Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales


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Ffynnon Dudno, Llandudno

St Tudno’s Well
The Great Orme, Y Gogarth, that iconic limestone outcrop that defines Llandudno has been a centre of population and industry for thousands of years. Copper mining was been carried out here during the Bronze Age, It was later occupied by the Romans, and it was here in the seventh century that Tudno founded his church. In the medieval period it was home to a farming community and later the mines were reopened and once again Llandudno became a source of copper.

Ff Dudno - photo wellhopper

A small cave, little more than seven feet square, but with its own spring of fresh water, looking out to sea on the north coast of the Orme is reputed to have been Tudno’s cell; and his church remains, high above this point still isolated from any present day habitation.

Tudno was a Welshman, supposed to have been son of a King of Maes Gwyddino, lands that were flooded and lost in the sixth century and now lie under the sea in Cardigan Bay. On losing their lands he and his brothers took refuge and became monks at the great monastery at Bangor on Dee, and when that was destroyed by the Saxons Tudno, who survived the massacre, fled to form his cell at what has now become known as Llandudno.

The Great Orme was attractive for settlement throughout history as it has a number of strong fresh water springs scattered across it. These would have been invaluable in the mining process as well as providing water to early residents on the hillside. Close to Tudno’s church is Ffynnon Rufeining which can be translated as the Roman’s Well and close to which Roman coins have been found. Another well, some hundred yards from Tudno’s church became known and visited as St Tudno’s Well.

Ff Dudno - photo wellhopper

Llandudno, as it is known today, sprang up, with rapid development, in the mid Victorian period in the age when the advent of rail travel led to an explosion in the development of seaside resorts. The town became fashionable and grew rapidly, linking the former isolated settlements that existed around both the Great and Little Ormes. As the town developed the springs on the Orme were looked to for a ready source of fresh water. In around 1860 a reservoir was dug, the remains of which though now dry can still be seen to the east of St Tudno’s church. A number of springs were diverted to feed this, whilst water from others were piped directly down to the town.

A parliamentary Bill was introduced in 1875 to dissolve the existing Llandudno Gas and Water Company and pass its assets to a new Company. This Bill specifically mentions Tudno’s Well. The assets of the old company included

A line of pipe commencing at the Gogarth Springs and terminating at the junction of streets called or known as Church Walls and Abbey Road in Llandudno.

Whilst the new Company were given the rights to

Take, collect, divert and use all or some of the waters called or known as the Gogarth Springs Ffynnon Powell, Ffynnon Tudno, Ffynnon Llety’r Fadon and of the streams and waters which directly or derivatively flow or proceed into or out of the same respectively.

As a result the flow from St Tudno’s Well would have been significantly reduced, leaving us with the small trickle that we see today.

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This was described by the Royal Commission on Historical and Ancient Monuments in the 1930s, who observed it

… at the foot of steep ground formed by a small level platform in a hillside falling to the east. The water stands in a square basin, three feet each way, in a cleft cut into the steep slope. The basin has a slightly curved back and is walled on all sides except the east with drystone masonry, 3 ft 6 in high forming a revetment to the slope and capped by a massive limestone slab 3 ft 6 in long and 2 ft wide from to back and 6 in thick. The open side of the pool on the east is approached by a stone flagged passage 3 ft long. Some 9 ft in front of the well on level ground is another small pool 4ft by 2ft contained in a modern brick surround.

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This is much how the spring appears today. The brick lined trough in front of the well still full of water from the spring and used as a drinking trough for the animals grazing on the land. The current farmer in the 1990s told visitors from the Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru (Welsh Wells Society) that his cattle preferred the water from St Tudno’s Well to any other. [1]

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Despite its long history, and obvious use as a water source, I have found no description of it being used as a healing well, although undoubtedly it was. It is referred to seldom in the topographical and tourist books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – clearly by that time Llandudno had new excitements to offer.

St Tudno’s feast day is celebrated on 5th June.

Note that Ffynnon Dudno lies on private land and there is no public access to the site. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the well on a very grey, wet and windy day as a part of a group visit organised by the local churches with the permission of the land owner.

