Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales


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Ffynnon Rhedyw, Llanllyfni

St hedyw Church LlanllyfniAfter a forced, unexpectedly long, hiatus we are back on the road; the road today being the A487 from Bangor to Fishguard which has already led us past our previous well at Llanfair-Is-Gaer. The wide sweep of the Llanllyfni bypass which crosses the River Llyfnwy passes close to the site of the one well in Wales dedicated to Saint Rhedyw; the authors of the Lives of the British Saints suggest that he should be more correctly named Gredfyw. He is said to have been a brother to other local saints Tegai, Llechid and Trillo.

His church is some 300 yards to the north of the well, it was locked both times that I tried to visit but Hughes and North suggest that I missed little, writing that most of the earlier church was destroyed during restoration and reconstruction in the late eighteenth  and nineteenth centuries.  The earlier church contained a raised stone close to the altar known as Bedd Rhedyw, now apparently lost; while within the parish there was another stone, Eisteddfa Redyw, beside which the prints of both his horse’s hoof and his own thumb could be seen. All these remains show the power of the belief in St Gredfyw that there must once have been in the locality.

Sadly, his well, like these other venerated sites, has survived similarly poorly. However this could have been so very different. In 2005 the Daily Post and the BBC News website carried a story covering plans to restore this “pagan well” as a tourist attraction. It was to be linked to the church by a new path and accompanied by a notice board providing information on the well’s background. These plans seem to have rumbled on for a few years, but evidently came to nothing. At this time I can only speculate on the reasons why – maybe it proved difficult to obtain access, maybe when investigated the remaining structure was not sufficient or too difficult to conserve, or maybe other projects took its place. It would be interesting to know, since lessons may be learned for similar projects.

Ffynnon Rhedyw Llanllyfni

Ffynnon Rhedyw Llanllyfni

A description of the well’s remains from around 1920 is provided by Hughes and North. They saw a rectangular basin with two steps down on both the north western and south western sides. The remained evidence of an enclosing wall formed of stone slabs. The enclosure was entered from the north west and the well within the enclosure was close to the entrance. The mention of the well in Lives of the British Saints suggests that the enclosure may once have been a building.

The report of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments visit in 1960 describes remains similar to those observed in 1920. Their description is of a rectangular basin two feet deep and eight feet wide by ten feet long to contain the water, with steps for access; the whole area being enclosed by the remains of a wall of boulders and slabs up to two feet thick. At this time they noted that the outflow had been adapted for the use of livestock.

Ffynnon Rhedyw Llanllyfni

How long this survived in this form I have been unable to determine, though it’s degradation must have occurred within living memory for many people. The next account I have is drawn from an assessment made in 1993 in conjunction with the planning of the bypass. By this time it is clear that very little sign of the structures described 30 years earlier could be identified. Although one may speculate how much of the 1960 description was clearly visible and how much was conjecture based on earlier reports and evidence on the ground. I have not seen any pictures from 1960.

A site investigation in 2010 found a similar lack of evidence, although it had a somewhat positive conclusion that some structures may remain beneath the rubble, noting that the interior is very wet with around 0.2m of grass and water over a hard base.

My visits show a similar lack of visible remains. A rectangular depression in the landscape is still clearly evident and there remains a great volume of scattered loose stone which clearly must have once formed the structures. There is still one large rectangular slab set into the ground at the southern end of the enclosure, with the water, which was once collected and carried to the church for use in baptism, still rising and forming a strong stream at the northern end which flows down towards the river.

Ffynnon Rhedyw Llanllyfni

So here we have another example of a substantial well structure fife timely obliterated within the last hundred years. It would be interesting to learn what happened to the rescue attempt, but I assume it came just too late to save the well.

Ffynnon Rhedyw Llanllyfni

Baring Gould S and J  Fisher (1908) Lives of the British Saints
GAT Report  75 (1993) A487 Penygroes/Llanllyfni Bypass Archaeological Assessment
Hopewell D and G Smith (2010) Prehistoric and Roman Sites Monument Evaluation.  Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Hughes H and H North(1924) Old Churches of Snowdonia

Ffynnon Rhedyw SH46805195

 


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Ffynnon Fair, Llanfair-is-gaer

img_6819cIf it wasn’t for a road name there would be nothing left to show where Ffynnon Fair (St Mary’s Well) at Llanfair-is-gaer once stood. Written records of this spring can be traced back as far as an estate deed of 1458 which refers to a field named Cae Uwchyffordd alias Cae Ffynnon Fair, but this counts for nothing to most drivers today who speed past this site close beside the road between Bangor and Caernarfon. It is only the road that leads from the main road up to Bethel that still provides a reminder of the name, and although there are no name signs on the roadside Lon Ffynnon Fair, still appears on the maps.

