From one Llanfihangel to another – because that’s how Wellhopper rolls. Today we visited Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr in search of Ffynnon y Saint – the Well of the Saints.
Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr lies between Corwen and Cerrigydrudion, a little off the A5. The village consists of a pub, the church and a few scattered houses. The church of St Michael which gives the village its name is a plain building, parts dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but with little of note. A plaque high on the east wall marks the height reached by the water from the River Alwen that runs alongside, during a notorious flood of 1781
Ffynnon y Saint – the well of the Saints – is marked on early twentieth century maps around 300 yards to the north west of the church on the land of Tyddtyn Tudur, once home to the noted eighteenth century Welsh cultural historian and publisher Owen Jones (Owain Myfyr). Who is commemorated in the church The well was visited in 1912 by the Royal Commission for Ancient Monuments, who reported that
“The spring is now dry and the well chamber is practically empty. A depression to the east affords proof that the overflow was copious.”
The current historical record, Coflein, reports a chamber, 0.2 metres deep, dry and partly filled. and a visit by the Clywd Powys Archaeological Trust in 2003 reported that
Ffynnon y Saint was still visible as a spring within living memory, lying beside the farm access road. It has now been completely filled in and no visible sign remains, even the well chamber of an earlier report being of uncertain form. The farmer could vaguely remember it from his youth. (from Archwelio database)
The maps record the well as lying on the left hand side of the track approaching the farm beside the track and the field boundary. On our visit a small stream was flowing beside the track, although the gap between the track and the fence seemed much less than that implied by the maps, suggesting that possibly either the track or the field boundary has been adjusted in the 100 years since the maps were drawn up.
The other side of the track was marshy with tracks of streams flowing through it; a stone covered, concrete lined tank was there filled with water. The farmer said that all signs of the well had vanished, but then one kind of thought that he would, wouldn’t he?
I have found no accounts associated with the well or any customs associated with it. No evidence that it is linked with the church and with St Michael, or with some other now lost ecclesiastical foundation, there is a field across the river known as Cae’r Saint, again with no recorded history or reason attached. Clearly there is a distant memory a religious significance now long lost, preserved only in these names within the landscape Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr.
As we returned to the car, through the drizzle and gathering gloom, I tried explaining that it is just as interesting and important to document finding nothing as it is to record finding an impressive well chamber. I have a feeling few were convinced by the argument.