MDE20254 - Holy Well, North Molton (Monument)


A holy well believed to be of medieval date, ascribed curative powers associated with the eyes. In the 19th Century it was the site of annual revels on Ascension Day. It now serves as a water supply for South Molton.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

SS 7658 3136. Holy Well is depicted and labelled on historic Ordnance Survey mapping editions. [1-3] Reputed to have had healing properties for the eyes. A revel used to be held at the spot annually. It now serves as a water supply for South Molton. [4] A spring, which is surrounded by marsh, issues at SS 76573136, but there is no trace of masonry or the 2.0 metre square ? trough shown on the 25 inch 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. [1,5] Lysons mentions a former chapel at Holywell (MDE14812). [6] The well was deemed to have healing powers and until the 20th Century the villagers walked in procession up the hill once a year, so that the sick and crippled could be dipped in the water in the early morning. [7] The National Grid Reference cited by [4] falls at the foot of a steep natural slope. The area is marshy and overgrown, and the trough referred to by [4] could not be located. Access to the well was from the south, where a terraced track leads from an area of amorphous platforms (see below) along the steep slope to the area of the National Grid Reference. Annett [8] refers to the well thus: "the three kerb stones which once surrounded the top [of the well] may still be felt beneath a thick layer of mud." The well was ascribed curative powers associated with the eyes, and throughout the 19th Century and up to the First World War was visited by pilgrims on Maundy Thursday and Ascension Day. "Holy Well Revels were held annually on Ascension Day, when in the only flat field below the spring, a fair was held, together with sports and dancing. Many stalls were erected, shooting galleries and swing boats..." An area of amorphous scarps and platforms centred at SS 7652 3126 may be associated with quarrying activity or with the revel. Annett [8] also refers to a chapel "one hundred yards downstream from the well", which no longer survives (MDE14812). [9] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [10] The 2021 MasterMap data seems to suggest that the source of the water has moved since the 1st Edition map was surveyed. [1,11]

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. [Mapped feature: #47596 ]
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1892-1906. County Series, 2nd Edition 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. 1905, 15NE.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <4> Serial: Devonshire Association. 1862 -. Devonshire Association reports and transactions. (R Pearse-Chope) Volume 65 (1933), pp 121-122.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Fletcher, M.J.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 7 March 1973.
  • <6> Monograph: Lysons, D. and Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannia: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties of Great Britain; 6: Devonshire. T Cadell and W Davies. Volume 6, p 348.
  • <7> Monograph: Layley, C.G.. c.1980. A short history of the parish church of All Saints, North Molton. Unknown.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Annett, N.. 1965. North Molton and its people: the story of North Molton, a North Devon Parish. Volume 2 (unpaginated).
  • <9> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North and H Chapman, 22 February 1995.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35074, Extant 6 October 2021.
  • <11> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2021. MasterMap data. 1:2,500.



Grid reference Centred SS 7657 3135 (13m by 11m) Water course may have been altered since this mapping edition
Map sheet SS73SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (3)

External Links (0)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 12181
  • Devon SMR: SS73SE/507
  • Environmentally Sensitive Area
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE1210
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 SE3
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35074

Record last edited

Oct 6 2021 1:04PM


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