are left to consider whether the healing beliefs of the wells arose as a new custom during the 19th century, or whether it had always existed and was ignored by, or just unknown to the earlier historians. An article by Miss E M Fussell (1921) doesn’t help. She discusses bathing in the well by sufferers from rheumatism and the floating of handkerchiefs in the well for divination.   I tend to believe that she has confused this well with either Cybi ‘s well at Llangybi in Caernarfonshire or a closer one in Holyhead, both of which had traditions of divination.  Of course it is always possible that traditions migrated from one well to another over time and were indeed practised here too.

The pair of wells were reduced to the single well we see today in around 1840 when the road was realigned and the bridge, Pont Clorach, built over the stream here. At this time, the well to the north of the road, that of St Seiriol, was lost under the bridge foundations. St Cybi’s remained untouched on the southern side of the bridge.Clorach wells

There remains some difference of opinion as to whether the one remaining well is that of Cybi or Seiriol. Most mapping and reference sources however identify it as Cybi’s after Skinner’s eighteenth century sketch which labels the wells and marks Cybi’s on the southern side of the road. On the other hand Baring-Gould and Fisher, followed by Francis Jones, suggests that it is Seiriol’s well rather than Cybi’s that has survived.

So this is what we see today; the old stone structure repaired and topped with brick, covered by a concrete and iron lid to keep out the cattle.  The Gruffydds record that it was in use as a local water supply up until the 1950s when piped water arrived in the area. Overgrown  now and apparently the inside walls have collapsed blocking access to the spring, although it still produces water that flows out from beneath into the surrounding ground.

Clorach wells

There is another well dedicated to Cybi about 3 miles to the west, and there has been tradition in this area that this well marks the Saints’ meeting point rather than the Clorach wells.

Clorach should probably be an iconic destination in any tour of the historical religious sites on Anglesey, but quite clearly it is a huge anticlimax as many people before me have discovered. Whatever the travel writers and historians of the early Victorian period said about the local importance of the springs wasn’t heard by the bridge builders. It is hard to tell whether their accounts of the high esteem in which the wells were held was exaggerated, whether even by their time it was receding from memory, or whether even then as so often today progress needs to take precedence over history and the bridge was built regardless of the history it was destroying.

Clorach wells

In the bare midst of Anglesey they show
Two springs which close by one another play;
And, “Thirteen hundred years agone,” they say,
“Two saints met often where those waters flow.

Extracts from
Seiriol Wyn a Chybi Felyn by Sir John Morris Jones (1864 – 1929)
East and West by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

Eirlys and Ken Lloyd Gruffydd (1999) Ffynhonnau Cymru. Cyfrol 2.
Angharad Llwyd (1833)  A History of the Island of Mona
John Skinner (1802) A Ten Day Tour Through Anglesey
William Cathrell (1828) The History of North Wales
Sabine Baring Gould and John Fisher (1907) The Lives of the British Saints.
Francis Jones (1954) The Holy Wells of Wales
Miss E M Fussell (1921) Some Aspects of Monasticism in Anglesey in Transactions of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society.


Ffynnon Redifael, Penmynydd

ffynnon Redifael, PenmynyddThere are undoubtedly many better things to be doing on a drizzly October morning than splashing around in a muddy field on the trail of a well that is well documented as having been destroyed around 30 years ago. But such is life, and today we found ourselves doing just that at Penmynydd near Llangefni.

Penmynydd, which has also been known as Llanredifel, is the location the only church dedicated to St Gredifael, and until 30 years ago his only well too. Gredifael, whose feast is celebrated on November 13th, is virtually unknown. The Lives of the British Saints suggests with little certainty that he may have arrived in the area with brother Fflewyn in the mid fifth century.

The fifteenth century church of St Gredifael is certainly much more interesting than his well. It is currently undergoing archaeological investigation and restoration with a grant from the Welsh Assembly’s historic buildings fund. It was very disappointing, though probably unsurprising, not to be able to find any way to gain access to the church at the time of our visit.

ffynnon Redifael, Penmynydd

The Lives of the British Saints tells us that Gredifael’s shrine, Bedd Gredifael used to be within the church and that lying on the shrine overnight would produce a cure for the fits. The church also contains important links with the Tudor royal dynasty, containing the tomb of Gronw Tudur, great uncle to Henry VII, The Penmynydd area being an ancestral home of the Tudur family.

The well lay beside a footpath some 100 yards to the south of the church. It is clearly marked on all the Ordnance Survey maps from the late nineteenth century. It was situated within a depression in the middle of a field known as, Cae Gredifael. The Coflein record states that an early photograph shows a rectangular stone basin fed by the spring, and that early mapping shows a small rectangular feature (3m by 1.5m) beside a larger pond. It is unfortunate that no detailed description of the site was recorded by the Ancient Monuments Commission. The location identified from the recorded grid reference is in the centre of the picture below, and the following picture shows the church as viewed from the well.

ffynnon Redifael


it is well documented however that it caused difficulties for the farmer in ploughing the field and was thus removed and ploughed over in 1986 with the water being piped away out of the field. Some effort was made in the 1990s towards a campaign to recreate it at the edge of the field, which seems to have come to nothing.