There are no records of any medicinal properties of the well, but it was known as a reliable cold, pure water supply, and the persistence of the name for over 500 years attests to its continued importance. For notes on its local usage we can refer to a letter writrten to the editor of Llygad y Ffynnon in 1999 from an elderly local resident whio stated that

It was a long held local custom for residents of Bethel to spend time at the beach by Llanfair-is-gaer. On the way they would collect crystal clear water from Ffynnon Fair, then light a fire at the beach to make tea.

He also noted that it was an old custom for the singers at Llanfair church to call at the well to drink on their way home, and to leave a note there for others ready for the next service. The church, also dedicated to St Mary, stands on the banks of the Menai Strait around about a quarter of a mile to the north of the well. Though largely a medieval structure with walls thought to date to the 13th century, it was largely restored in 1865. As is usually the case, it was securely locked and we were unable to obtain access inside.

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It may have been the well’s location with respect to transport routes that ensured its importance. Ffynnon Fair was another reliable wter source on the old pilgrimage route between Bangor and Bardsey Island, although there is no record of it being a stop off point for pilgrims. However it is certainly transport links that sped its demise. The spread of the railways in the mid nineteenth century saw the provision of Griffiths Crossing station, which opened in 1854, just a few yards from the spring, on the Bangor and Caernarfon Railway. The station served Bethel and Y Felinheli, and this seemingly quiet backwater saw up to thirteen trains a day  until its closure in the 1960s.. During the station’s heyday Ffynnon Fair was seized up onto provide a water supply for the station master. Llygad y Ffynnon’s correspondent describes

It had four walls, three low walls and a fourth even lower. There was a simple roof over it and a steel door was placed at the mouth of the well. This aroused the ire of the residents.

The final  transport related incident to befall the spring was the construction of the A487 Y Felinheli bypass in the 1990s. The old railway line was the perfect route and the roundabout junction for Llanfair and Bethel was situated virtually on top of the old well. As we have seen previously at Ffynnon Farchell in Denbigh when it comes to a fight between a bypass and a well, the well inevitably comes off worse.

We are indebted to the detective work of Howard Huws carried out shortly afterward the road opened to determine what was done with the spring as a part of these works. He identifies the location at the foot of a small scarp in the landscape, recorded as Allt Ffynnon Fair, and sitting up against a the fence which separates it from the adjacent field, just to the south of the A487. He concluded that Ffynnon Fair is now

Enclosed in a concrete sump and access denied by a heavy iron grid. The water rises and falls according to rainfall, but for the most part looks stagnant and unappealing.

It would appear that the spring water is incorporated with the highway drainage at some point. Huws notes that the ground to the east of the sump remains marshy although concludes that this is probably runoff rather than being derived from the spring.

In the 20 years that have passed since Huws’ visit the spring has fared little better. The area between the fence and the foot of the slope has filled up with thick gorse and brambles making access to the spring from the roadside effectively impossible.

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Approaching it from the field side we could see that the foot of the scarp had been utilised by fly tippers for the disposal of building materials in exactly the spot where the well was expected, as can be seen to the left of the picture below. With some effort we managed to reach through gaps in the fence and remove the rubble to reveal below the grid Huws describes. The field to the east of the sump remains marshy as described.

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From this we conclude that Huws’ 1995 description remains accurate although through the actions of human and nature even the poor remains of the spring are now effectively inaccessible. It was reported in 2000 that the correspondent to Llygad y Ffynnon did make inquiries with the highways authority as to whether the spring could be restored in some form, but considering Howard Huws’ interpretation of the composition of the water, it is likely that this would not be particularly viable, and it is apparent now that no action was taken.

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In summary, as long as the road from the bypass up towards Bethel retains the name Lon Ffynnon Fair this local site name that has been recorded for at least 550 years will live on, although the reason for the name is now effectively gone.

References

Huws Howard (1995) Ffynnon Fair, Llanfair-is-gaer and Ffynnon Ddeiniol, Bangor, Gwynedd. Source, New Series 4
Llygad y Ffynnon. Letters to the Editor Winter 1999 and Summer 2000.

