Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales


Ffynnon Beuno, Llanwnda

There really can’t be many wells this remote that are so conveniently reached by public transport, but Ffynnon Beuno here in the hills above Bontnewydd is only a couple of hundred yards away from Tryfan Junction station on the Welsh Highland railway, which has welcomed passengers on and off since 1877. I’m afraid to say we didn’t take the green travel option on this occasion; the line doesn’t run in the winter, so we had to visit by car.

The site is a couple of miles to the south west of Caernarfon,;  closer both to Bontnewydd, from which we reached it, and to Rhosgadfan than it is to Llanwnda, but since Llanwnda parish covers the area that is where I have located the well in the title.

At first sight it seems curious to find a well for St Beuno in such an apparently isolated spot seemingly unrelated to other dedications to the saint. However, this site reputedly marks Beuno’s first foray into Caernarfonshire.  The account of his arrival is recorded in the fourteenth century Buchedd Beuno; the relevant sections of the 1930 translation by Wade-Evans are most succinctly summarised by Bartrum as follows

After the death of Cadfan, Beuno went to visit his successor, Cadwallon ap Cadfan. Cadwallon gave Beuno a place in Arfon called Gwaredog [in the parish of Llanwnda, in return for which Beuno gave him a gold gwaell, ‘brooch’ [ some other earlier versions give this as sceptre] which Cynan ap Brochwel had given him when he died. The brooch was worth sixty cows. But when Beuno began to build there, a mother appeared with her child, claiming that the land was the child’s patrimony.

 Beuno took the woman and her child to the king at Caernarfon. He demanded that the king should give the land to the woman’s son, and give Beuno other land in return for his silver (sic) brooch. The king refused and Beuno cursed him, desiring that he would not rule for long.

 Gwideint [Gwyddaint], cousin of the king, gave to God and St. Beuno his own township of Clynnog, for his own soul and the soul of Cadwallon.

Thus Beuno moved on to build his church at Clynnog another eight miles down the A499 and the rest, as they say, is history. How easily could Beuno’s legacy have been in Llanwnda rather than Clynnog? However the well isn’t the only sign of Beuno’s brief presence in the area; as you dig down there are number of further dedications to Beuno. The church in Llanwnda, a relatively recent building of the 1840s replacing an earlier structure, is dedicated to St Gwyndaf, though a number of writers suggest an earlier dedication to Beuno, for example Fenton writing in the early 1800s, obviously seeing the earlier structure, sums up the village tersely as

Church dedicated  to Beuno, yet it bears the name of Gwyndaf.
Wake 21st April. In this parish at a place called Gwaredog was born Maenwyn, afterwards called St. Patrick.

While noting another mention of Gwaredog, it must have been a place of more significance in the past than it is now; I’m not sure where he derives the information about Patrick.

The Royal Commission visit report notes that at the time of the Reformation the church in Llanwnda was a chapel of Clynnog Fawr, which obviously is dedicated to Beuno. The parish feast day continued to be celebrated on April 21st – St Beuno’s day.

A river, albeit a small one, flows down from north east of Bontnewydd, joining the main river, Afon Gwyrfai just to the west of the village. This is Afon Beuno. Up until the early twentieth century a large house stood on its banks carrying the name Glan Beuno. Although this has now been replaced by more modern housing Beuno is remembered in some of the street names.

It is curious too to consider why the well here should be so far away from the centres of population; of course settlements and routes shift over time. The well lies beside a track that was almost certainly once a busier route linking the two valleys either side of the ridge between Waunfawr and Bontnewydd. It is also close to two farms that retain the name Gwredog pinning this down to the area where Beuno supposedly failed to establish his first church. The earliest reference I have found so far for the well name is on the early Victorian tithe maps, where the field in which the well lies is named as Cae Ffynnon Beuno demonstrating that the well must have been thus named and regarded as a landmark since long before that period.

Clearly being so far from the recently modern road network, it fails to get mentioned by any of the Victorian travel writers and it was passed over by the Royal Commission survey.

The only previous physical description I have found dates from a Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (GAT) survey of 2010, where they noted that it was to be seen to be emerging from the side of a gravelly slope beneath a tree, though the site was noted as being largely destroyed. Today even the tree is gone, just a stump remains; it appears to have been brought down relatively recently.

