Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales


Well Hopper

So what has changed recently?

02.10.2015 – Ffynnon Parc Mawr, Penrhoslligwy added
19.09.2015 – Ffynnon Fair, Llanfair added

16.09.2015 – Ffynnon Fair, Dolgellau added
15.08.2015 – Ffynnon Oledd, Llanaber added
11.08.2015 – Ffynnon Decwyn, Llandecwyn added

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Ffynnon Parc Mawr, Penrhoslligwy

Boston Sulphur Well - Ffynnon Parc MawrThis is a bit of a curiosity. I’ve taken the name Ffynnon Parc Mawr from a report on the well in the Summer 2004 Newsletter of Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru, which is the only on-line source of information I have found about the spring. It is more commonly referred to as the Boston Sulphur Well after the name plaque above the door. The well lies just off the A5025 about a mile from  Llanallgo, Anglesey.

Boston Sulphur Well - Ffynnon Parc Mawr

It appears on most maps as a chalybeate well, and from the reddish brown colour of the water in the well and of the mud in the door way it undoubtedly is. Chalybeate springs, high in minerals, particularly iron became very popular in the seventeenth century, and this continued through into the twentieth century. There were a number of noted chalybeate springs across North Wales that were held in high esteem in the nineteenth century and it might appear that the owner of the land this spring lay on, Lord Boston, took an interest in his own spring. Although the main seat of the Lords Boston is in Lincolnshire they own land here and have an estate at Llanidan on Anglesey. A Lord Boston who would have been alive in 1864 and who may have visited the spring is commemorated by a plaque in Penrhoslligwy church.  

The small castellated building with a north facing gothic arched door was given grade 2 listed status in 2002. It was probably originally roofed, with rendered internal walls and would have been protected by a door, of which no trace remains. The internal area is probably around eight feet by four feet, the spring rises at the end away from the door in a square pool underneath a stone topped, brick sided bench. on which to place your clothes and belongings whilst bathing perhaps.The spring then forms a bathing pool occupying about two thirds of the area of the building, it would appear at one time to have been paved around.

The 2004 article suggests that the well had a local reputation for healing, as naturally would a chalybeate well, and that it was known by locals as ‘copper water’. The article goes on to discuss an article by E Neil Baynes in the Proceedings of the Anglesey   Antiquarian Society from 1928 which discusses the use of the well as a cursing well. It describes a cursing ritual involving pins and frogs that was supposed to have been carried out at the well up until the early twentieth century. This is intriguing since in many ways it mirrors the practice carried out at the nearby Ffynnon Eilian on the coast a few miles to the north east. This certainly raises questions as to  whether there is some confusion in the informant’s mind regarding which well is being discussed, whether at some stage in the past stories had become confused or to some extent migrated between neighbouring wells; or even whether there was a more wide spread practice of cursing at wells whereby similar rituals were used and perhaps the well at which they were held was somewhat immaterial.

I tend to go for one of the confusion options, but at what point in history it happened remains to be demonstrated..

Boston Sulphur Well - Ffynnon Parc Mawr

Boston Sulphur Well - Ffynnon Parc Mawr

Boston Sulphur Well - Ffynnon Parc Mawr

SH 48598602

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Ffynnon Fair, Llanfair

St Mary's LlanfairFrom the coast at Llanfair, south of Harlech, St Mary decided to walk across the hills towards Hafod-y-llyn. On her journey she became thirsty and stopped to drink from a small spring. In doing so, she left the imprint of her foot on a rock beside the spring. Ever since the spring never failed to produce pure fresh water.

We know this from an information leaflet provided in the church there, it even includes a photograph of the footprint, though fails to say where or when the picture was taken. I asked the lady who looks after the keys, but she didn’t know either. She had an idea that it might be alongside a footpath running eastwards from the old vicarage. There were many stones along that route that bore marks that could resemble the photo in the church, all formed by lichen on the stones, but no signs of a spring along the way.

Most records however point towards a different location, to the south of the vicarage by Uwchllan farm.

