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Holy well based at Cothelstone Bishops Lydeard Nr Taunton Somerset

In 2008 Becky came across a small medieval well on an OS map. When she eventually found the well it was very overgrown and in need of restoration, which was particularly sad as it was Grade 2 listed and had once been considered one of the most beautiful wells in the County. Becky contacted the landowner who gave her permission to clean up the site.

The Well is in Cothelstone, in the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, less than 10 miles from Bridgwater.

This is a beautiful ancient Well House Grade 2 star listed building. It sits nestled in a field to the north-east of Cothelstone Manor House, and by the side of the road from Bishop's Lydeard to Bagborough.
This photograph was taken upon the first visit.

It has a long history of legends and folklore. It was said to have been a wishing well of considerable power, but many local people wouldn't use it because it was also the place where mischievous pixies lived. It lies close to a stream called, " Pixie Stream."

It seems that one of its main magical properties was to divine the love of a person and some said it was used to aid fertility. On the eve of St Agnes's feast day (20 January), virgins used divinations to 'discover' their future husbands.

The wellhouse has a cut stone head. Inside the water rises from the centre then flows out under the door - stop. If you visit please do not be tempted to throw in coins as the water is so pure it is used by the local manor and for the animals. Its been suggested that the well-house may have been inspired by an Agnes Cheyney, who wed the local squire, Edward Stowel. Horne ( 1923 ) author of a book of Somerset Holy wells,describes it as "the most beautiful of the Holy wells of Somerset."

In 1987 the Friends of The Quantocks repaired the Well and have since offered £100 to its current repair. In early Spring 2008 I discovered the well marked on a local map. On my first visit with my partner it was difficult to see. We decided to approach the landowner to ask permission to clear the area so the well could become more visible Mr Hugh Warmington was more than happy to allow the well to be seen.

It was agreed we would write a bid to apply for funding from the Quantock Hills Sustainable Development Fund. Iain Porter the Development Officer for Sustainable Development Fund started to become involved and has been invaluable. It was agreed that this project fitted into the funds criteria and permission was granted to start the repair work needed. We agreed to involve the local community and invited the Huntspill Project. This service is, " Somerset Work Preparation Service," which is part of Somerset County Council. It provides training, support and preparation towards employment for adults with learning disability.

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    We engaged the local archaeology department and conservation officers

    The project started to clear the growth around the site and footpath to make it more accessible and to prepare for a site visit of Bob Croft County Archaeologist; Somerset County Council, Diane Hartnall Conservation Officer and Stephen.
    The site visit happened in early September 2008. It was decided to dig a small trough to explore if there was any original base around the wellhouse. It was also agreed that because of the Grade two listed status further permission would have to be sought before more work could be carried out.

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    Clearing the site

    The work to clear the site for the stonemason was extensive but we were fortunate to have some willing volunteers.

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    Visit by Mike Orchard Stonemason from Orchard Stonemasons . Mike is going to see if he can create an area so the water can flow into a place where you can collect water or wash your hands as the well door will be locked. After looking round the site we found lots of old sandstone which may at one time have created a paved area around the well itself. The sandstone could have been taken from the local quarrys in Paradise Combe which are now not in use.

    Mike has a real passion for historic building conservation work and spoke of a real passion for historical places. He met the team from the Huntspil project and the following pictures were taken 12/09/08 show the final removal of ivy from the top of the well and Mike Orchard preparing his quote for the project.

Well history

I located a book dated 1928 written by Richardson which talks of 45 houses in the parish of Cothelstone of which 16 were supplied by a private undertaking belonging to W.C.H Esdaile.
Richardson 1928 Wells and Springs of Somerset. London
It is apparently similar in deign to St Brewards Well in Cornwall which is said to cure sore eyes for an offering of pins. Its also been noted that St Agnes has a similar design to a Holy well near Camelford in Cornwall.
In relation to St Agnes well the history says that Edward Stawel married Agnes who was the daughter of John Cheyney of Pinhoe in Devon in the reign on Henry V11 (Henry VII (January 28, 1457 - April 21, 1509),. Horne suggests this maybe the date of the well building.
Rev Farther Horne lecture Some of the Holy Wells of Somerset Printed at Journal Press Reprinted from Keenes Bath Journal January 1915

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October 2008 - Digging Holes with Archaeologists

In October we have been blessed with the opportunity to dig some holes with Bob Croft from the County Archaeologist. He arrived armed with a spade and a packet of Ginger Nuts to help the team from the Huntspill project look for old foundations. It was important to know if the building had an original path around the edge of the well. This would have instructed us how to build the floor around the well. Mr Croft also wanted to know if the building was Grade two listed or Grade two star listed. This makes such a difference when you are doing restoration work.