Ffynnon Beuno, Llanwnda

The well though still emerges from the bank, below the tree stump. There is a suggestion in the GAT Report that the well may have once have been surrounded by a structure with steps into it. While this is difficult to see, it is clear that there are still a significant number of scattered stones in place around the point where the spring emerges, and a pile of stones, maybe removed from the site lie close by. Another large stone is set into the ground at the top of the bank where the water emerges. It is reasonable to assume that there was once some form of structure to the site.

The well still produces a reasonable output; water can be seen flowing from the spring and flooding the field below the outlet, before forming a stronger stream that flows through woodland below the site and out beside the road lower down.

Ffynnon Beuno, Llanwnda

Ffynnon Beuno, Llanwnda

So, all in all, this was a welcome discovery. This was our eighth and possibly last Ffynnon Beuno (I’m not currently aware of any more in the area – though that doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be), three of which have been totally dry and filled in, and while this is far from the best it joins a select band that continue to flow, it’s just a shame that any further history, earlier description  or tradition associated with the well appears to have been lost.

Tryfan Junction Station is a request stop, should you ever wish to alight there you must notify the guard when boarding.

Bartrum, Peter (1993) A Welsh Classical Dictionary, National Library of Wales
Fenton, Richard. Tours in Wales (1804 – 1813) . Edited by John Fisher and published by the Cambrian Archaeological Association, 1917.
Hopewell, David and George Smith (2010)   Prehistoric and Roman Sites Monument Evaluation 2008-10. GAT Report 921.

Ffynnon Beuno SH 5040 5889

Ffynnon Beuno, Llanwnda



Ffynnon Saint, Criccieth

For a well with so little remaining substance or recent history, Ffynnon Saint in Criccieth is remarkably well signposted. It lies (lay) at one end of Holywell Terrace and the spot is more emphatically marked by a slab of slate, upon which its name is recorded. Holywell Terrace is set back across a grassed area beside the B4411 as it leaves Criccieth towards the north.

Although there is nothing to see of the structure on the ground, the well appears not to have completely vanished. A fast flowing stream runs in a channel in front of the terrace, and close to the point where the well should have been a piped flow of water joins the stream. I have been informed that this is indeed coming from the spring and is one of three pipes that carry the spring water into the stream, it is good to know that despite all the changes Ffynnon Saint is still down there somewhere. (Again many thanks to a local correspondent for providing information on the well).

While the signs help to retain a vestige of the spring in public memory, it is clear that the substance and the traditions have been long gone. Fardd writing at the start of the 20th century notes that it was already lost. He records that the well lay in the corner of a field sloping down from the church. Holywell Terrace appears in the 1889 OS maps, and even by then the field system appears to be breaking down being replaced by building.

Ffynnon Saint, Criccieth

Fardd notes that formerly it was the custom for local people to visit the well on Easter Sunday and to throw either keys or pins into the well to secure the patronage of the Saint, presumably Saint Catherine. The well was also noted as a resort for the cure of eye complaints. St Catherine’s church la hundred yards or so to the east of the well. It would seem that there were once clear paths between church and well, although now the route between the two is a little more convoluted.

Wikipedia, yes i know, I’m sorry, but sources are thin on the ground for this one, Wikipedia quotes a local history (Eira and James Gleasure, Criccieth: A Heritage Walk, 2003 from Cymdeithas Hanes Eifionydd) of which I haven’t yet found a copy, to suggest that it is possible that at one time the outflow was tapped in an outhouse beside the end house in the terrace, where it was used in the manufacture of ginger beer which was sold there.  In 1960 the site was visited by the Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments who noted that it was

“Partly rock-cut and lined with masonry. Encumbered with garage scrap”

Ffynnon Saint, Criccieth

Around 1962 the well finally vanished from view when it was filled in so that a garage could be built on the site, and we thus effectively lost another holy well. A little coincidence that both this well and St Beuno’s well mentioned in the previous report seem possibly (according to some accounts at least) to have been lost to the requirements of the car.

Myrddin Fardd (1906) Llen Gwerin Sir Gaernarfon.
Royal Commission on Historic and Ancient Monuments in Wales.(1960)  Central Caernarfonshire.