In 1894 the well was described by Richards and Lloyd in the Transactions of the Cymmrodorion Society as being covered with slabs and earth. They noted that a more ancient well in ruinous conditions was described as being covered in briars and down the hill towards the church.

The Royal Commission in 1914 described the Uwchllan site as being

Top of hill east of church just below Uwchllan farm. Sunken reservoir 27 by 21 inches. Overgrown, church is 260m to south west.

All this background reading then did not prepare me for what I found on reaching the tie identified by the Royal Commission. The feature that we find now at the specified grid reference now is intriguing, A stone lined underground chamber with steps leading down into it, seemingly used for storage or rubbish by the farm.

Ffynnon Fair, llanfairWhether this was dug on the site of the spring since 1914, either coincidentally or to tap the water is not clear. Anyway, after this visit I returned to the Coflein record and read something I’d initially missed (unless it was a very recent addition)

Ffynnon Fair is a sunken well dug into the slope with a number of well built steps leading down into it.

The most recent reference included in the Coflein citation is to a note by N Vousden of RCHAMW made in 2012 which may have been the source of this description.

Ffynnon Fair, llanfair

Now I certainly have problems with this.If the well were such a substantial structure then I would have expected the information in the church, which shows a picture of Mary’s footprint, to also draw attention to the size and nature of the well. And the implication from the story there is that it should be a small surface spring rather than such a deep structure.

The 1894 description of it’s being covered in earth and slabs I suppose could be a loose interpretation of what is there, although it could have been much better described. The 1914 Royal Commission description, on the other hand, if they saw the same site, is just misleading.

Some 10 yards or so further down the field is a small depression with an animal water trough in it, again this may or may not tap into the spring, there was no one around to ask during our visit.

Further down the path leading from Uwchllan to the village I found what was perhaps the other well identified in 1894. This lies immediately beside the path and gave the impression of having recently been cleared out. It is ringed around by large stones and forms a small stream flowing down the hillside beside the path that leads down past the old slate quarry towards the church.

well near Llanfair church

It is quite possible that Ffynnon Fair was originally a surface spring that has been excavated and enlarged at sometime, either before or after 1914 to create a water supply for the farm or neighbouring houses. I post this as a work in progress, there is clearly more work to be done on Ffynnon Fair here.

Ffynnon Fair, Llanfair SH58042913

st mary's llanfair

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Ffynnon Fair, Dolgellau

Ffynnon Fair, dolgellau

Ffynnon Fair, St Mary’s Well, lies fairly close to the town centre in Dolgellau. To find it follow Cader Street out of Eldon Square and then turn left up a steep narrow lane, Love Lane, just after passing a Ffynnon Street on the right. Pass a small hotel called Ffynnon and then the well is signposted for pedestrians along a track on the right hand side.

Ffynnon Fair will be a great disappointment to the pilgrim, “the well that likes to say no”. In that the entrance gate is firmly locked and secured with a bicycle chain.  Normally this would be no hindrance, but the surrounding walls were a little too high and the stone flagged floor surrounding the well looked a little too slippery to attempt to jump in.

Ffynnon Fair, dolgellauWhat we see here dates mainly from the early Victorian period when the well was used as the main water supply for the town. At that time it was walled around with a roof over. Repairs were made in 1850 but soon afterwards alternative water supplies were organised and by 1890 it was in a neglected condition,The Royal Commission visited in 1913. They noted the recent age of the structure but did not describe its condition. They commented that

This is doubtless the well that was associated with the parish church. The name of the well is remembered but no traditions of healing or of popular resort to it appear to have survived.

Ffynnon Fair, dolgellauThere appears to have been talk even then of restoring the well, but nothing came of it until 100 years later when a group organised by the Dolgellau Heritage Society cleared and restored the site., after which the well was placed into the care of the Dolgellau Town council.

Although the Royal Commission were unable to identify any healing tradition associated with the well, the Christmas 2006 edition of Llygad y Ffynnon notes that it was once famous for its ability to improve arthritis, though other sources suggest rheumatism.

