Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel

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Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel
Madron Well - - 237874.jpg
Madron well
Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel is located in Southwest Cornwall
Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel
Shown within Southwest Cornwall
Coordinates50°08′26″N 5°34′30″W / 50.14062°N 5.57509°W / 50.14062; -5.57509Coordinates: 50°08′26″N 5°34′30″W / 50.14062°N 5.57509°W / 50.14062; -5.57509
TypeChapel and well
Site notes
OwnershipBolitho Estate
Public accessYes

Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel is a scheduled Ancient Monument in the civil parish of Madron, Cornwall, UK.

Madron Well Chapel (grid reference SW446328) 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 SW445327) is a spring 200 m to the west. Clouties, or offerings, can be seen on the path to the chapel, near the holy well.


The chapel and well are 1 mile to the north-west of the village of Madron and is within the civil parish of the same name.[1] The Bolitho estate owns the monument.[2]

History and description[edit]

The remains of Madron Well Chapel
The altar stone in the chapel

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[3] The building was partially destroyed by Major Ceely, during the English Civil War.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

It is a classic site for the nationally scarce Cornish moneywort (Sibthorpia europaea), first reported here in 1824.[7][8]


Clouties tied to a tree near Madron Well

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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[9] 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.[9]

In 1882 there was a proposal to pipe water from the well to Madron Churchtown at a cost of £150, Mr T S Bolitho offered to contribute to the cost.[10]


  1. ^ OS Explorer Map 102. Land's End. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. 2005. ISBN 0 319 23703 6.
  2. ^ Preston-Jones, Ann. "Scheduled Monument Management Project, 1999-2000". Cornwall Archaeology. 39: 210.
  3. ^ a b Historic England. "Madron Well and Madron Well Chapel (424435)". PastScape. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Madron Well". The Cornishman (44). 15 May 1879. p. 5.
  5. ^ a b c Charles Thomas (1974). Christian Sites in West Penwith Excursion Guide. Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies. pp. 3–7. ISBN 0 903686 04 X.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Medieval chapel known as Madron Well Chapel associated with Madron holy well (1006728)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  7. ^ Paris, J A (1824). Guide to Mount's Bay and Land's End (Second ed.). ISBN 978-1507837238.
  8. ^ French, Colin N; Murphy, Rosaline J; Atkinson, Mary G C (1999). Flora of Cornwall. Camborne: Wheal Seton Press. ISBN 978-0953461301.
  9. ^ a b "Madron Well. May Day There". The Cornishman (43). 8 May 1879. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Churchtown-Stream". The Cornishman (216). 31 August 1882. p. 5.

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