Ff Dudno - photo wellhopper

[1] website

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Ffynnon Beuno, Clynnog Fawr

signSt Beuno’s Well
The well dedicated to St Beuno at Clynnog Fawr is amongst the finest of a considerable number of wells dedicated to the saint across Wales. It was at Clynnog that Beuno founded his last church at the end of a journey that saw him traverse the country from south to north then east to west.

The church at Clynnog is notably much larger than a village of its size would normally require. The earlier St Beuno’s chapel adjoined to the church, is said to occupy the site of Beuno’s own chapel and a seventh century monastery  which were both reputedly destroyed by fire during a Viking raid around 978. The present chapel dates from the sixteenth century, excavations inside have revealed the foundations of earlier buildings. Beuno’s remains are said to have been interred within the building.

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The remainder of the church was renovated in the nineteenth century, although most of the original structure which dates from between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries remains intact. The monastery was restored by the Carmelites, white friars, before 1200 and they  occupied it until the dissolution.

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The well lies by the old roadside around 200 yards to the west of the church. The village, and well, now bypassed, lay on the principal pilgrims route to Bardsey and would have been an important stop on their journey, particularly with its associations with St Winefride.

It has been reported that the well has suffered from vandalism in recent years, however it appeared clean and well kept, though somewhat overgrown, on the day of our visit. The spring is enclosed in a square stone pool, with stepped seats around it on two sides, and the whole enclosed by a wall rising to some eight feet. It is approached by a short pathway and steps from the roadside, from where it is clearly visible.

ff_beuno photo Wellhopper

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The well was traditionally resorted to for the treatment of sick children, in particular those suffering from epilepsy and rickets. It was also claimed to cure impotence. After bathing the patient was carried to St Beuno’s chapel and laid on rushes overnight on Beuno’s tomb, a plain altar like structure that stood in the centre of the chapel before Beuno’s shrine.. If they slept then the cure would be effective.

The custom was still in place at least until the 18th century, since Pennant tombremarks:

“… and I myself once saw on it (the tomb) a feather bed on which a poor paralytic from Merioneddshire had lain the whole night after undergoing the same ceremony.” [1]

The tomb was finally demolished, since it had become unsafe, in 1856. One piece, indicating how grand it might once have been, is preserved in the church.

There was another belief that water containing scrapings of stone from the pillars of the chapel was good for sore eyes; and there are records of bullocks being slaughtered and offered to Beuno in the church to ensure the wellbeing of local cattle. This custom was later replaced by monetary offerings and the sale of cattle and sheep bearing particular ear markings for the same purpose.

Offerings, stored in “Beuno’s cyff” were used to aid the poor of the community.

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We left off the story of Beuno at the end of our discussion of his well at Gwyddelwern, and touched also on his story when describing St Winefride’s Well at Holywell, We conclude his story here.

Beuno followed King Cadwallon from Holywell to Caernarfon, but very quickly fell into dispute with him, and was offered land at Clynnog and on Anglesey by Gwyddaint, a cousin of Cadwallon. Here he established his churches and cells, and lived out the remainder of his life.

It was at Clynnog that once again legend recounts how he came to the rescue of a damsel in something more than a little distress. In this case it was the princess Tegiwyg, daughter of King Ynyr.

Tegiwyg had fallen in love with a young carpenter from Aberffraw who had been working on her father’s palace. To avoid further scandal her father agreed to their marriage. However, as they were travelling back to his home on Anglesey he got to thinking about the gulf between their stations in life, and maybe some of the stories he had spun to win her. “How could he go home with so elegant a wife without a place to take her to, and through the instigation of the devil, he cut off her head with his sword and pushed on his way home.” [2]

Beuno’s shepherds found the body and Beuno was soon on hand to perform another miracle. The restored Tegiwyg was given the option to return to her father but instead chose to remain with Beuno and to serve God. Just as in the case of Winefride years before, at the spot where her blood had fallen a spring of cold water burst forth. This was Ffynnon Digiwg, more commonly now known as Ffynnon Digwy, and lies a little to the south of Clynnog.

In all, Beuno is claimed to have restored six people to life, and legend has it that one day, at a time of need, he will be on hand to revive a seventh.

