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St Just Holy Well
If you're living in Cornwall, or visiting the area for a weekend or week's holiday, it's exciting to go slightly off the beaten track - away from the crowded beaches and popular bars and eating places and explore the Old Cornwall for yourself. A lot of Cornwall's history is hidden away - small creekside bars, smugglers' haunts, 13th-14th century buildings and, my favourite, Holy Wells.
Two Holy Wells
This Holy Well is the official one. People speak of another holy well in the grounds of the church, but as that is over a water grate, I wonder if it isn't just a drainage grate and a fake holy well cap was built over to make it more attractive and less dangerous - I do plan to find out some day.
Sometimes this Holy Well is called St Mawes Holy Well - although that one is actually in St Mawes itself, so many people will see one and don't realise there is a second. Sometimes this Holy Well is simply called St Just's Well.
The St Just Holy Well is to be found in the grounds of the St Just in Roseland church - but this isn't just any church. It's a 13th century creekside church with a fascinating graveyard and the Holy Well. Steeped in history, there was probably a church building on the site since the 6th century!
Jesus Came Here
A legend says that Joseph of Arimathea may have brought Jesus ashore here. There is a lot of evidence in the Bible that Jesus visited Cornwall, so this isn't completely unbelievable.
The church at St Just is one of the most visited churches in Cornwall - and there's a lot more going on than just being a Church as they organise retreats for many groups.
Inside the church they display the three pages from the Visitors' Book that American GIs signed before they left the shores for the D-Day landings during the second world war.
Church Gardens and Graveyard
There are hundreds of graves at the church, all laid out in an unusual design as they are built up a slight incline. There are many military graves, as well as many from the 1700s/1800s.
The gardens include lillies, exotic shrubs, fuchsias and hydrangeas and there are many winding paths that lead the visitor through the church gardens where you can enjoy a variety of plants including magnolias, azaleas, carnelias, rhododendrons - as well as the unusual and unexpected such as bamboos and wild garlic. There are plenty of bluebells too. The gardens also contain small streams and ponds.
About the Holy Well at St Just
The holy well is easily found by following the sign and path at the south end of St Just church - there is a sign pointing out the way and it is just 20 yards along a flat path.
What you will see are the remains of a medieval Holy Well, containing water and with a spring supplying a constant water supply. The Holy Well is a rubble-built chamber which is open at the front. The walling on the west side of the Holy Well is believed to represent the remains of an outer chamber or porch, possibly including a bench for visitors.
Once you get a little closer, you can see inside. It's not very large - there's water streaming into the holy well and the whole of the interior is covered in green lichen.
Offerings are often placed on the top ledge of the well, although there were none on the day I visited. Offerings can be stones, or some greenery from nearby trees.
Ancient & Holy Wells of Cornwall, Mabel Quiller-Couch
There is a Holy Well beside the church.
Location & Facilities
The Holy Well at St Just is really simple to find. The Ordnance Survey map number 204 covers this area in detail.
The church is not visible from the road that passes through the village, but it is signposted. Once you have turned off the main road, you'll find the church and car park on the right hand side after 200-400 yards.
Parking is 'free' - but there is a large, stone built, Honesty Box as you enter the church grounds and a suggestion of £1 as a donation.
Although the Church itself is down a slope - and the paths round the graveyard are winding, generally speaking the paths and church and the Holy Well are accessible for most people using mobility aids or in a wheelchair.
There is also a picnic area just below the car park, so if you are on a walking holiday this could be the perfect spot to break for lunch.
Inside the Church there is free coffee/tea available - although it is only polite to give a donation.
A slightly updated version, based on the reprint of 1923. This is a more affordable option than the $250+ an original copy will cost you.
Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall
There are literally dozens of Holy Wells in Cornwall, but many people are simply not aware they exist at all. I love that holy wells make me think back to when I was a child and there was a whole magical world of Holy Wells, caves on beaches and piskies to be explored when on holiday in Cornwall.
Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall by M. and L. Quiller-Couch
A book was written and published in 1894 by Mary Quiller-Couch and Lilian Quiller-Couch, who went round and visited every Holy Well she could find. Many have now disappeared, or are hard to find. I do hope to visit them all one day, with my camera!
Although written in 1894 - and in old fashioned English that makes it hard to read - this book documented every Holy Well that could be found at that time. It is an invaluable record now if you want to try to visit as many Holy Wells as possible.
There have been a couple of updates since the original book, one in 1923, and more modern (much cheaper) copies are now available. An original copy of this book would cost in excess of $250 if you could ever find one.
Without this extensive work being undertaken, the location, existence, legends and rituals of most of the holy wells in Cornwall would have been lost to future generations. Although out of print, this book has now been scanned in, or updated and republished - and so it is possible to get a copy of the book and visit as many as you want to, or simply while away the hours dreaming of days gone by.
More Holy Wells in Cornwall:
- 4 Holy Wells Near Newquay Cornwall
Discover holy wells near Newquay Cornwall, a great free day out and fun exploring old legends.