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February 2009 - Kissing Gate

The start of 2009 has shown all sorts of activity. The next part of the project involves contractors levelling the ground and preparing for the stone mason. We are also having a kissing date installed ( suitable for a lover well don't you think!) and a small wooden sign pointing towards the well

Location of proposed leaflets

Before creating a leaflet for the well I wanted to approach the local rector Michael Wishart. He informed me that they had received Heritage Lottery awarded a grant for £23, 700, which will enable a Medieval Fayre to take place on 12/13 September 2009 in the field opposite the well. He informed me that planning for which has already begun and it promises to be even better than last year. The theme is, the Charter of Edward I, which will be pivotal to the entire proceedings, and, involves local schools and the museum, the Fayre . He was most interested in the well and said in his 5 years of being in the parish he had never heard of it. He has agreed for leaflets when ready to be placed in both St Thomas Church at Cothelstone and St Marys Church at Bishops Lydeard.

Dating the Well

I have been fortunate to be offered help in this department by Dr Richard Lee is a researcher from the National Wells Index run by http://www.hereditarius.org.uk his response was as follows:

" The well is a most interesting site. There are numerous comparisons for the structure, especially in the South West. The diagnostic element is the doorway. Both Horn and the EH SMR point to this doorway being Medieval and, though this is said with deep reservation on my behalf, I cannot see anything to explicitly challenge this logic.
The logic is as follows: the door conforms to a sub-group of a style of gothic design, also known by, and indeed cited by Horn as, the perpendicular style. Now because the date range for the Gothic style is 12ish to early 16th century, and the perpendicular exists mostly from the 14th to early 16th century, so the well is late medieval.
Now as to my thinking on this. Well this is such a provincial piece of work it is hard to guess what style it is, or even if it was meant to imitate a style. I think the perpendicular dating is optimistic, but it still appears to lend a credible date to the site I think when the broader history of wells is considered. I doubt this doorway is symptomatic of the gothic revival from the mid 18th century, so I think until anything more diagnostic comes along then I to would ascribe, with caution, for as EH says this is a very difficult to date site with little diagnostic in the architecture, to the 15-18 century with 19-20c alterations, probably with elements occurring earlier rather than later in this range. "

Dr Richard Lee

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    April / May 2009 - Well Update

    Work has started at the end of April to create the wonderful stone basin around the front of the well. Mike from Orchard Stonemasons has created a beautiful stone channel and basin from the well. The water now flows into this space on its way towards the river.

    The gate has been moved to help with accessibility and the blue lias stone has been individuals cut and placed to give an area where people can stand and place their hands in the water.

    As Mike was digging he found a beautiful engraved stone with the words St Agnes and a small cross. We have no idea of the date of this engraving do you?

    No cement has been used in any part of creating this stone front just a huge amount of skill to place the stones to create the desired effect.

    The next job is painting the railings, fixing the sign and seeing if we can find further funding to continue with the stone work and create a much needed information sheet. Hugh Warmington is working on the new door for the well to secure the water supply.

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    April 2010

    It's hard to believe a year has passed. The door is now fitted and we are still waiting for the railings to be painted and the information board to be placed. Various volunteer teams from ANOB have been cancelled due to bad weather. We have however finished the leaflet which combines three wells St Decumans in Watchet, The Chalice Well in Glastonbury and this well.

    The next challenge will be to find a way of raising the remaining monies needed to complete the stonework around this well around £2,000 at the last count

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August 2010

In the summer sunshine the well looks so lovely. I have added some recent photographs to the gallery. It would be great to hear from you if you have paid the well a visit.

May 2011

The well has experienced a sudden burst of greenery due to recent rain. The Huntspill Project who kindly tended to its maintenance is now going to be very limited with all the recent cuts to services. This means its down to you and I to help look after it. Can you spare a few hours to go and help clear some of the greenery growing around the well? I would love to hear from you if you can.

March 2012

Today I met the Entry to Land Based Studies group based at Bridgwater Colleges Cannington Centre at St Agnes Holy Well. They have agreed to continue with the maintenance of the well about every six weeks. The group were so enthusiastic about the project and enjoyed listening to the many stories associated with the well. They hope to start in two weeks time.

March 2015

We have been successful with a funding bid to Heritage Lottery and Bishops Lydeard Parish Council and are very excited to be launching a new project connecting your people and heritage. Please see our press release for further information click here

May 2016

The 14 month project is completed. You can view all the work by downloading an App with this link