Hast though heard what Beuno sang?
Sing thy pater, noster and Credo
From death flight will not avail

Beuno’s feast day is celebrated on April 21st.

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[1] Thomas Pennant(1788) Tours in Wales
[2] Sabine Baring Gould and John Fisher (1908) Lives of the British Saints
full details of each on the references page

 

2014 Update

Just a couple of pictures taken in August 2014 to show that the well has been substantially cleaned up – outside and in, since the original pictures were taken.

ffynnon Beuno Clynnog Fawrffynnon Beuno Clynnog Fawr


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Llanfihangel Din Sylwy

cropped signDin Sylwy is a large limestone outcrop in eastern of Anglesey, lying between the village of Llanddona and the coast. Standing out in the surrounding countryside it is one of the largest hill forts on the island, having been the defensive home of the local Iron Age population and later of the Roman incomers who occupied the site in the third and fourth centuries. Later it was quarried to provide stone to build the Menai Bridge.

 On its western slopes lies the small church of Llanfihangel din Sylwy, St Michael’s. Like a number of small Anglesey churches it is now alone in fields, having been deserted by the community that once surrounded it. The surviving church building is a small simple construction dating from the early fifteenth century, and retaining some of its medieval features although it was largely rebuilt in 1855, an event marked by the date carved roughly into the stone to the left of the doorway. It now hosts just occasional services on summer Sunday mornings and we were unable to see inside during our visit.

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Its main attraction to us was the remains of a well, which lies outside the church gate, some 20 yards up the slope of Din Sylwy. The well too is largely forgotten, although a relatively well worn track led the way, suggesting that some people at least still visit, although some of the local residents we mentioned it to were unaware of its existence.

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We are not aware of any dedication for the well and although it has been marked consistently on OS maps no name is given to it. The Welsh Ancient Monuments record, Coflein, notes helpfully that

“There is no reason to suppose that this was a holy well and no definite evidence that it was not”

Tristam Gray Hulse has reasonably suggested that perhaps it may well be a lost St Michael’s Well following the dedication of the church, and one of a number of such wells across North Wales. This is based purely by association with the church and not with any evidence to support it.

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The well is cut into the hillside. A narrow outlet lined with stone and roofed with two large flat stone slabs. Two small steps descend into the water which was some three feet deep at the bottom of the recess.

This is in itself interesting since the Coflein record also states that

“The spring is said to have been boxed in with stones, although no trace could subsequently be found of this”

That, and the state of preservation of the well suggest that at some time in recent history the well may have been reconstructed to some degree.

Judging by tracks left in branches and leaves on the hillside it is probable that at times the well overflows its tank, the weather had been particularly wet at the time of our visit.

From this well we climbed Din Sylwy and crossed the flat top of the fortress. A vast circular expanse, ringed around by a lip of stone walling has earned the monument the name Bwrdd Arthur – Arthur’s Table. Although the sea is close by it was virtually invisible through the low mist and drizzle which has set in by then.

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On the opposite side of the hill we approached Llanddona beach, famed in local legend as the arrival point of the notorious Llanddona witches, who were reputed to have come ashore here at some unremembered point in history.

Baring Gould [1] surmises that these were probably Irish criminals who had been set adrift from the coast of Ireland in a curricle with no rudder or paddles, this was a traditional punishment; although other legends identify them as being of Spanish descent.

On reaching the shore they begged the local inhabitants for food and water, but the locals feared these strange foreign seafarers and refused trying to force them back into the sea. However, the leader struck the earth with his staff, bringing forth a stream of clear cold water. In fear of this display the locals backed off, and the newcomers were enabled to stay.

They promptly set up home in the area and lived for several generations amongst but separate from the local population. The men lived by smuggling; the legend tells that it was impossible to overcome them, since each carried about with him a black fly tied in a knot of his neckerchief. When their strength failed in a fight they would undo the knots of their cravats, and the flies would fly at the eyes of their opponents and blind them.

Meanwhile, the women survived by witchcraft. They were dreaded, since they would curse anyone who refused them food and if they attended a market no one dared to bid against them.

