Known as the centre for surfing, not many people know that there are holy wells of Newquay. Although these aren't to be found in the town of Newquay itself, look just a little further afield and you can spend a pleasant day visiting these holy wells for yourself.
Some of these holy wells are well preserved and right alongside the road - meaning you can simply stop the car and get out to have your photo taken alongside for your family album and future memories!
One or two are hidden deep within woods, or undergrowth - and will bring out the explorer in you!
Holy wells are magical as they are old or ancient structures, certainly going back a few hundred years, if not with roots way back in antiquity.
Mabel & Lillian Quiller Couch: Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall
Mabel Quiller-Couch a sister of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, authored one of the most well-known book on the subject of Holy Wells in Cornwall. Entitled:"Ancient & Holy Wells of Cornwall", this was first published in 1894.
If the time had not been taken to compile this guide, their existence, location and rituals would have been lost forever. Even in the 1890s when they visited each one it was difficult to locate some of them, or they found that the rituals were just memories of the older inhabitants of a village.
The book would have been lost to antiquity if it were not for a recent revival in searching for old holy wells and this book has been resurrected through reproductions to be enjoyed by new generatins of holy well hunters. Highly recommended as the definitive Guide to Holy Wells in Cornwall
What Is a Holy Well?
Put simply, holy wells are simply natural springs that ancient people's gathered around, and lived around, as water is a vital part of founding a community. Providing resources essential for life many wells were celebrated and revered as givers of life. Over the centuries many wells have witnessed ceremonies where gifts were given to Gods.
Later on people started to enclose the wells - partly probably to protect the water from animals and partly as giving the well a shelter would be providing a House for their deity.
When pilgrims visited the area they would travel between the holy wells, knowing there'd be a place to rest and drink, usually being looked after by monks. When various Kings of England passed through Cornwall their routes invariably took in several of the holy wells. Far from being forgotten small corners of society, in days gone past the holy wells were places of safety and sanctuary, where roots could be put down and the word of Christianity spread.
As civilisation advanced, there was still an essential need for water - especially as the communities around the springs were growing - and in recent centuries the stone housings of holy wells have become larger. In some areas the original holy wells dried up, or were covered over when roads/houses were built. Many areas have, however, continued to maintain and renovate their holy wells.
Discovering holy wells for yourself can be a fascinating past-time on your holidays, or even as a local if you're into local history. If it's not beach weather and you don't want to go shopping, tracking down old holy wells is a free activity that can sometimes lead you into other discoveries, myths and legends. Many holy wells are in the centre of villages or towns, or in the churchyard - yet there are others, hidden away from sight, waiting to be re-discovered.
See Rialton Priory Holy Well at 3minutes 30seconds:
Rialton Manor Holy Well, St Columb Minor
On the outskirts of Newquay you'll find St Columb Minor, but if you stay on the main road you go round it and pass Rialton Manor, a 15th century manor house that has a holy well in its garden.
Nestled in a bend in the road, Rialton Priory, or Rialton Manor, is a private house with a fascinating history - however, if you want to look at this holy well, then you should ask first. The Holy Well at Rialton Manor is in the front courtyard garden.
At the back of the well there is a niche, probably for candles and offerings.
Rialton Manor was originally part of the Bodmin Priorty before the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII and has some very spooky goings on.... so watch out for ghosts!
The Manor recently went onto the market for sale and a sales video was made by the local agents, you can see the holy well in the garden if you watch the video at about 3 minutes 30 seconds in.
Rialton Manor and Holy Well Facts:
Rialton Manor is steeped in mystery, legend, history and national events:
- Originally the Manor was Rialton Priory, part of Bodmin Priory before the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.
- The Priory was built by Thomas Vivian, prior of Bodmin towards the end of the 15th century. The Dissolution of Bodmin Priory was soon after, in 1538, with the properties all passing to the Crown who sold it off. It then became a residential property.
- Holy wells escaped the dissolution of the monasteries because they were small and not worth bothering with. For this reason they weren't sold off, or destroyed, but continued to exist as they had always done.
- Rialton Manor was in the ownership of the Duchy of Cornwall for many years, until it was sold to private owners. It last changed hands in November 2012 for £495,000, having been on the market since August 2012 at £500k
- The Rialton Holy Well is a listed building in its own right, originally listed in May 1988 and classified as a Grade II*. In February 1967 Rialton Manor was given a Grade II* classification. Other parts of the land and structures are also listed.