 

ffynnon Fair, Llanfair-is-gaer SH 50536564


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Ffynnon Edliw, Llandwrog

Coed Ffynnon EdliwFfynnon Edliw lies just to the west of the Glynllifon estate near the village of Llandwrog south west of Caernarfon. It sits within a small copse that bears the same name, Coed Ffynnon Edliw. I have chosen to use the name Edliw since that is how it has appeared on all the OS maps since 1888; however it is also referred to as Odliw and as Adliw in other sources. Despite having  managed to escape mention in Francis Jones’s Holy Wells of Wales, it was visited by the Royal Commission inspectors when compiling their 1960 Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Caernarfonshire. Although they don’t identify it specifically as a holy well it is referred to as such in the Historical Environment Record database (Archwilio). The Commission recorded that it was:

A spring at the foot of a slope facing NW has been enclosed with masonry so that it forms a rectangular pool 2 ft 6 ins by 4 ft, roofed by a single large slab on top of which is a course of masonry capped by stones and earth drifted down from  the slope behind. The open front is flanked on both sides by a revetment wall of mortared rubble 1 ft 10 ins high, probably modern but built up on older foundations of rough boulder walling; the complete frontage is 6ft 6 ins wide. The pool has a modern brick and cement sill and iron outlet pipe.

The description holds pretty well today, the spring is as described and flows strongly forming a stream that flows down the slope in front of it, forming a very muddy hollow lower down.

ffynnon Edliw

It is H D Williams in his 1979 history of Bardsey Island who reminds us that the Reverend Robert Hughes (1811-1892) listed Ffynnon Edliw (although he wrote Odliw)  as being  one of the wells beside which  Bardsey bound pilgrims might have camped on their route from Bangor to Aberdaron. Hughes’s list of wells also included Ffynnon Beuno at Clynnog, Ffynnon Llanaelhaearn, Ffynnon Nefyn, Ffynnon Penllech and Ffynnon Fair near Aberdaron.

Whilst the majority of these wells are widely recognised today, and still feature on the modern pilgrimage trails, his evidence for his selection is not explained, although clearly  they form a chain of regularly spaced water sources along the route. The appearance of  Ffynnon Edliw in this august list of well known wells might  raise a few eyebrows. We have to note though that Hughes was born at Llanwnda, within two or three miles of Ffynnon Edliw, his father, a tenant farmer moved around between several farms during Hughes early life, thus Hughes would almost certainly have known the well during his youth and may well have heard stories about its use at that time. However, whether he includes it in his list on the basis of local legends he had heard, or merely to to ensure that his own local well features in the pilgrimage record, we do not know.

Largely self-taught Hughes walked to London at the age of 19 to find work and education. He returned to the Llyn in the 1830s where is father placed him in a large run down farm at Uwchlaw’r Ffynnon. Here, while struggling to run the farm he also read, wrote poetry, married and continued to educate himself in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and was an enthusiastic preacher becoming ordained in 1848. In later life he also became a noted local artist.

Thus Ffynnon Edliw has minimal extant claim to fame. Clearly the well is on the direct road between Caernarfon and Nefyn, and there has been a church at nearby Llandwrog since the medieval period (the present church being a nineteenth century replacement) and also evidence of an oratory near Glynllifon much closer to the well (GAT Report 834). So the well would have been close to the route of pilgrimage and thus it is by no means unreasonable to suppose it did provide a water source for passing pilgrims and may have been as noted as those other, better remembered sites on the route; but whether we have  any other cause to consider it as being  holy or a healing well is left to pure speculation. its memory now seems to be a tribute  to the enthusiasm and memory of this hard working Victorian priest.

Jenkins R T (1959) Robert Hughes in Dictionary of Welsh Biography accessed 12.11.2016 http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s-HUGH-ROB-1811.html
Williams H D (1971) Ynys Enlli. Wasg Ty ar y Graig, Caernarfon.
Cooke R, J Kenny and M Jones (2009) Glynllifon College Development, Archaeological Assessment. GAT Report 834

ffynnon Edliw

ffynnon Edliw

Ffynnon Edliw SH 4491 5539


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Ffynnon Fair, Llanbedrog

Ffynnon Fair, St Mary’s Well, lying in open country, half a mile or so to the north of Llanbedrog was apparently once an important local feature. I place it now in Llanbedrog, although a little to the north east we find a farm, and site of an old mill,  called Cefn Llanfair suggesting there may have been a St Mary’s Church there at one time to which the well may have been linked. To see it now, a brick and concrete block secured with a manhole cover from which water pours into the surrounding ground, this is difficult to imagine. But this is often the fate of a spring neglected when its powers are forgotten. Even a century earlier Fardd described it as being “crumbling and vulnerable with only few then knowing about it”. Curiously it still features on the OS Map. A name In gothic script to tempt the casual visitor and then to disappoint them if they should try to find it. At least, in this case, the spring is still flowing, the ground around it is very wet and an old metal bath collects water presumably for animals in the field.