Baring Gould quotes one such curse

May he wander for ages
And find at each step a stile
And at every stile a fall
And at every fall a broken bone
Not the largest nor the least bone
But the chief neck bone each time

It is probable that, like most of those associated with witchcraft they most likely had a good knowledge of medicinal herbs cures and fortune telling , and were resorted to in times if illness and worry.

They are remembered still in local legends and folk tales of the island. They are also remembered at Ffynnon Oer – the Cold Spring, said to be the spring that they caused to flow on their arrival, and the well around which they made their home.

Ffynnon Oer still flows, and still provides the main water source, now pumped and filtered, for the current occupiers of the house on whose land it flows. Here Bella Fawr, the greatest of the witches, is remembered for the good that she did, rather than for any evil. She is imagined to be a midwife for the local population and a healer, and there are stories that the well was also used for baptisms of those born in the area.

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From Ffynnon Oer we headed south to Llaniestyn close to Llanddona, to search for the church and holy well of St Iestyn. Here is another church largely deserted by its community; and although we think we found the well in a small wood close by, it was so wet and dark by then that it wasn’t possible to take pictures. This site will have to await a return visit and a new posting.

[1] S Baring Gould (1903) A Book of North Wales. Methuen.

We would like to thank the owners of Ff Oer for their time and assistance and allowing us to visit their well


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Ffynnon Gybi, Llangybi

St Cybi’s Well
Ffynnon Gybi at Llangybi is firmly on the tourist trail, and justifiably so,  the route marked from afar by a series of brown signs from the A499 north of Pwllheli. But once you finally arrive, and leave the road onto the footpath the signage ends and soon you are left facing a broad muddy water filled hole. For a minute you can be excused thinking disappointedly “Is this what all the fuss is about?”, but be assured it isn’t. This is another well, Ffynnon Llety Plu, supposedly once associated with a pub of lodging house in the area. [1] The path turns to the right here and Ffynnon Cybi is still another hundred yards or so away.

The track to the well has clearly been a major route at one time, the remains of stone walls and houses can be seen beside a wide track. It turns left onto a bridge crossing the stream and a raised stone causeway leading to the well buildings can be seen under the grass.

The buildings that stand now are the remains of eighteenth century buildings, on the left an enclosed bathing pool and beside it the remains of a house occupied by the well keeper. These were erected by the land owner Mr Price around 1730 after having been convinced of the efficacy of taking the waters. The spring itself lies immediately behind the bathing pool (in photos below), forming another small pool from which water flows into the building.

The well’s outlet is from the front of the building, through which it forms a fast flowing stream that flows through a stone lined channel across the field down towards the river. As it goes it passes through another smaller building, linked to the wellhouse by another stone path, which has at one time been a latrine block.

The bathing pool itself is inside the left hand building of the pair (shown below). it is stone lined,  approximately four yards square, with a narrow stone path running all the way around it. Within the walls of the chamber there are small niches in which candles and offerings have been left.

The well was a point of pilgrimage. Its waters were said to cure warts, lameness, blindness, scrofula, scurvy and rheumatism. Crutches and wheelbarrows left by cure seekers were to be seen around the well. A box, Cyff Gybi, was kept in the church to receive the offerings from grateful pilgrims.

At one time it is told that an eel lived in the well. The patient stood bare legged in the well and a cure would take place if the eel coiled itself around the patient’s legs. At one time the eel was removed and people believed that the well lost much of its powers at that time.

Treatment was also said to have consisted of giving patients an equal quantity of well-water and sea water, morning and evening, for a period varying from seven to ten days. They then had to bathe in the water once or twice a day, retiring after each bath to a bedchamber in the adjoining cottage where they were given a quantity of healing water to drink. The success or otherwise of the treatment was judged by whether the patient became warm in bed or remained cold, with the former condition indicating that the treatment was progressing satisfactorily.

An eighteenth century record of cures includes the case of one man, blind for 30 years having his sight restored after bathing his eyes in the well over a period of three weeks; whilst another was cured of a “sharp pain in the nose” after using the water. Water was frequently taken away from the well in bottles and casks for use as a medicine. Jones (1954) repeats the story of a band of smugglers who

“…when returning with casks of spirits from Porthdinllaen were challenged by an excise officer. The smugglers said the casks contained water from ffynnon Gybi which they were taking to the well known land owner Mr Price of Rhiwlas.”