The well had a reputation for being effective in the cure of warts, the remedy being to prick the wart with a pin until it bled and then to wash it in the spring.

ffynnon Redifael, Penmynydd


Ffynnon Redifael. SH 5167 7465

St Gredifael’s Church

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Ffynnon Engan, Llanengan

IMG_6480_redLlanengan lies towards the tip of the Llyn Peninsula, a mile or so from Abersoch  above the wide bay  Porth Neigwl commonly known as Hell’s Mouth. The church here is dedicated to Engan as is a nearby well.

Engan, the Lives of the British Saints informs us, Is more correctly  Einion, once a prince of the area and a brother of Saints Seriol and Merion. It was Einion who reputedly gave land and founded the monastery at Penmon on Anglesey where his brother Seriol took charge; and we are told it was Einion who gave the island of Bardsey to Cadfan to start the monastery there.

A fifteenth century poem celebrates Einion, the golden handed prince and his churches at Llanengan and at another unnamed location in Gwynedd. It was at Llanengan where he was buried and where his gilded, crowned effigy stood before the Reformation.

Leland, writing in the 1530s, records a great pilgrimage there in the very early sixteenth century. Many cures were obtained at his shrine, and the parish grew rich on the proceeds of offerings from pilgrims and cure seekers.

Interestingly, although the well is known in the early writings, and its water is used for baptism up into the beginning of the 20th century at least, , it is generally not the spring that  was resorted to for healing. Most cures were obtained at either Einion’s shrine, or at an indented stone said to bear the hoof print of his horse, Troed March Engan, in which water collected and which was claimed to have healing properties

ffynnon Engan Llanengan

Ffynnon Engan is located on private land around 50  yards to the west of the church. The site received grade 2 listed status in 1996. The listing description records it as a

Holy well, roughly square basin with surround so stone slabs set deep within rubble stone retaining walls, partly dry stone, partly stepped back

It notes that it was restored and repaired around 1990. This layout is similar to a description made in 1910 by HR Roberts who describes a rectangular wall with seating and a convenient staircase, although the description recorded by the Royal Commission in 1964 suggests much less structure remains. The Royal Commission report notes conflict between successive maps pointing to two nearby wells. At one location they report “slight signs of masonry“. The Archwilio database also cites  a 1972 OS Reference and identifies two wells, Ffynnon Engan which is recorded as being more substantial than the 1964 record, and a second nearby unnamed well which they suggest was used when Ffynnon Engan ran dry. At the second spring they identify no sign of masonry or water and note that “there seems to be no ancient record of association with the saint“. One does get the feeling that the Inspectors were having an off day. This record is only partially supported by  the site listing on the Coflein database which  notes that the site is

Possible holy well, slight remains of masonry, walled basin 3m square a new 0.6m deep. Water filled. .

ffynnon Engan Llanengan

The implication here is probably that during the first half of the 20th century the structure fell into a very poor state of repair leading to the state the  Royal Commission inspectors reported in 1964. It is certain that the restoration work carried out in the 1990s was extensive. The basin previously described in 1910 and hinted at in the Coflein record can clearly be seen today with stone seating  around the bath, and it is supported with dry stone walls on two sides to retain the earth bank into which it is set. It is a little unclear how much of this latter stone work is modern landscaping and how much  follows the original construction.

ffynnon Engan Llanengan

The owner, who was there at the time of the restoration mentioned that the stone steps into the well in the corner closest to the church, which are mentioned in the 1910 description, had been omitted at the time of the repairs, but which she would like to reinstate at some time. More recently the stream formed by the outflow from the spring, which forms a substantial flow away from the spring has been landscaped..

ffynnon Engan Llanengan

Einion’s feast day is given originally as February 9th but later appears to have moved to the 10th or 12th.

We are very grateful for the interest and help given to us by the land owner, despite being called on early on a Sunday morning.

ffynnon Engan Llanengan


H R Roberts Llanengan, History of Churches and Parishes in Llyn, Pwllheli 1910. cited by Llygad y Ffynnon 2003.


Ffynnon Cefn Lleithfan, Bryncroes

ffynnon cefn lleithfan bryncroesFfynnon Cefn Lleithfan is unfortunately a little uninspiring once you find it.

Rather than any thought of picturesqueness its main interest is the traditions that are associated with it, showing the lengths to which ancestors were prepared to go to rid themselves of warts. It lies on Mynydd Rhiw with views down towards Bardsey Island and the long curving beach at Porth Neigwl.

