Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales

St Chad’s Well, Hanmer

Leave a comment

We’re close to the English border here and Chad is an English saint rather than Welsh, having a wide scattering of churches and wells dedicated to him across England; even still there are suggestions that his name implies some Welsh or Celtic ancestry. He was bishop of Mercia towards the end of his life and there are stories that he visited Hanmer in around 670 (he died in 672), performing baptisms in a lake now called Llyn Bedydd. The settlement retained the name Chadhill for some 500 years until it was renamed Hanmer sometime in the late twelfth century.

Despite its dedication to a saint from across the border, the church holds an important place in Welsh history. It was here that Owain Glyndwr was married to Margaret, daughter of Sir David Hanmer, in 1380. The church now is a distant relative of the churches that stood in earlier times. Massive fires destroyed successive church buildings in 1463 and in 1889, so the present building is largely modern in construction, dating from the late nineteenth century and completed in the 1930s, although the 1720 chancel remains relatively intact.

 St Chad’s well lies some half mile to the north of the church, beside a footpath. The church tower can still clearly be seen from the well. It was visited in 1910 by the Royal Commission for Historic and Ancient Monuments who saw

“…a deep circular pool, 4 feet in diameter, formerly the sacred well of Hanmer church.”

St Chad. Photo wellhopper

However,by the 1970s the spring had dried up so much that that visitors then reported it as merely “a marshy hollow”  trampled by cattle. The spring was first disturbed by drainage works in the mid nineteenth century. John, Lord Hanmer himself, in his memoir of the parish, holds up his hands as being “without intention” the guilty party. He also records that up until the early part of the nineteenth century Hanmer Hall was supplied with water from St Chad’s Well, being taken twice a day in a barrel.[1]

At this stage a little confusion may have crept in as to which of a number of marshy hollows represents the remains of the well. Maps from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries show a distinct pool, a little to the east of the field boundary, clearly marked as St Chad’s Well. Later maps, and the grid reference provided on Coflein seem to have allowed it to drift a little westward so that it is closer to the hedge. This is supported by photographs in the church purporting to show the site of the well. The two possibilities are only some 10 to 15 yards apart, well within the permitted margins of error of grid references, GPS and folk memories.</span>

 We therefore conclude that the well is around the location of the gate below

 St Chad. Photo wellhopper

Or within the hollow shown below, which clearly does become wet at times, with the growth of plants and the dried up marks of cattle hoofs

 St Chad. Photo wellhopper

Both sites were dry at the time of our visit, although a gully containing water flows along the hedge by the gate.

That the well was important in the past is beyond doubt, remembered well into the nineteenth century; Eirlys and Ken Gruffydd record that the custom of dressing the well died out sometime before 1879. [2]. However as CPAT point out that now

 St Chads’s Well is one of the many wells which has largely disappeared through lack of use and neglect despite its links with Hamner church.[3]

[1] A memorial of the Parish and Family of Hanmer. John Lord Hanmer , privately printed 1877.

[2] Ffynhonnau Cymru 2, Eirlys and Ken Gruffydd, Llanrwst 1999

[3] CPAT Report 1090. Silvester et al, 2011.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s