The well was also frequently used for divination, with local youths floating handkerchiefs on the water to see which way their love would go.

Cybi is another locally famed saint with origins far distant from North Wales. He came to the area rather late in life, apparently fleeing from a chain of disagreements and feuds he had had elsewhere. From what evidence exists he is believed to have been born in Cornwall, his father a Roman military leader or minor king, and through his mother Gwen, he was a first cousin to St David.

He was educated in Cornwall and reputedly visited Jerusalem and Rome on pilgrimages before staying in France where he received his religious training. Baring Gould notes that some accounts have him staying in France until he was over 70, but this was clearly impossible.

He returned to Cornwall at a time of strife in the area, and Baring Gould suggests that, maybe involuntarily, he may have become involved as a leader of a failed uprising and was forced to flee northwards. He arrived in South Wales, but was not well received by the local ruler there. Although he managed to obtain land for the establishment of two cells, he soon moved across the sea to Ireland.

Again he worked on his ministry and established churches, but once again was involved in land disputes, and accused of incursion on other’s territory. Recrimination and curses followed as once again he was forced to move on, finally arriving on the Lleyn Peninsula where he founded his church at Llangybi. It was here that he plunged his staff into the ground bringing forth the waters which now flow as Ffynnon Gybi.

Once again disputes arose between Cybi and the King of Gwynedd, Maelgwn. In settlement Maelgwn eventually conceded his stronghold on Anglesey where Cybi finally ended his days. This is the site that became known as Caer Gybi, in English, Holyhead. Cybi died on the 8th November around the year 554. His feast day is now generally celebrated on the 8th November, although other sources record it as being on the 5th.

[1] Megalithic portal entry – see comments

Coflein data record


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Ffynnon Allgo, Llanallgo

St Gallgo’s Well
It often seems that on Anglesey you are never more than a couple of hundred yards from a caravan site. Ffynnon Allgo goes one better and actually lies within a caravan site, squashed in on a grassy strip between two vans. The well lies about 350 yards to the south west of the small Llanallgo church on the A5025 west of Moelfre.

Llanallgo will always be associated with the Royal Charter tragedy.  The Royal Charter was a steam clipper, wrecked of the coast near Moelfre in 1859 travelling from Melbourne to Liverpool. Around 450 lives were lost in the wreck, many of the victims are buried in Llanallgo churchyard and gravestones all around the church record the names and the lives of those lost.  A monument, raised by public subscription initiated by Charles Dickens stands in the church grounds as does a newer memorial featuring an anchor salvaged from the wreck.

A small chapel was attached to the western side of the church for the use of visitors to the well.

Little is known of St Gallgo who founded the church and whose name is attached to the well. Baring Gould identifies him with the alternative name Saint Alleccus. He is reputed to have been part of a sixth century family from the valley of the Clyde in what is now Scotland, although then it formed a  part of a “Greater Wales” region which included Cumbria and western Scotland. The family, including brother Eugrad and sister Peithian  fled to Gwynedd as refugees fleeing the advancing Pictish forces in their native region.  Maelgwn, King of Gwynedd gave the three lands in Anglesey where they established their cells. [1]

Another brother, Gildas, is known for having written an early History of Britain. Baring Gould suggests that for a period Gallgo may have been forced to flee from Anglesey to Ireland as a result of various insults written about Maelgwn by Gildas.

Ffynnon Allgo is known as a healing well. Tests have shown that the water is strongly impregnated with sulphate of lime and is still regarded as beneficial.

The well , measuring some 6 feet by three feet, is surrounded by a stone seat accessed by steps from one end. The remains of further stonework around the area suggest that it may once have been enclosed in a small building or enclosure.  The water was about a foot deep and through another foot of silt on the bottom a stone base to the well basin could be felt. Water enters the well from a spring at one end and flows out through a stone lined channel to a fast flowing stream around 10 yards away from the well chamber.

An older picture, predating the caravan site, shows a large tree growing beside the well which no longer exists.

A report on the website of  Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru states that an ancient  stone sculpture of a human head was found close to the well in 1982 which has been used to suggest that the importance of the well was recognised in the Celtic period prior to the arrival of Christianity in Wales.