The holy well at Rialton Manor is mentioned in Quiller-Couch's book "Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall". Well at Rialton Priory.
"This well stands in the courtyard adjoining Rialton Priory ; it has no legend or tradition connected with it, but from its very situation seems likely to have been a consecrated spring. Lysons, in his Magna Briiannica, describes it as having ** a small stone building over it, at one end of which is a niche with a pedestal for an image".
"Many years ago, about 1840, this building was carried off to Somersetshire by the order of the steward of the period, and was set up in private grounds there ; but by order of its owners (it belongs to the Crown) it was brought back again and re-erected on its rightful spot, the steward being dismissed. The present occupier of Rialton Mills, who has kindly responded to inquiries about the well, says that this happened not a great many years ago ; he knew the persons who carted the stone, and they have not been dead more than ten years.
"The building is now in a very good state of preservation, and much resorted to by artists for sketching purposes, and by a great number of the visitors during the summer. The water is excellent, and never-failing even in the hottest season, — z;t^., the much-quoted *' jubilee" year. It is in general use for drinking and domestic purposes.
The well was mentioned very briefly by Robert Hope in his book "Legendary Lore, Holy Wells of England" of 1893, but he simply said there was a well there and drew a line drawing of it, which is shown here.
"There is a well here, an illustration of which is given below."
Crantock Holy Wells
Crantock is a "must visit" village - and home to what has been described as "The most photographed pub in Cornwall", or The Albion. With stories of a smugglers' tunnel under the bar in the pub and legends of the original village being buried by the sanddunes hundreds of years ago, if you're on the North coast, then why not combine a visit to Crantock village with a visit to the sandy beach, which has a large car park adjacent.
Probably the most accessible of holy wells near Newquay, the first Crantock Holy Well is right in the middle of the village square, by the half dozen car parking spaces.
The second holy well is along Beach Road (past the church) and is set in the wall of a garden.
If you're on a walking tour, then at low tide you can easily walk from Newquay across the Gannel and across to Crantock. Go to the end of Pentire, find the Fern Pit Cafe and walk down their (100 or so) steps to the base of the cliff. You can then either walk across the Gannel at low tide, or take the small ferry if the tide's in.
Quiller-Couch mentioned just one well in the book "Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall" of 1894, referring to it as the Well of St, Caraniocus and formerly as part of the (now long gone) College of Crantock, set up upon St Carantoc's death around 1500 years ago.
"... the holy well still exists, in the centre of the village, near the church, covered with a curious bee-hive shaped structure with a door. The villagers use the water for all household purposes, and when a pump was erected still preferred the sacred water. It has never been said to have possessed any special virtues."
This description fits the location of the main well in the centre of the village, but, as there are two wells, memories and tales could have become confused over time.
Polwhele's "History of Cornwall", Volume 7, page 114, in 1816, referred to a St Ambrose's Well - which might have been an alternative spelling for the well closer to the Gannel, He said:
"The place where it stood is now scarce discernible; only a consecrated arched well of water bears the name of St Ambrose's well, contiguous therewith" and that the College this well originally supplied was described as "contiguous with the Churchyard" which could equally mean the Beach Road well, or the village centre well as both are contiguous to the church, but on opposite sides.
Another source, recently and local, declared that the well in the centre of Crantock was a 17th century holy well. That would make the well in Beach Road the true and original holy well linked to St Carantoc.
So, if you like solving myseries, there is a mystery to be solved by somebody: which is the College well - and is the village centre well the one referred to as St Ambrose's Well?
Crantock Holy Well: Village Square
Right in the centre of the village you'll see this holy well.
The holy well is so much part of the centre of the village that many thousands of visitors probably pass it every year without realising its significance at all. Next tim you're in Crantock, don't worry where you can get a bucket and spade, but take the time to discover the holy well that's right there in front of you!
This well was certainly used as a general village well in 1894, but is it just a well, or a holy well?
St Ambrusca's Holy Well Crantock
Referred to as St Ambrusca's Well, and St Ambrose's Well, if you're walking between Crantock village centre and the beach/ferry you'll see this Holy Well set in the wall at the roadside.
If you're standing in the central car park, with the circle of grass behind you, take the road that goes down to the beach car park. About 300 yards/metres down the road, on the right hand side, keep an eye out for the last house along the road, called Penare, that has a single garage and a couple of private parking spaces. Look to the left of their garden gate and you'll see St Ambrusca's Holy Well just to the left and slightly below road level. You'll need to be walking to see this holy well as there's no parking alongside it.
