Thursday, June 30, 2011

Possible Sacred Well Discovered in Wales

From BBC News

29 June 2011 Last updated at 08:25 ET
Possible holy well discovered in Cwmbran woods
Amateur archaeologists have uncovered what they say may be a holy well in woodland in Cwmbran, Torfaen.

They were working on a dig to discover more about a settlement that dates back to the 16th Century that they already knew about.
But they came across the well at Green Meadow Woods and believe it is much older.
Richard Davies from the Ancient Cwmbran Society said it may shed light on the area's religious history.
Mr Davies said between 15 and 20 volunteers had been working hard at the site for the last week.
He said the settlement they were originally investigating dated back to around 1520, but the well was older.
"We are relatively certain its purpose was not for watering animals," he said.
"We are not sure whether its a holy well, a baptism pool or something else."
Holy wells can date back to the second and third centuries and there are fewer than 20 across Wales. The water in holy wells was said to have healing qualities.
Field archaeologists Roger Burchill said: "It is comprised of packed stones that are all placed with the front forming a face to the well itself.
"Who would use it is the $64m question. All we can say about it at the moment is the structure is totally different to what we have on the bank.
"We have a wall, we have some paths, we have a possible building up on the bank and we have this well. Connecting them together is the trick."
The volunteers are taking a break on Thursday but will be returning to the excavation site on Friday and Saturday when members of the public are welcome to join them.
Sidebar information:

Holy wells in Wales
There are less than 20 holy wells in Wales with most in the north - including St Winefride's Well in Holywell which gives the town its name.
Legend has it a well sprung from the ground at the place where St Winefride, a noblewoman who lived during the 7th Century, was murdered by a local chieftain after she spurned his advances.
Her suitor, Caradog, is said to have cut off her head with a sword but she was restored to life by her uncle, St Beuno, and dedicated herself to holy works, becoming a nun and abbess.



John Webb said...

I'm a bit surprised that there are so few sacred wells in Wales. In England there are half a dozen in Warwickshire alone.

One of the three sacred wells in Coventry was used for the initiation of civic dignitaries (kingmaking) until as recently as the 1860s. That one had the remarkable name of Hobs Well, Hob being the medieval name for the devil.

There's a famous sacred spring/well in Jerusalem, the source of the Gihon river, which was used for the initiation of the kings of Israel (same idea).

John Webb said...

... sacred wells are interesting and very topical.

I've recently posted, on my own blog, about the Gihon spring, and Hobbs Well...

Jan said...

Hola! Thanks so much for the links to your fantastic and informative website. I found some information on sacred wells in Barbara Walker's book which I'll post separately. My guess is that a lot of springs and wells that used to be sacred places were gradually erased from the folk memories in lots of places, particularly in villages that grew into towns and then into cities with a lot of building over and tearing down/putting up new construction happening over a few hundred years.

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