Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales

Ffynnon Faglan, Llanfaglan

4 Comments

IMG_4173Ffynnon Faglan, St Baglan’s Well, once stood overlooking the Menai Straits a couple of miles south of Caernarfon. It was a well to rival that of St Cybi at nearby Llangybi, indeed saints Baglan and Cybi are said to have met beside it to chew over the gossip of the day. Today, however, nothing remains at the site but a flat, level field grazed by cattle.

Baglan (and there were two St Baglans by the way, this is the north Walian guy rather than the other one commemorated at the village of Baglan near Neath) was one of a family of saints, he founded his cell at what is now Llanfaglan before heading off with St Dyfnog to Bardsey island in the late sixth century. The church dedicated to him stands padlocked in the middle of a field, no more than a stone’s throw from the sea. It is abandoned now and left to the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches charity. It is considered most unusual in that there is no evidence of a road ever having led to it, the sole access being the muddy track through the field. I think that weddings are still occasionally celebrated there so long as the guests are happy to arrive in their wellies.

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St Baglan’s Well, now completely vanished, lay some two hundred yards to the north west of the church, across a small stream and a stile. The tree topped hillock below which it stood can be clearly seen from the church. Rhys in 1893 records that

The two oldest inhabitants, who have always lived in this parish of Llanfaglan, remember the well being used for healing purposes. One told me his mother used to take him to it, when he was a child, for sore eyes, bathe them with the water and the drop in a pin. The other man, when he was young, bathed in it for rheumatism; and until quite lately people used to fetch away the water for medicinal purposes. The latter, who lives near the well at Tan-y-Graig, said that he remembered it being cleaned out about fifty years ago, when two basinfuls of pins were taken out, but no coins of any kind. [1]

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Coed y Ffynnon from St Baglan’s Church

The well was once a significant structure. Rhys states that in terms of its construction it was an imitation, though on a smaller scale, of St Beuno’s Well at Clynnog. A stone built bath measuring around 6 feet by 3 feet was surrounded by a stone wall with seats built into it. There were recesses in the walls on the north and east sides. This description matches that from Hughes and North’s Old Churches of Snowdonia  published in 1924 which suggests that the well was still visible for the first part of the 20th century.

Even by the late nineteenth century however, drainage work in the fields had led to a reduction in the flow of water to the extent that the well was beginning to dry up. It is presumed at this stage the local population began to lose interest. By the time the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments [2] arrived to inspect it in the late 1950s they found

The enclosure, 9 feet by 8 feet 6 inches externally has now been filled for the protection of cattle.

A record from 1970 notes records that

“Two low walls, 4m and 3.5m long set at right angles and bordering a shallow depression is all that now remains of this well.” [3]

Although by 2004 Chris Thomas was only able to describe

“… a hollow in the ground with stones scattered about the perimeter. One stone still left standing has a scooped hollow in the top and is said to have been used for outdoor baptisms. When it rained the baptism was carried out in the church and water brought from the well instead.” [4]

It isn’t until around 2010 that there start to be reports that the landowner seems to have removed all the stone from the site and the last remnants of this once impressive well have vanished. Only the grid reference on the map now gives any clue to where it once stood, at the foot of this small hillock. Its location does live on in the name of the adjacent woodland Coed y Ffynnon – Well Wood. There is a heap of large stones piled up beside an old tree on the hilltop (shown in the little picture at the top of the post) – we just wondered whether these represent the final remains of Ffynnon Faglan?

The picture below shows the well site, which was in the centre of the shot at the base of the hill

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The gradual decline and disappearance of Ffynnon Faglan over the last century from the disruption of the water supply to the infilling and removal of surface evidence is a sad story that has been repeated at a number of once important local landmarks across the country, that through lack of any protection are rapidly fading from view and memory. There are many others that have suffered a similar fate, and many more that will soon follow if more is not done to help them survive.

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[1] John Rhys (1893) Celtic Folklore
[2] Harold Hughes and Herbert North (1924) Old Churches of Snowdonia
[2] RCHAMW – Caernarfonshire – Central
[3] Archwilio  The On line Database for the Welsh Historic Environment Record
[4] Chris Thomas (2004) Sacred Welsh Waters

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4 thoughts on “Ffynnon Faglan, Llanfaglan

  1. I often go along the road by the Straits and visit ST. Faglan’s church – so isolated in it’s field – but always locked. One day(quite a few years ago) I went in search of the well-it’s on my map – and was standing in the field(where it should have been) looking in vain for it. The farmer came up and asked what I was doing – I guess it looked suspicious- and he said ” Oh yes it was there, but it was filled in years ago because of the cattle being at risk of falling into it” He seemed to remember it. It’s quite disappointing isn’t it to see absolutely no sign of what was a very special well?

    I do enjoy your notices about North Wales wells – even the one near ST. Melangell’s church. Very many are quite new to us – so it’s exciting to go and look for them.

    Very best wishes, Jean and Chris in Chester.

    ======================================== Message Received: Sep 27 2013, 08:40 AM

  2. Hi – thanks for your comments – it’s a shame about the church, from the photos I’ve seen it looks interesting inside. I know there is a note in the porch about key holders, but I’m not sure where the addresses were and would have been a bit of a trek to go get a key come back, take it back etc etc – but sadly i suppose there isn’t much else they can do.

    Pity too about the well- if it had survived it would have been quite a sight and a valuable addition to the local visitor trail. Sadly there are many that will soon follow it into oblivion, so I suppose we need to see them while we can.

  3. os ydych eisiau gweld y Eglwys Sant Baglan, cysylltwch
    if you want to see Eglwys Llanfaglan get in touch

  4. Diolch yn fawr iawn – I would love to see inside, I shall do so next time that I’m in the area.

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