Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel
|Type||Chapel and well|
Madron Well Chapel (grid reference ) is the ruin of a 12th or 14th-century chapel dedicated to St Madern and occupies the site of a much older Celtic structure. Madron Well (grid reference ) is a spring 200 m to the west. Clouties, or offerings, can be seen on the path to the chapel, near the holy well.
History and description
In 1846 the building's measurements were published in The Archaeological Journal and the roofless building's internal measurements were 20 feet long by 10 feet wide, and the walls are 2 feet thick and 8 or 9 feet high.
Measurements published in The Cornishman newspaper of 15 May 1879 gave the external length as 25 feet by 16 feet breadth and the walls 2 feet thick. The granite altar stone is 5’ 10’’ long, 2’ 7’’ wide and stands 2’ 10’’ above the floor. There is a depression of 9 by 8 inches to contain the portable mensa for the celebration of mass. The altar appears to date from the first-half or middle of the 12th century as do the stone seats and chancel. There is no evidence for any part of the structure being older but the existing structure does suggest an early Christian foundation. The building was partially destroyed by Major Ceely, during the English Civil War. A stream flows through the building and until the 18th-century the well and stream was the only source of water for Madron and Penzance. The stream's course dictates the unusual placing of the entrance which is on the north wall instead of the normal, west of centre.
The chapel was first scheduled on 30 November 1926; it is currently scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and is considered to be of national importance.
The nearby Madron Well, which is now concealed in shrubs and undergrowth, is an example of a Cornish Celtic sacred site and is a ground level natural spring. The well is said to have healing properties and a 17th-century written account tells how, before 1641, John Trelille, a poor cripple, was cured here when he bathed in the water, then slept on a grassy hillock. The hillock was remade every year and was called St Maderne's bed. An old May Day tradition, which was still being observed in 1879, was for many young folks (mainly girls) to head from Penzance before sunrise, to perform a ceremony, to learn the number of years they have to wait before they get married. Two grass stems or straw, each about an inch long were fastened together with a pin and dropped into the water. Any rising bubbles denote the number of years before they get married. The ceremony was no longer held on May Day, but on a Sunday, because the girls work during the week. A tradition at this site persists to this day whereby people attach pieces of rag (clouties) to the nearby bushes as a symbol of appeasement to the spirits within the well (see also Clootie well) – according to a contemporary report in The Cornishman newspaper that tradition was no longer carried out in 1879.
- OS Explorer Map 102. Land's End. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. 2005. ISBN 0 319 23703 6.
- Preston-Jones, Ann. "Scheduled Monument Management Project, 1999-2000". Cornwall Archaeology. 39: 210.
- "Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel". Pastscape. Historic England. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "Madron Well". The Cornishman (44). 15 May 1879. p. 5.
- Charles Thomas (1974). Christian Sites in West Penwith Excursion Guide. Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies. pp. 3–7. ISBN 0 903686 04 X.
- "Medieval chapel known as Madron Well Chapel associated with Madron holy well". Historic England. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- Paris, J A (1824). Guide to Mount's Bay and Land's End (Second ed.). ISBN 978-1507837238.
- French, Colin N; Murphy, Rosaline J; Atkinson, Mary G C (1999). Flora of Cornwall. Camborne: Wheal Seton Press. ISBN 978-0953461301.
- "Madron Well. May Day There". The Cornishman (43). 8 May 1879. p. 4.
- "Churchtown-Stream". The Cornishman (216). 31 August 1882. p. 5.
- Media related to Madron Well, Cornwall at Wikimedia Commons