The owners of the house are a long-established Crantock Family and keen gardeners, having won local competitions. You'll see they've usually got some plants for sale out the front of their house - why not visit the holy well and take home a Cornish plant for your garden!
Treloy Holy Well, Treloy, Newquay
Just outside Newquay, most people see signs to Treloy but keep on driving to their destination. Well, there's an interesting stop-off you can make en-route next time, if you take 20 minutes out of your schedule to visit Treloy Holy Well, the holy well of St Pedyr.
This holy well isn't marked on any maps - and you'll need good waterproof boots to reach it as it involves crossing a muddy farmyard and into the woods, then down a slope into a dell. This is very hard to find and you really need to consult a very detailed Ordnance Survey map before you set out.
This holy well is on farmland, so you'll need to speak to the farmer to ask permission to go onto the land - and you should be able to get some precise instructions on exactly where the well is too.
Treloy Holy Well is a small stone building with a pitched roof. There is a long water trough in front of the well housing. The waters of this holy well are alleged to have healing properties
Difficulty to Find: Very
If you see the video alongside, you'll get some clues as to the route.
You need to be down in the woods, closer to longitude/latitude 50.420796,-5.016657, or map National Grid Reference: SW 85799 62248
In Quiller-Couch's book Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, the following explanation and description was given for this well. It is headed: Treloy Welly near Rialton, TRELOY WELL, NEAR RIALTON.
St Pedyr's Well Facts:
- St Pedyr's Well is a medieval holy well; it is a small stone building containing two benches and a spring. It is a scheduled monument (ID 31834)
- First mention of St Pedyr's holy well was in the 17th century.
- 1694: Two people from Stratton, North Devon, were given money to visit the well hoping for a cure for their legs.
- 1824: The well had fallen into decay.
- 1894: Quiller-Couch wrote of this holy well in her book.
- 1925: The well had fallen into decay.
- 1950: The well was discovered to have been destroyed by an apple tree, with stones strewn around
- 1953: The Newquay Old Cornwall Society restored St Pedyr's well.
- 1970: The well seems to have been attributed to St Pedyr, so called St Pedyr's Well (sometimes mis-spelt as St Pedry's Well)
“At the top of Treskeys hill, in an orchard known as Treloy orchard, is a fairly celebrated holy well, in good preservation and much resorted to by artists and other visitors.
"No one appears to remember that it ever possessed any saintly name, or that there were any particular legends or ancient ceremonies connected with it. Some suggest that in addition to supplying water to the Arundells, whose property it was, it also supplied it to the monks at Rialton ; but this seems rather improbable, considering the monks possessed a well close at hand in their own courtyard at the priory.
"The water is considered particularly good and never-failing ; the building over it is of fair size with stone seats. Although nothing is remembered of its holy origin, its sanctity has al- ways been a thing taken for granted ; and the fact that a chapel once stood near it seems sufficient to dismiss all doubt on the subject.”
Route to St Colan's Holy Well near Mountjoy
The Holy Well at St Colan, Lady Nance, Mountjoy, Newquay
This holy well has a long address, for a small well! Situated a few miles out of Newquay, the well is right by the roadside, opposite a house that has the name of "House By the Well". It is easy to find on foot, although parking is difficult simply because it's at the end of a dead end narrow Cornish lane.
To locate this holy well, take the A39 out of Newquay from Quintrell Downs roundabout. After 1.3 miles, right before the Mountjoy road sign, there's a turning on the left. Go down this lane for 0.2 miles and take the first right hand turning. After about 0.1 miles the road will do a 90 degree left turn, follow it round and another 0.1 miles along the road you'll reach the House Next to the Well.
Look to the right and you'll see a 30" brick built cube-shaped structure in the grass verge.
Our Lady of Nance Holy Well
This holy well goes by several names, including Lady Nance Holy Well, Colan Holy Well, even Mountjoy Holy Well. There is another holy well at Colan too though, near the church.
Quiller-Couch used the name of Lady of Nants Well in "Ancient Holy Wells of Cornwall" in 1894, which recounted the annual ritual of the well:
HOLY WELL OF OUR LADY OF NANTS, COLAN.