Ffynnon Saint, Criccieth

Ffynnon Saint SH 4992 3837


Ffynnon Beuno, Penmorfa, Porthmadog

There is a very clear theme running through our reporting of Beuno’s wells and I risk becoming very repetitive. The last one we saw, at Aberffraw, had disappeared under a road scheme, and with the exception of that spectacular well at Clynnog Fawr, just up the road from Penmorfa, none of the others have fared much better.

Where perhaps Beuno loses out in quality, he makes up in quantity. His wells mark the trail of his career across North Wales, this is the seventh we have reported on,  and many come with legends attached to the saint and his talent for restoring life to the newly slain.

Alas, Ffynnon Beuno at Penmorfa fails also to provide a decent story. Beuno’s church here is a gem, much dating from the 15th and 16th centuries it is in the capable hands of the Friends of Friendless Churches charity who appear to have undertaken recent restoration and repair to the woodwork around the windows.

One window contains fragments of ancient stained glass which purports to represent Beuno himself; indeed the image is used to illustrate the article on  Beuno in Baring Gould and Fisher’s Lives of the British Saints. However, there is no definitive identification, and it has also been suggested that it might actually represent St. Deiniol!

The well lay in the garden of a house some 500 yards away from the church. It is recorded as far back as 1585.in a document referring to “maes ffynnon veyno”. The house still bears the name Ffynnon Beuno has appeared on maps since the nineteenth century. From an local  account recorded in 1987 by Eirlys and Ken Lloyd Gruffydd the well was destroyed in around 1980, their informant suggested it was done to create more parking space.

The only description of the well I have seen was also recorded in 1987 by the Gruffydds from local residents who remembered that the well was around three and a half feet wide and set into a bank. It had blue slate at the bottom which was taken out for cleaning.

The landscape around the cottage has changed considerably, it would appear that the bank into which the well was set was removed at the time of the clearance work in 1980, such that today there is absolutely nothing left to be seen of where the well might once have stood. The house too has changed hands several times since then.

I am deeply indebted to the lady we met nearby for a very interesting discussion and for providing a copy of the images below. We can’t say for certain that this is actually a picture of the lost Ffynnon Beuno., maybe it is  just another similar well that has been used as an illustration being indicative of what Ffynnon Beuno might have looked like. However the image provided was appended to  a brief account left by someone who remembered the house and well and had been interested in its story. The image fits very well to the description given to the Gruffydds in 1987, and so it just might be one of the only remaining pictures of Ffynnon Beuno at Penmorfa.

and i stress that these are very old pictures – absolutely nothing remains to be seen on the ground today

Eirlys and Ken Lloyd Gruffydd (1999) Ffynhonnau Cymru.  Cyf. 2. Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst.

I forgot to take a photograph of the stained glass, and so until I return and rectify that I acknowledge the use a copy of a picture obtained from Wikimedia Commons attributed to Llewelyn2000 and taken in 2015.


Three Mynytho Wells

A misty moisty morning in Mynytho, at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula near Abersoch, searching out another group of wells was the catalyst for a rare bout of philosophising of the “why are we here, where are we going” nature. We have previously reported on Mynytho’s “holy well” Ffynnon Fyw, an impressive dry stone, two basin edifice which alternates between a state of overgrown-ness and cleanliness at regular intervals.

Today I was on the lookout for three other wells that merit a mention in Francis Jones’ book The Holy Wells of Wales. Which prompted the question, why does a relatively small place like Mynytho, not even a parish in its own right, merit having four notable wells in the record? Then , once having seen the wells, what even merits their inclusion? I have on the blog mast head “exploring the holy wells and healing wells of North Wales”, so how do I know when I am straying from the point, is there a marker and does it ever matter?

Jones’ book is specifically titled The Holy Wells of Wales, and has generally been regarded as the bible on the subject and while overall it serves its purpose well, realistically its veracity and dependability has been called into question over the years. In defining a holy well Jones leaps straight in on page 1 saying

It cannot be stressed too often that everything relating to wells, whether in early form or in mangled survival, traces to one subject – religion.

Which in effect allows him carte blanche to include any named well in his gazetteer.