I say once you find it; it took me three visits. The first time I was way off track and ended up cautiously creeping through a field with “warning bull in field” on the gates. The owner assured me it was quite friendly. Second time I was so close but managed to miss it, so it took a third attempt to track down this unappealing block of concrete.

ffynnon cefn lleithfan bryncroes

Beneath the rectangle of concrete there appear to be rough stone walls. Apparently when it was open it lay within a walled enclosure with stone steps leading down into the water. A pipe at the front allows the spring to drain and form a steady stream flowing down the hillside towards the road.  Some 15 yards behind this features lies another spring, which is encased in a cylinder of concrete with a stone cover which can be removed to show that this is full of water (pictured below).

ffynnon cefn lleithfan bryncroes

Then of course there’s the tradition, and for this story we cite Professor Rhys’s account given him by the local folklorist Myrddin Fardd. .The well’s claim to fame was that it could be used to remove warts. However to ensure success one had to approach the process in complete silence. The wart was to be bathed at the well with a rag or cloth which had grease on it. The cloth was then to be carefully hidden under a stone by the well.. Once done you should leave the well without once turning or looking back. Clearly many loopholes were there, left open, should the cure appear to fail.

The location of the well Is taken from the research into the wells of Llŷn carried out by Elfed Gruffydd..

ffynnon cefn lleithfan bryncroes

Rhys, John (1901) Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx.



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Ffynnon Ddwrdan, Aberdaron

Ffynnon Ddwrdan, AberdaronFfynnon Ddwrdan lies on open farmland, a couple of  hundred yards to the north of the important sixteenth century house Bodwrdda. It. Is surrounded on three sides by a barbed wire fence to keep the sheep out, while on the fourth side is the river Daron into which it drains.

It was described in 1960s in the Royal Commission Report as being

A pool of water which is probably partly artificial in origin, but no masonry is visible.
Condition: fair.

This description still holds good today. The pool covers quite a large area, some 3 yards square. It is very overgrown with weed so it was difficult to determine how much of this area is actually covered by water. However the spring was flowing strongly, draining along a channel of maybe three or four yards into the river.

Ffynnon Ddwrdan, Aberdaron

The spring has clearly been a noted landmark in the past. Ieuen Lleyn wrote in a  short account of a tour of the area in 1799 that he

Went up the river that flows through the valley of Bodwrdda (Bodwrda – good man’s house), perhaps it should be Bodurdan as the well of Durdan isn’t far.

However nothing appears to be recorded in relation to any virtues of the well or of any tradition that might surrounding it.

Ffynnon Ddwrdan, Aberdaron

There is conjecture concerning its naming and any possible dedication too. It might reasonably be assumed that there is a link between the names of the house Bodwrdda and well Dwrdan.   Although the author of the quotation provided above chose to translate “Bodwrdda” as “the house of the good man” he also gave the alternative of “the house of Durden”, linking the house and well. This linkage was generally assumed throughout the  nineteenth century, for example various comments in issues of Archaeologia Cambrensis published in 1846, 1847 and 1849.  A number of  writers have naturally sought to find a connection between the spring and  a local saint, particularly since the well is so close to Bardsey Island and the pilgrimage trail. Jones’s Holy Wells of Wales  includes the spring in his list of wells dedicated to saints.

Baring-Gould and Fisher mention the spring in  their entry on St Dirdan or Durdan He appears to be an Italian who rather than being part of the families of Welsh saints himself, has married into a saintly dynasty, his wife being St Banhadlen, sister of St Non.

Their  main source placing Durdan in the area appears to be by Rees (1853) who identifies him as one of the companions so St Cadfan, supposed founder of the monastic settlement on Bardsey. Baring-Gould and Fisher  note however that this connection is not made in most other sources.  They do note that his name appears in a list of a hundred Welsh saints in an ode to Henry VII.

The spring lies on farmland with no public footpath for access and was visited with permission.

Ffynnon Ddwrdan, Aberdaron

A letter written by Ieuen Lleyn to his friend Dafydd Ddu Eryri in 1799. Sourced from Rhiw History Website
Rees W J  (1853) Lives of the Cambro British Saints
Archaeologia Cambrensis (1846) Arvona Medleva. p63
Sabine Baring-Gould and John Fisher (1907) The Lives of the British Saints
Royal Commission on Historic and Ancient Monuments in Wales (1964) – Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Wales.  Caernarfonshire West



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Ffynnon Bryn Fendigaid, Aberffraw

The Anglesey coastal village of Aberffraw appears to have lost more  wells than some villages have ever had.

Today we very briefly examine the remains of Ffynnon Bryn Fendigaid – the spring on the blessed hill. It lay on the sand dunes beside the road heading south from the village towards Malltraeth little more than five miles across the sand from Crochan Dwynwen by Newborough. Both were once noted for resident fish renowned for their ability for fortune telling. The well was also resorted to for cures for all kinds of  ailments.