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But it wasn’t always such a sorry sight. Fardd describes it as having been a three cornered structure its shape “something like that of a Welsh harp”; a spring which never dried up and water that was capable of curing any sore on either person or animal. But it was a cure that depended on the cure-seeker’s belief; it wasn’t going to work for just anyone.  The sufferer had to approach the well, kneel before it and affirm their faith in it before bathing to be able to hope for relief.

Not only was this a powerful healing well, its abilities extended further. A victim of a theft could approach the well to discover the identity of the thief. The method was to throw a piece of bread into the water and to name a suspect. If the suspicion was correct then the bread would sink; if not then you could continue the process naming new suspects until the bread sank and true culprit was identified.

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Now comes the difficult part. The practise with the bread seems so good that in recent accounts it is associated two wells in the parish, Ffynnon Fair here and also that of St Pedrog himself, Ffynnon Bedrog.

Now this raises several possibilities:

  • Confusion and misreporting, the story has been heard concerning one well, but as memories, and even the wells themselves, fade from view, then the tellers of the stories forget which well they relate to as easily as they forget where the wells are.
  • Success of the method, if it works in one well, or at least is believed to work, then the custom spreads and is repeated in the neighbouring well.
  • Are there really two different wells, or is it that the location of the real well has been forgotten and the stories from one well attached to each of two rival contenders.

The primary problem is that neither well appears to attract the writers of the earlier Victorian period, Any such customs at the well would obviously have been prevalent a long time before this, and may only just be clinging on in living memory by the end of the nineteenth century. So our earliest source of readily accessible information is Fardd and this can hardly be considered as a completely accurate record.. John Rhys in 1893 also relates the story, saying he got it from Fardd. The only problem here is that he assigns the legend to “the big well at Llanbedrog” without giving a name to it. Marie Trevelyan in 1908 provides the same story, relating it to “the well at Llanbedrog” without naming the well.

The first occurrence of the story that it was Ffynnon Bedrog that was used  in this way that I can find is in the Lives of the British Saints. The authors here  identify St Pedrog with St Petroc , a Cornish Saint with minimal connection to North Wales, hence their references to  particular this well are limited. The sources they use are unclear. It certainly seems possible in their hurry, and particularly not being interested in Ffynnon Fair, since it wasn’t relevant to the saint under consideration, they have conflated the two wells at this stage. However many subsequent accounts take their record as authoritative and repeat the story. Francis Jones in his book states quite happily that the custom of divination with bread took place at both.

We have to note that Ffynnon Fair appears marked on all the OS maps of the last 100 years. Ffynnon Bedrog only makes its named appearance on the most recent maps. This in itself doesn’t imply anything in particular, it may just be due to improvements in knowledge or mapping, but may be taken to imply that Ffynnon Fair was the more important of the two.

Were there even two holy wells close to Llanbedrog? The Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments visited and recorded two in 1964, but reported very little other than the condition of each and that Ffynnon Bedrog was known locally as “the wishing well.”

So in summary, was this Ffynnon Fair an important well for curing all ills and for the detection of thieves?

1893 – Rhys states that Fardd told him that it was “the big well at Llanbedrog”
1908 – Fardd says it was Ffynnon Fair
1913 – Baring Gould and Fisher say it was Ffynnon Bedrog
1914 – Ffynnon Fair is marked on the OS Map
1954 – Francis Jones records the same story for both wells
1970 – Ffynnon Bedrog makes its first appearance on the OS Map

So I am afraid we have to leave this story slightly hanging. Given the current level of information available the balance may be just slightly tipped in favour of Ffynnon Fair and this is the assumption I shall make for now while I hope for someone to provide a counter argument in favour of another well.

Obviously we left Ffynnon Fair in search of Ffynnon Bedrog, but despite our best endeavours failed to find it. I have a deep suspicion that the location marked on the map is wrong; but hopefully more will follow in a subsequent piece.

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John Rhys (1893) Sacred Wells in Wales. Folklore Volume 4.
Myrddin Fardd (J Jones) (1908) Llen Gwerin Sir Gaernarfon

Marie Trevelyan (1908) Folk Lore of Wales
Sabine Baring Gould and John Fisher (1913) Lives of the British Saints
Francis Jones (1954) The Holy Wells of Wales.

Wellhopper acknowledges information from the AONB Team at Gwynedd CC which helped to find Ffynnon Fair.

SH 3113 3293


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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.


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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.