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ARC Home > Projects > Sacred land :
Holy water | The holy well of North Petherwyn | Sacred seas

The holy well of North Petherwyn

The holy well in the Cornish village of North Petherwyn was once a central part of sacred life in the village. Even today some of the oldest residents of the village had been christened in its water. But by the 1990s it was in poor condition and had been totally neglected.

The basin was filled with earth and it was protected only by an old cattle barrier that had been thrown against it.

In 1995 the North Cornwall County Council's Heritage Coast and Countryside Service did a review of wells in northern Cornwall based on a book written 100 years before by the Quiller Couch sisters (Ancient & Holy Wells of Cornwall, 1894). They discovered several wells that were overgrown and forgotten – and initiated projects with local communities to restore them.

The North Petherwyn Holy Well is one of these. It is first mentioned in the late 1400s, although it could be much earlier. The current structure includes a date stone of 1849 – probably the last major restoration – but by 1995 it was derelict and stagnant.

Work started on the well in 1998 – with the support of Sacred Land and other rural grant-giving bodies as well as the full support of the community, archaeologists and local craftspeople and students.

They removed several tons of sludge, a horseshoe and plenty of hazelnuts. When they had finished the well had two metres of ‘crystal-clear water within a beautiful stone-faced void’.

By April 1999 villagers were able to celebrate with handmade banners and a procession – after years of obscurity their well was now restored.

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