St Gallgo’s feast day is celebrated on November 27th

[1]  A History of Llanallgo http://www.royalcharterchurch.org.uk/history.html


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Ffynnon Gynfran, Llysfaen

St Cynfran’s Well
We appear recently to be following around the offspring of Brychan, although with a reputed sixty five children, their influence must spread far and wide.

 Following on from recent visits to the wells of his daughters Dwynwen and Ceinwen on Anglesey, our latest expedition was to find Ffynnon Gynfran at Llysfaen, close to Colwyn Bay. St Cynfran is given by some authorities as being one of Brychan’s sons, although other sources do not make the connection. However local histories suggest that the first church was erected on the site at some time in the eighth century, the year 777 is rather accurately suggested; which would make it too late to have been founded by a son of Brychan.

Cynfran’s well is stated to lie around 100 yards to the north of the church. The well I found is marked on recent OS maps as Ffynnon Gynfran, however this is a relatively recent revision, earlier maps before around 1960 marked the site as a well only, without indicating its dedication to Cynfran. It is interesting to note that a report on the website of Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru suggest that their members had been looking for a site for the well in the late 1990s and identified a possible site within the grounds of the church. Whether this was a different location or whether the boundaries of the churchyard have changed in the meantime is difficult to say, although it seems unlikely that the well I saw had ever been inside the boundaries of the church yard.  For the purpose of this post I shall go with the OS and assume that the well visible at the site is St Cynfran’s well. Presumably  this is the site referred to by Cymdeithas Ffynhonnau Cymru as being rediscovered and cleaned in 2002 since it fits the description given on the Royal Commission website, which notes that it was “filled with sludge to ground level” in the 1980s. On this visit the well contained clear water.

 

The site is well protected today, on one site by a sharp hawthorn hedge and on the other by deep nettles. However, on getting past these obstacles the well was found to be in a much better state of preservation than I expected. The well lies in the field immediately to the north of the church yard, with a stile across to it from the cemetary. It lies on the edge of a bank along the top of which runs the thorn hedge. There is a well basin, taking the form of a semicircular dry stone wall set into the bank on the hedged side, but which is either less complete or unnecessary on the lower side of the well by the nettle beds.

 

Traditionally the well was resorted to by local residents to petition for the well being of their cattle with the prayer “the blessing of God and the Holy Cynfran be upon these cattle.” This blessing taking place annually on the 11th night of November and again on the Sunday afterwards; the feast day of St Cynfran being celebrated on November 12th.

 

The present incarnation of Cynfran’s church appears to have little of interest, there was a service being held at the time of my visit so I could not go inside. It was largely reconstructed in the late nineteenth century.


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St Mary Magdalene’s Well, Cerrigydrudion

St Mary Magdalene’s well, Ffynnon Fair Fagdalen,  at Cerrigydrudion could be a beautiful little well with a little care and attention. As it is, it seems an almost forgotten treasure. There was apparently an attempt some 10 years ago by members of the Dry Stone Walling association to restore the well, so the structure appears relatively and surprisingly intact. However, at the same time it seems to be a convenient local dumping ground, we found several buckets and tin cans in it, together with a number of rotting plastic sacks.

However, at the bottom of it all, under all the litter, there was still water, albeit stagnant and smelling, in the well.

The well basin measures about 6 feet by four feet, on three sides it is constructed of dry stone walling, the fourth side made up with a couple of massive stones stuck upright into the ground. Apparently at one time there were steps leading down into the basin. There is other stone scattered around on the surface around the well, presumably the remains of the recent attempts to restore it. The well is covered over in part by fallen iron fencing.

The inspectors from the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments vsisted in August 1912 and described it then as follows

It is enclosed on three sides by rough masonry, and on the fourth side by two upright stones, at the bottom of one of which is a semi-circular hole for the overflow. Three steps at the north west corner lead down to the water. The enclosure is 6 feet 9 inches by 4 feet 6 inches; it is not and apparently never has been covered. The well is kept in good condition by the owner.