A number of sources highlight the fact that two roman coins were found by it and use this as an indication of the longevity of use of the spring. This record appears to be based on a note by Lhuyd in the 1690s who records that several coins were found in the neighbourhood of the well, of which two were in his possession. From this distance in time we cannot really judge what radius he might define as being “in the neighbourhood of the well” or impute that the coins were left, either intentionally or not, by visitors to the well.

Ffynnon Fair, dolgellau

Some 25 yards further along the track, on its right hand side we reach another spring. This appeared as a boggy overgrown piece of land beneath a large tree on the August day we visited. This is Ffynnon Llygaid, the eye spring, which was visited in the past to treat complaints of the eye. This would suggest that in its time it has been a particularly clean water source. Unfortunately this is clearly no longer the case. A number of stones lying around suggest that possibly there may have been some small structure around it, but it is hard to see through the weed and no record that I have seen suggests this.

Ffynnon y Llygaid, dolgellau

Ffynnon Fair,  SH72601755

Ffynnon Llygaid, SH72551757


Llygad y Ffynnon the well is discussed in several issues between summer 2006 and Christmas 2008.

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Ffynnon Oledd, Llanaber

Cerrig Arthur. Photo wellhopper
Were I ever to suffer from rheumatism I think treatment at this well would be one of my last resorts. From a small car park provided to serve walkers to a nearby panoramic viewpoint, quiet, above Barmouth teeming with visitors on a very hot August day, I climbed for almost two hours up into the hills to find this well. Admittedly, the time was somewhat extended by my getting lost a couple of times, but this must still be a good two or three mile walk from the car park. The well is about a mile to the NNE of the farm Sylfaen marked on OS maps, and the route passes through a small stone circle, with two standing stones at the centre, known as  Cerrig Arthur.

It is difficult to determine who the main users of this well would have been.it is hard to imagine rheumatic residents of Barmouth making the journey, although people were much more hardy back then and thought nothing of walking substantial distances. More likely, I suspect, these hillsides were much busier in the past. There are remains of dwellings scattered around, and the several trackways that converge around the well were quite possibly major thoroughfares and driving routes before the A496 was built to speed people along between Barmouth and Dolgellau.

ffynnon Oledd. Photo wellhopper

The well itself is of dry stone construction, built up against and partially into a stone field boundary. There are three steps leading down into the pool from one corner. The pool is some 4 feet long and 3 feet wide, the water was maybe a foot deep, covering a stone bottom to the pool. As can be seen it is overgrown with ferns and pond weed. Water enters from a small gap in the stonework on the western side and flows out through a channel, covered by a very large flat piece of stone on the east. It flows away forming a substantial stream down the hillside towards the farm buildings of Goledd with which it shares its name.

The well, and its believed efficacy for curing rheumatism and scorbutic complaints are noted in the inventory of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments. This information is repeated by Jones in his Holy Wells of Wales (1954), who adds an alternative version of the name without the mutation,  Ffynnon Goledd, citing a piece in Bygones from 1880 as his source.

ffynnon Oledd. Photo wellhopper

ffynnon Oledd. Photo wellhopper

ffynnon Oledd. Photo wellhopper

ffynnon Oledd. Photo wellhopper

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Ffynnon Decwyn, Llandecwyn

A couple of miles to the south west of Maentwrog we come to the church of St Tegwyn (also written as Tecwyn) at Llandecwyn. Tegwyn is supposed to have arrived in the area with Cadfan and a number of others who have left dedications in the area. Some writers have suggested that he and Twrog were brothers, although this is not a common belief, one thing they did have in common was the large stone that bore their name. However, whilst Twrog’s stone remains beside his church, Tegwyn’s was apparently broken up at some time during the eighteenth century to be used to construct a new barn.

The church too, is of relatively recent construction; the previous church was completely demolished and rebuilt around 1879. There is one small inscribed stone built into the new church wall that dates from one of the previous buildings commemorating St Tegwyn.


