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Polperro Holy Well, Cornwall

Updated on June 9, 2013

As with many other holy wells, the holy well at Polperro in Cornwall ceased to be used many years ago. However, you can still visit the well - and close by is a lovely old holy well house that still exists. This has been a listed building since 1985, with a Grade II grade, for "special architectural or historic interest".

Originally it is thought that this holy well was dedicated to St Peter and, like many local holy wells, has its origins in medieval times.

The water supplying the holy well comes from a spring in rocks in a field, but it was probably road works in recent years that interrupted its flow. There used to be a Chapel of St Peter of Porthpyre to be found in the field above where the holy well is.

We know that the well was present and current when Mabel Quiller-Couch did her huge survey of holy wells in Cornwall for her well-know book "Ancient Holy Wells in Cornwall".

So, to be clear, you'll find a holy well near the road, then further down in the fields you'll find the old well house.

Worth a Visit?

Don't go to Polperro just to see this holy well, but you can mix n match it in with a visit to other great venues. There are two haunted pubs in Polperro and a haunted cave on the beach.

Polperro doesn't allow cars down into the town centre, but there's a huge (pay and display) car park at the top and from there you can either walk down the hill, or take one of the special transport modes such as a vintage omnibus, or a horse and carriage.

Polperro Holy Well
Polperro Holy Well | Source

Saints Well Polperro

Mabel Quiller-Couch called this well Saints Well and described it as:

In the parish of Lansallos, near Polperro, is a spring, never dry. It is much credited for its special virtues by the country folk.

This reputation has long survived the edifice, which once, I believe, enclosed its holy water ; and the name of the saint, its particular patron, is lost for ever. It most probably was St. Peter, the special guardian of fishermen, as on Landaviddy estate, where the well is situated, are — as little distinguishable — the faint ruins and marks of the area of the chapel of St. Peter of Porthpyre, mentioned in Bishop Brantynham's Register as existing in the year 1392.

The spring is still resorted to by those afflicted by bad eyes and other ailments, and, if ' ceremonies due are done aright,' with well-attested benefits.

Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, Line 33

Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, line 33
Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, line 33 | Source

It must be visited on three mornings following before sunrise, fasting — a veritable injunction and rite no doubt, as witnesseth Chaucer's Pardoner.

The well is still known by the name of Saint's Well among the inhabitants of Polperro ; but, whatever may have been its appearance at the time the above account was written — and undoubtedly it was then unguarded by any masonry — it is now a shallow well at which cattle drink, and has but an ordinary curbstone before it.

Location of the Holy Well at Polperro

During one survey of this holy well, it was reportedly dried up, since then it has been made easier to find as somebody has adopted" the well and placed a piece of carved slate on the inside edge of the wall, so you know when you've found it, although most people are disappointed when they find it's just a small wet hole in the ground. Note: there are other wet patches and gullies along this road, so make sure you get the correct one.

You will quite often find water running through it again now, especially with all the rain we seem to have been having for what seems like years non-stop!

Holy Well: Landaviddy Lane in the vicinity of Elm Cottage

National Grid Reference: SX2039051055

Longitude/Latitude: 50.331933 -4.525018

Polperro Holy Well: Location Map
Polperro Holy Well: Location Map | Source

Other Local Holy Wells:

Another holy well that has disappeared is the one close by at Porthallow, this well was called the Brydewell. This has been mentioned in a book written in 1994 by James P Derriman entitled "Killigarth: Three Centuries of a Cornish Manor". Although this book had a limited print run, it is still possible to get a copy if you wish to read more, although all it really says is that there used to be a holy well, so probably not worth the effort unless you stumble across a copy at a yard sale for $2 or so!

It's a shame so many holy wells have fallen out of use and their location either built over or long forgotten! For me, the holy wells are a major attraction in Cornwall - and they really give an extra little buzz out of the good walking in the area.

The Brydewell holy well is 1.8 miles to the West of Saints Well, on the site that is now the Talland Bay Hotel. Originally a Domesday Book manor house site, referred to as Portatlant, other names through the centuries have included Portalla and Killigarth. The exact location of the holy well is not known, but it is within 1/2 a mile of that region.... who knows, you might stumble across it if you've got a good Ordnance Survey Map and a hunch - or maybe you can turn your hand to some dowsing one afternoon. Some local clues might be to start near Bridals Lane or Bridles Farm.

St Nun's Holy Well at Pelynt, 3 miles north of Polperro.   St. Nun's Well Pelynt England Blight A print from Crosses in Cornwall
St Nun's Holy Well at Pelynt, 3 miles north of Polperro. St. Nun's Well Pelynt England Blight A print from Crosses in Cornwall | Source

Holy Wells at Pelynt

Just three miles north of Polperro is the creekside hamlet of Pelynt, where there are still two holy wells remaining; the third is more elusive.

In 1858 Blight visited many ancient and sacred sites in Cornwall, including holy wells; Blight drew and described hundreds of these ancient structures. These were then compiled into a book called "Crosses in Cornwall!.

An original page, just one page, from this Victorian book would now cost you about $15-20/£10-25, but they do sometimes appear in Amazon and on ebay:

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