** Dear old Carew — to whom we owe so much of what our forefathers were like ; tillers, tinners, rich and poor, their civil government and even their recreations — tells us this respecting Lady Nant's Well of his day ; for he did not, in his attention to the past, neglect to make record of the present : —
* Little Colan hath lesse worth the observation, unlesse you will deride or pity their simplicity who sought at our Lady Nant's Well there to foreknowe what fortune should betide them, which was in this maner : —
* Upon Palm Sunday, these idle-headed seekers resorted thither with a palme crosse in one hand, and an offring in the other ; the ofifring fell to the priest's share, the crosse they threw into the well ; which if it swamme the party should outlive that yeere ; if it sunk, a short ensuing death was boded, and not perhaps altogether untruely, while a foolish conceyt of this halsening might sooner helpe it onwards."
Roger Hope, in his book of Legendary Lore, 1893, also included this well, but he used the name Our Lady of Nantswell. He described the Palm Sunday ritual as:
"In former days 'Our Lady of Nantswell' in St Colan's parish, near St Columb Major, was resorted to by men, women and children, to foreknow of the Lady of the Well, on Palm Sunday, what should befall them that year. These pilgrims bore a palm cross in one hand an an offering in the other. The offering fell to the priest's share; the cross was thrown into the well, and if it swam was regarded as an omen that the person who threw it would outlive the year ; if, however, it sank, a short ensuing death was foreboded"
This account had previously been published in The Antiquary Magazine in 1890 (Volume 21, page 31).
Colan Holy Well
There is a holy well across the road from Colan church, opposite the main gate where there are stone seats and a store where bread and ale were given to travellers in the past. The holy well at Colan has strong associations with the holy well at Lady Nance.
On Palm Sundays, there was an old tradition whereby the congregation from Colan Church walked in procession to the well at Lady Nance, carrying their Palm Crosses in one hand and an offering to the vicar in the other hand. Upon arriving at the Lady Nance holy well, they would throw the crosses into the well. If the crosses floated, then the thrower will live for another year; if they sank then the thrower would die within the next year.
Across a few fields to the South West is a hamlet named Lady Nance at which there is another Holy Well. Tradition says that on Palm Sundays the congregation from Colan church proceded to the well at Lady Nance carrying in one hand their Palm Crosses and in the other an offering for the vicar. The Crosses were then thrown down the well-if they floated then the thrower would live for another year-if they sank then the thrower would die within twelve months.
Newquay Holy Wells Distance from Town Centre
|Holy Well||Distance (m/km)||Parking|
St Pedyr, Treloy
On road, then walk 1km.
Crantock Holy Wells
4m (2.5 miles walking)
Beach car park and central square car park.
Rialton Manor, St Columb Minor
Layby at top of the rise.
Colan Holy Well
Lady Nance Holy Well
Holy Wells of Newquay, Cornwall
Holy Wells of Cornwall
There are hundreds of holy wells dotted across Cornwall - ancient, holy and mystical places, steeped in legends, tales and stories of miracle cures.
Many, like the two instances of the holy wells of Crantock, above, have plenty of mystery and research that could be applied to them, for keen enthusiasts or scholars looking for a new book project.
Map of Newquay Holy Wells
The pins in the map show the location of the holy wells within 200 yards or so. For specific locations you need either a good Ordnance Survey map, or to read the instructions and feel up to the challenge, or, you can always ask somebody close to the well exactly where it is.
Why not find out where some of the other holy wells are in Cornwall:
More Cornish Holy Wells:
- The 2 Holy Wells of Holywell Bay, Cornwall
Discover 2 holy wells at Holywell Bay, Newquay, Cornwall.
- St Just Holy Well
Holy Wells are fabulous to visit, whether you're a local, or visiting the area for a weekend or week's holiday. I stumbled across the St Just Holy Well on a recent visit and hope you enjoy this.
cornwall_UK (author) from Cornwall, UK on June 04, 2013:
Hi clairemy - thanks for your comment.
There''s loads more of these, as you know.... and I'm busy writing up some more information about holy wells. It's a limited market of interest, but I love it!
I was out just 2 nights ago taking some photos of one.
Claire on June 04, 2013:
I spent 15yrs living in Cornwal, in fact quite near to Crantock, and visited all the places you have spoken about in this article. I believe Cornwal to be a wonderful and Mystical place anyway, so thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece.
Bob Askell on June 03, 2013:
Fascinating. I am intrigued by these holy wells and will be looking for one or two of these on my holidays in Newquay next month. I was looking for unusual things to do in Newquay when I found this.