Like his stone, Tegwyn’s well has also been reused, and according to an information sheet within the church has now been recycled to provide a water supply to the nearby farm Plas Llandecwyn. The well was recorded in 1699 by Lhuyd, whose record states

Ffynnon Degwyn is by Plas Degwyn not far from the church.

In 1914 the site was visited by the Royal Commission on Ancient  and Historic Monuments compiling their inventory for Merionethshire. They wrote

Near Plas Llandecwyn is a spring which flows into a cavity about 3 feet at the front and 2 feet at the back by a breadth of 21 inches; the water stands in its rock cistern to the depth of 14 inches and as there is a slight but steady flow the water is kept sweet. There can be little doubt that this is the well noted by Lhuyd, but the name of Tecwyn is not now connected with it.

The grid reference provided in the Coflein inventory for this site is SH 63173742. This area is shown in the photograph below, and can be seen to be completely covered in bracken. Despite our best efforts we could find no trace of the feature described in 1914. If since that period the spring has been diverted to provide for Plas Llandecwyn then it is quite possible that the remains of the spring no longer exist. This would appear to be a case of as whatever community once existed around this very isolated site dispersed the folk memories associated with the landscape died too. The stone and well lost any special associations and were readily reused as more immediate needs prevailed. As a result  I am unable to find a record of any particular practices associated with the well.


To record what does remain of the site it clearly  appears necessary to return to explore it again in the winter – I would be interested to learn whether there would be any merit in doing so and if any reader of this item knows if any remnants of the spring may  be seen.

The Royal Commission report concludes by noting

The Inspecting Officer’s attention was directed to a spot about 330 yards north east of the church where is a hole about 21 inches square cut into the rock at the level of the road, water dripping within and overflowing the road.

We were unable to find this feature during this visit.

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Ffynnon Fihangel, Ffestiniog

IMG_5676 - small We visited Ffynnon Fihangel, St Michael’s Well, on the Crimea pass between Dolwyddelan and Ffestiniog in 2013, reporting on the noted fallen stone there, with the countless names of visitors carved into it, and a small spring emerging beneath.  Correspondence and comments received since have thrown into doubt whether this spring is actually known as Ffynnon Fihangel, it may just have been a misrecording, although it still appears as such in the Historic Environment Record (HER); and while it may possibly remain as an important site, linked with 19th century preachers, what is certain is that it is not the Ffynnon Fihangel of Ffestiniog.

This spring lies a few miles further along the road at Manod, about half way between Llan Ffestiniog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.  The spring here lies equally as close to the A470 as the previous one, and is perhaps equally as lucky to have survived recent road improvements. It is covered by the remains of a small building, built probably in the mid 19th century called Ffynnonddwr. It is beside a fast flowing stream ion private land belonging to the farm Y Ffynnon.  

At present nothing can be seen of the spring itself as it lies buried under the debris of the collapsed building and the build-up of earth inside; however the spring still flows strongly emerging from the end wall of the cottage and flowing towards the southwest to join the stream. We are referring  to this as Ffynnon Fihangel now although it has not always been known as such in recent times. The earliest known reference to the name Ffynnon Fihangel being applied to this spring is from a map of 1795; later maps refer to it simply as Y Ffynnon. Williams in his History of the Parish of Ffestiniog (1882), which provides this 1795 information, suggests that until the beginning of the 19th century the well attracted numerous visitors looking for cures for arthritis, paralysis and seizures; although it might have fallen out of popular use relatively early in the 19th century, to the extent that a house could have been built over it. Visitors to the well continued into the 20th century. Emrys Evans (1997) records a case of it being resorted for a cure for a sprained ankle early in the 20th century. IMG_5686  

Evans identified one description of the spring, from Owen Roberts a local poet who wrote in 1910 that the spring was in a six sided bath with two steps down into the water. Evans also suggests that a relative of Roberts had lived in the house during 1881 and that Roberts would have been familiar with the spring.  By 1914 when the Royal Commission visited to record the Ancient Monuments of Merionethshire the house was in ruins and there was no sign of any bathing pool. They recorded it only as Y Ffynnon (The Well)

 This is not so much a well as a spring of water which, rising beneath the floor of an old ruined house, flows copiously through an iron pipe from under the ruins. It is still resorted to by sufferers from rheumatism, fractured limbs and other maladies, but not to the same extent as in former days. For this reason it has been suggested that it might have been the old sacred well of Ffestiniog but it is not associated with any saint and is known only as Y Ffynnon.

