St Winefrides Well, Holywell

St Winefride's or Winifred's Well is located in Holywell, Flintshire. It claims to be the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Great Britain and is a grade I listed building.
The well is believed to be connected to St Mary's well and chapel in Cefn Meiriadog, Denbighshire. It is one of the few locations mentioned by name in the anonymous medieval alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The healing waters have been said to cause miraculous cures. The legend of Saint Winifred tells how, in AD 660, Caradog, the son of a local prince, severed the head of the young Winifred after she spurned his advances. A spring rose from the ground at the spot where her head fell.

Winifred's head was subsequently rejoined to her body due to the efforts of her uncle, Saint Beuno and she was restored to life. Seeing the murderer leaning on his sword with an insolent and defiant air, Beuno invoked the chastisement of heaven, and Caradog fell dead on the spot, the popular belief being that the ground opened and swallowed him. Beuno left Holywell, and returned to Caernarfon. Before he left, the tradition is that he seated himself upon a stone, which now stands in the outer well pool, and there promised in the name of God "that whosoever on that spot should thrice ask for a benefit from God in the name of St. Winefride would obtain the grace he asked if it was for the good of his soul."

After eight years spent at Holywell, Winifred felt inspired to leave the convent and retire inland. She embarked on a pilgrimage to seek for a place of rest. Ultimately she arrived at Gwytherin near the source of the River Elwy in Denbighshire, where she later became a nun and abbess.

The well is mentioned in an old rhyme as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. It has been a pilgrimage site since the 7th century and has led to Holywell becoming known as the Lourdes of Wales.

After a shrine was established in Shrewsbury around 1138, both it and St. Winefride's Well (from her name's Latin spelling) became important pilgrimage destinations.

Richard I visited the site in 1189 to pray for the success of his crusade, and Henry V was said to have travelled there on foot from Shrewsbury in 1416.

In the late 15th century, Lady Margaret Beaufort had a chapel built overlooking the well, which now opens onto a pool where visitors may bathe. Some of the structures at the well date from the reign of King Henry VII or earlier. Later, King Henry VIII caused the shrine and saintly relics to be destroyed, but some have been recovered to be housed at Shrewsbury and Holywell.

James II is known to have visited the well with his wife Mary of Modena during 1686, after several failed attempts to produce an heir to the throne. Shortly after this visit, Mary became pregnant with a son, James. Princess Victoria, staying in Holywell with her uncle King Leopold of Belgium, visited the Well in 1828.

There are 20 items in this collection

  • 24
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 22
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 24
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 30
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 18
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 33
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 22
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 15
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 12
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 20
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 22
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save
  • 34
  • Use stars to collect & save items login to save