Cerrigydrudion, like its well, has seen better days. Its name descends from a large heap of stones that were once to be seen there, but which have long since been removed for building. The name has been interpreted variously as the Stones of the Druids, or possibly more accurately as the Stones of the Beloved or the Daring Ones, which relates the site to the graves of some long lost knights or heroes, maybe making a link with another nearby village Bryn Saith Marchog, or the Hill of the Seven Knights. Cerrigydrudion was once a thriving small market town its decline appears to have been gradual and lengthy. The following in Lewis’s [2]  description from 1849

The village is situated on a gentle eminence, and was formerly a thoroughfare on the great Irish road, which, by an improvement in the route, was afterwards diverted to a short distance from it, but still passes for several miles through the parish. The traffic on this line of road has much diminished since the opening of the Chester and Holyhead railway, in 1848. A post office has been established here. A market was at one time held on Friday, but it has fallen into disuse: fairs take place on March 14th, April 27th, August 24th, October 20th, and December 7th.

Much of the surrounding land was let off to farmers from further north and west who used it as a stopping off point for drovers heading to the English markets.

When we visited it in March 2012 it retained this sense of closure, typical of so many villages these days, the one remaining village centre pub, The White Lion,closed its doors last year, and a number of shops around the central square, a general dealer and a butcher seemed to be no longer trading.

St Mary Magdalene’s church lies at the centre of the village, its notice board welcomes visitors to come inside with the promise of useful leaflets on things to do in the area; it was firmly locked this Sunday afternoon. Maybe this is a necessary precaution, a local legend recalls the time when the devil himself took up residence inside the church and it took a team of oxen to drag him out again, one can’t be too careful I suppose.

The church was reputedly founded by Ieuen Gwas Padrig; a true Welsh saint who hailed from Llahrhaiadr, he was a disciple of St Patrick, hence the nickname Gwas Padrig – the servant of Patrick. His life history records him as a miracle worker from a young age, reported to have banished adders from the neighbourhood and driving crows from his father’s barn. His father was so impressed that he sent him to study pest control with St Patrick, whom he eventually followed to Ireland. Patrick soon recognised Ieuan’s miracle working skills, and reluctant to deprive Wales of such a saint sent him back. With a lack of forethought it is told that there was no ship available to carry him home, but, nothing daunted, Ieuan prayed and soon saw a blue slab floating on the water towards him, he boarded it and was carried safely to Anglesey.

 He returned home to be instructed by an angel to walk southwards until he spied a roebuck, at that point he was to establish his cell, This instruction led him to Cerrigydrudion where he established the church that he himself was said to have dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. This is supposed to have been around the year 400. The church may at one time have been dedicated to both Mary and himself and according to Lhuyd, prior to the Reformation St Ieuan Gwas Padrig was depicted in medieval stained glass at the church.

There are a number of named wells cited by Francis Jones[3] in the area. The St Mary Magdalene’s well described above lies close to the church, it is situated at the base of a large tree and is accessed by accessed by a very short walk on a public footpath close to a new road suggestively called Maes-y-Ffynnon.

However an earlier well, dedicated to the same saint, was said to be at Caeu Tudur. Lhuyd [4] also mentions Ieuan’s own Holy Well, which was said to possess very cold water which cured swelling in the knees, and yet another well Ffynnon y Brawd – the Friars’s Well – which was resorted to for the removal of warts. Both these are also mentioned in Jones. Although it has been suggested that the well currently referred to as St Mary Magdalene’s was originally St Ieuan Gwas Padrig’s well [1], however information I have recently received identifies Ieuan’s well at some distance from Cerrigydrudion and this well will be the subject of a new post in the near future.

St Mary Magdalene’s day is celebrated on July 22nd.

[1] Jane Cartwright (2008) Feminine Sanctity and Spirituality in Medieval Wales. University of Wales Press
[2] Samuel Lewis(1849)  Topographical Dictionary of Wales – see references page for more details
[3] Francis Jones(1954)  The Holy Wells of Wales – see references page for more details
[4] Edward Lhuyd (1698) Parochial Queries – see references page for more details

 The photos from this visit are quite disappointing and don’t show much detail of the well basin. I shall try to get some better ones next time I’m passing, if I can remove the fence that covers it for a while.