According to the notes on the Archwilio website, the owner of the farm in the 1990s believed the building was the remains of the old church of St Michael and that water from the spring had been carried to many churches in the area for use in baptism. I am not aware of any other written evidence for this idea. On the basis of a visit in 1994 another note state that there are actually two buildings on the site connected by 6 slate steps.  

Efforts to restore the spring in the 1990s appear to have come to nothing, and thus it remains buried within the ruins of the cottage beside the stream, gradually being taken over by rampantly growing Japanese Knotweed.

G J Williams (1882) Hanes Plwyf Ffestiniog

Emrys Evans (1997) in Llygad Y Fynnon No 2,  Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru, Summer 1997

RCAHMW (1921) Inventory of the Historic and Ancient Monuments of Merionethshire


The floor under which the spring rises

water emerging on the south west side of the building


Ffynnon Fair, Maentwrog

ThMaen Twroge village of Maentwrog, beside the road from Ffestiniog to Porthmadog is a place of steep steps and slopes, a village where, in places, it seems that you look out at your neighbour’s house at chimney level. This topography must have helped sixth century St Twrog who, it is claimed, once launched a massive boulder from the top of Moelwyn, a hill to the north of the village, neatly crushing a pagan altar in the valley below, close to where he built his church. This stone remains in place beside the church and gives the village its name – Maen Twrog – Twrog’s stone.

Twrog we find in Lives of the British Saints, he may be the brother of saints Trillo, Lechid and Tegai, all of whom we have come across as having been active in the local area, Wells dedicated to Trillo and Llechid we have visited previously. Twrog was possibly a disciple of Beuno at Clynnog and is reputed to have written the long lost Book of St Beuno which once lay in Clynnog church.

Twrog himself has two churches dedicated in his name in Llandwrog and Bodwrog. His feast day is celebrated on June 26th.  The present church in Maentwrog, dating from the early nineteenth century,and having been extended and improved in the 1890s is not dedicated to Twrog, instead it is St Mary’s.. Some sources do suggest that previously the local church was dedicated to St Twrog, The well too carries the name Ffynnon Fair, St Mary’s Well.

Although the information sheet provided in the church informs the visitor that St Mary’s Well can be seen in the village, it gives no indication at all as to how and where to find it. Fortunately we were forearmed with a route and climbing the steep steps opposite the church, turning right at the top in front of a row of cottages and then bearing left up towards another terrace we soon reached Ffynnon Fair. It lies around 80 yards to the south east of the church on a sloping hillside immediately north of this second terraced row, again the name gives it away, Bron Fair.

The spring itself is enclosed in a slate tank, some three feet high, three feet deep and around two feet wide. From the front water flows, or leaks into a concrete gully and down into a drain. When we visited the tank was almost covered in ivy and brambles, and if we had not known what we were looking for we could have easily passed it by.

Ffynnon Fair Maentwrog

This housing would appear not to have changed in over 100 years, since the description provided by the Royal Commission when they visited in 1914 to compile its Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Merioneth matches exactly what we see today. They stated that the spring is used as a water supply for the neighbouring houses, so we may suppose the slate tank was constructed at the same time as the terrace in the nineteenth century.

Ffynnon Fair Maentwrog

Apart from its name, nothing seems to mark it out as a particularly special site. I have found no account regarding any particular customs practised at the well or of any special properties of the water. Clearly this is the holy well of Maentwrog, but beyond its name all history has been lost.

Ffynnon Fair Maentwrog


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