Of course access to water is an inescapable necessity of life, and thus from the earliest times maintaining a reliable source of water would be paramount for a community to survive. It is inevitable and natural I suppose that practices and customs grew up around a water source. With springs subject to the vagaries of nature which maybe were not always fully understood, then maybe more ritual practices grew up to celebrate the water source.

Healing too relies on clean water, being free of impurities to wash with or maybe containing specific important trace minerals and elements. By trial and error it might be found that specific wells appeared to be efficacious in treating particular minor complaints.

It is undisputed that water cults were an important way of life back before recorded history, at wells, rivers and lakes, and evidence is widespread on the breadth and value of objects seemingly being offered to water sources.  Whether we jump from this to stating everything well related leads us back to religion may be a little overstating the mark. I’m well aware that opinions vary.

Perhaps a more realistic sentence prefaces Janet and Colin Bord’s book Sacred Waters where they state

Since so often the history of a given well has not been recorded it is difficult to sort them into their true categories and any anonymous well may be a now forgotten “holy well”.

The generality appears to be a case of hedging ones bet, if a well is named, and has any element of folklore attached to it, then we may treat it as a potential holy well. A recent study by Elfed Gruffydd found 17 named wells at Uwchmynydd, a small dispersed community near Aberdaron at the tip of the Llyn Peninsula. As he points out, this doesn’t indicate anything special about Uwchmynydd, it is merely indicative of the numbers of wells that would have once existed across the area, and indeed the country in general. One this basis we can turn full circle from the surprise that Mynytho boasts so many wells to the idea that it actually as so few.

Of course, as Elfed Gruffydd points out, it is all down to recording. It is a benefit of the nature of the community around Uwchmynydd that so many named wells can still be identified. In other communities the connections with the wells was lost much earlier, and the larger the settlement, the earlier that transient populations, spread of housing and the demands placed by people and industry on water supply have led to a loss both of wells and of well customs and well names.

The presence and absence of names is everything. It is often stated that Jones research finds so many more wells in South Wales than in the north.236 in Pembokeshire, 160 in Glamorgan but only 88 in Caernarfonshire and 35 in Anglesey.Jones admits that being in South Wales he had better knowledge of that area, and probably a greater level of earlier recording had taken place.

Even in the north there is a high level of variation. Anglesy musters 35 wells in total; in Jones’ record against Uwchmynydd’s 17. The Llŷn is fortunate that folklorist John Jones, who wrote under the pen name Myrddin Fardd lived and worked there. Indeed he attended school in Mynytho in the mid nineteenth century. His 1908 book Llên  Gwerin Sir Gaernarfon is a primary source for Jones list of Caernarfonshire wells, he cites Fardd as a reference for about 36 of the 88 wells he notes.

Thus the conclusion of a wet walk around Mynytho is that perhaps it’s hardly surprising that we have so many wells to find here, local boy Myrddin Fardd ensured that the names and customs, at least as they stood and were remembered in the middle of the nineteenth century, were set down and recorded. Whether they were specifically “holy wells” may depend on your definition of “holy” they were not specifically linked to a saint or church, but they had legends and uses attached to them which some people might seek to attach an unbroken link to some pre Christian customs if they wish. For the time being I will avoid that.

So here we go with three wells

Ffynnon Sarff

We find Ffynnon Sarff on the western side of Mynydd Mynytho following a footpath across Mynytho common. The well is still marked on the current OS map. It is beside a wooded area known as Gwinllan Sarff. Gwinllan normally translates to “vineyard”, though I think it can also be translated as “grove” which I think is more realistic in this case, I am not aware of a vineyard having been here. The name Sarff means serpent; and Fardd recounts the legend of the well having once been the home to a dangerous poisonous serpent. Fardd treats the story with respectable caution saying it was unclear whether the well gained its name from the adjacent woodland or vice versa.

The serpent tale is the sum total of the well’s interest, with no obvious holy or healing links. The well today is marked by a signboard, but is used as a water source by a nearby house so should not be disturbed to avoid dirtying the water.