Ffynnon Bryn Fendigaid’s demise began during the eighteenth century  when local land owner Sir Arthur Owen built a wall around it to keep animals on. This gradually became ruined, although the spring was reopened in 1861. Today, we are led to a brick and concrete structure over the spring which appears to serve no useful purpose. There  is no evidence around to suggest that the spring is still active.

Some 400 yards from this spring was Croes Ladys, the site of a once noted mineral spring. This site I have so far been unable to locate. A couple of hundred yards along the road towards the village lay another Ffynnon Beuno, the church at Aberffraw is also dedicated to Beuno. This spring finally vanished in the 1990s under a new road, more details on this in a future post.


Source. Eirlys and Ken Lloyd Gruffydd. Ffynhonnau Cymru, 1999.



Ffynnon Enddwyn, Llanenddwyn

IMG_5843It is no more than three or four miles as the crow flies across the hill tops between Ffynnon Oledd and Ffynnon Enddwyn, two wells very similar in location and in style and both with a reputation for being beneficial to sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis. They are connected by footpaths across the hilltops, although the day I visited both I chose to drive to from Barmouth to Dyffryn Ardudwy; and whereas reaching Ffynnon Oledd had required an hour’s hike up the hillside, I was then able to drive up the hillside and park within yards of  Ffynnon Enddwyn.

This spring has been taken into the care of the local community council who have placed a name plate by the kissing gate at the roadside leading to the well and also provided a board beside the well outlining its legend. Here we read that

“Tradition says that Saintt Enddwyn was afflicted with a ‘sore disease’. One day, journeying to Trawsfynyedd, she bathed and refreshed herself in the well and was cured. The well was afterwards known as Fynnon Enddwyn. Sick folk from all parts resorted to it to be cured from gland related illnesses, skin diseases, sore eyes, and arthritis. It was a tradition to drink the water, and apply some of the moss that grew beside the well as a plaster. People left their crutches and sticks behind as tokens of their restoration, and others threw pins into the well to ward off evil spirits.”


Baring Gould and Fisher state, without giving a source, that hundreds of pins were from time to time taken out of the spring.

Thus similarities also exist between the histories of this spring and another nearby well, Ffynnon Fair at Llanfair. In both instances the well is said to have been discovered by the particular saint finding a sudden need for a spring while walking across the hills away from the community to which the well belongs. This may hint at the regularity with which people from this narrow coastal plateau had to trek up into the hills behind which form a chain running up the coast and which are still crisis-crossed with tracks, remnants of communities and home to scattered small settlements.

It is a local tradition to identify Enddwyn as a female saint and  a modern wall hanging in her church at Llanenddwyn shows her standing beside the well. However Baring Gould and Fisher conclude that there is no clear evidence of who Enddwyn was, even with regard to gender.

Enddwyn, the patron of Llanenddwyn, Merionethshire, would appear to be the saint intended by Endwy ab Hywel Farchog ab Hywel Faig ab Emyr Llydaw, mentioned in one entry in the lolo MSS Sometimes the saint is said to have been a female.

Browne Willis (1721) suggests that the dedication of the church was to an unknown St Damian.


Whoever Enddwyn was, the presence and use of the spring bearing that name is long noted, its 18th century use is identified by. The Royal Commission inspector who in 1913 noted that it was

In mountains about 2 miles from church. Bathing chamber added probably in 18th century. Spring rises in sunken masonry lined chamber ca 3 ft square, flowing into larger enclosure with steps down. Whole surrounded by low wall.

Its use must have survived well into the 19th century. Cathrall (1828) mentions that it was said to be efficacious in scrofulous complaints and Lewis (1849) highlights it in his recording that

The waters of a spring called St. Enddwyn’s Well are thought to be efficacious in the cure of rheumatic affections.


The well as seen today broadly matches this description. The main stone lined pool is accessed by steps down on the northern side. It is kept filled from a spring which rises some three or four feet away and flows freely through a channel of scattered large stones which one assumes would probably once have formed a better defined channel. Water flows out from the main pool onto the hillside. The spring now seems to attract a regular stream of visitors, the coastal strip is a popular holiday destination and the well features in the tourist information. Its primary attraction must be the views, from its hillside location you can look across the bay, and down the Llyn peninsula towards Abersoch and to Bardsey Island.



Browne Willis (1721) Survey of Bangor, cited in Baring-Gould and Fisher.
Cathrall, William (1828) The History of North Wales, Manchester
Baring Gould, Sabine and John Fisher (1907) The Lives of the British Saints, London
Royal Commission on Historic and Ancient Monuments in Wales (1921) – Inventory of Ancient Monumnets in Wales. volume 6. Merionethshire
Lewis, Samuel (1849) Topographical Dictionary of Wales