Ffynnon Saethon
Ffynnon Saethon lies some mile to the north of Ffynnon Sarff.  Fardd describes it as a substantial structure, some three to four yards long and two to three yards wide. It produces a strong stream of pure water. It is believed that it was used for both summer and winter bathing in the distant past, and also that pilgrims would be drawn to it. In Fardd’s time it was better known as a well for divination. The youth of the parish would gather beside the well and throw pins into it, a pin floating indicated a strong pure love, while a pin sinking signified unfaithfulness.

Fynnon Saethon currently lies on private land, and on this occasion I was unable to gain access. A report from 2005 shows it as a brick and stone structure which retains a strong flow of water.

Ffynnon Arian

Ffynnon Arian lies close to the school on a grass verge beside the B4413 running through the village, this too is marked on the OS maps and also by a name board beside the well. It is also a brick and stone structure with a hinged iron lid on the top. Again water appears to flow freely; the spring is full and ground around it boggy.

This site is intriguing by the fact that it doesn’t appear in Fardd’s list of wells; one would assume that if it was of significance during the time he was there that he would have mentioned it, although it does appear as a named well on the 1914 OS maps. The only place I find it reported is in Jones where he identifies it as a wishing well without providing any source for this.

So it is, then that we add these three Mynytho wells to our own catalogue here. No records of Christian religious significance or of healing qualities, they seem to belong to nearby Ffynnon Fyw. Instead we have a collection of poisonous snakes, divination and wishing wells, all a link back through history, folk memories all of a pre-Christian belief set, holy wells in that respect?  That is something that can never be satisfactorily demonstrated, so in the meantime we move on regardless.

Jones, Francis (1954) The Holy Wells of Wales
Bord, Janet and Colin Bord (1985) Sacred Waters
Gruffydd, Elfed (2005)  Survey of the Condition of Wells in Pen Llŷn  (AONB, Gwynedd)
Fardd, Myrddin (1908)  Llên Gwerin Sir Gaernarfon

Ffynnon Sarff SH295314
Ffynnon Saethon SH297324
Ffynnon Arian SH304311


Ffynnon Gadfarch, Abererch

This item will be necessarily brief, In the words of Lewis Carroll “I’ll tell thee everything I can, There’s little to relate….”

Ffynnon Gadfarch is one of those saints wells that has slipped away virtually unnoticed, the maps however still retain a faint trace in the name of the bridge that crosses the fast flowing River Erch just to the north, actually called Pont Fynnon-Gadfa ( I think we just have to assume the rest, but maybe even this shows the degree to which the well has been lost) a grade 2 listed causeway from the early 19th century. It lies a little to the north of the village of Y Ffôr off the Caernarfon to Pwllheli road.

(Then again maybe that always was the name and other people have jumped to conclusions)


Pont Ffynnon-Gadfa
Pont Ffynnon-GadfaTurning to the Lives of the British Saints, it is reported that Cadfarch was a monk at Bangor Dunawd, and a brother to saints Cawrdaf, Tangwn and Maethlu. He was formerly the patron of the church of Aberech, although this honour has now passed on to his brother Cawrdaf, whose own well, to be fair, has survived only slightly better. Cadfarch remains the patron of Penegoes church in Powys, where another well dedicated to the saint has survived a little better.

Lives of the British Saints notes that the Abererch Ffynnon Gadfarch is near the site of an extinct chapel called Llangedwydd, although the 1964 Report of the Royal Commission casts doubt on this, suggesting that the supposition of the existence of a chapel is based purely on the Llan- element of the surviving name Llangedwydd, which is more likely a corruption of an earlier name starting Llyn- or Llen-. Although Francis Jones notes that water from this well was once carried to the parish church for use in baptism, this is in fact an incorrect attribution and should refer instead to Cawrdaf’s well which is much closer to the church.

The Commission visited the well and noted that it had been modernised and indeed it ha. Basically what we see today is nothing but a large grey concrete structure in the field beside the river. These days the water is piped away, presumably to serve the local community.

Ffynnon Gadfarch

Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales (1964) Caernarfonshire West
Baring Gould S and John Fisher (1908) Lives of the British Saints
Jones, Francis (1954) Holy Wells of Wales

Ffynnon Gadfarch SH39974021

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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 as it crosses the River Llyfnwy passes close to the site of Ffynnon Rhedyw, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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