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St Winifred's Well, Woolston, Shropshire
St Winifreds Well, Woolston, MAP Shropshire, not to be confused with the St Winifreds Well at Holywell, Flintshire
'A rare example of a well covered by a secular building, in this case a half-timbered cottage originally used as a courthouse. The present sixteenth- or seventeenth century building may have succeeded a chapel...the well itself and the pool into which it flows are seen behind the cottage. The various stone troughs through which the water flows could be dammed up to form bathing pools'. - Janet & Colin Bord, Sacred Waters, London 1986, p. 206. There is a photographic plate on p. 97.
St Winifred is a Christian Virgin, Martyr & Abbess, supposed to have been born in Flintshire, Wales and around 660 AD, at Gwytherin in Denbighshire she had her head severed from her body by an enraged suitor called Caradog. He was furious at her religious devotion and her pledge to become a nun caused her to resist all his advances. - Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Anglican Communion her major shrine was in Shrewsbury Abbey, now destroyed although a small part of the shrine base survives.
Holywell, Wales has a fully active Catholic holy well and well-house shrine in her name. The feast day for St Winifred is 3 November - Heraldic attributes: Abbess holding a sword, sometimes with her head under her arm - Patronage at Holywell; Gwytherin and Shrewsbury, against unwanted advances.
In one version of the tale of her beheading, her head rolled downhill and where it stopped, a healing spring appeared. These healing waters are now a shrine called St Winifred's Well in Holywell, the equivalent of Lourdes in Wales. It is believed that the spring at St Winifred's Well in Woolston was as a result of holy relics touching the ground whilst on the way to Shrewsbury Abbey.
St Winifreds Well, Woolston, MAP Shropshire, not to be confused with the St Winifreds Well at Holywell, Flintshire, is at OS Landranger Series - Grid ref: SJ 323244 - Approachable from two directions only. From the north across fields from Park Mill Bridge - bridge number 78 on the Montgomery Arm of the Llangollen Section of the Shropshire Union Canal. Once across the fields there is a double stile bridge over a brook, a tributary of the Rivers Morda, Vyrnwy and Severn in the distance of a few miles. Once over the stile bridge the only path leads to St Winifred's Well, which is underneath a black and white (holiday) cottage of some considerable age.
Approaching from the south west in the village of Woolston there is a latched gate at the end of a farm entrance road with a couple of houses on the right. The latched gate leads you to a narrow grey gravel path that takes you through between two hedgerows that almost form a tunnel . After about a hundred yards you come to the black and white cottage with St Winifred's Well behind and beneath.
'"Woolston's Well", dedicated, according to Hulbert's History of Salop (1838) to St Winifred. Some have sought to explain this dedication (now locally forgotten) by supposing that the relics of St. Winifred may have rested here on their way from Gwytherin in North Wales to Shrewsbury Abbey, in the twelfth century; but it is easily accounted for by the fact that certain small stones spotted with indelible red marks singularly resembling bloodstains are occasionally found in the water, which have obviously led to the former localizing here of the legend of the well which sprang up on the site of St Winifred's decapitation'. - Charlotte S. Burne, Shropshire Folk-Lore, London 1883, pp. 429-30. Miss Burne tells us, p. 430, that she had some of the pebbles examined at the British Museum, 'where the red marks are pronounced not to be mineral, but organic; probably a kind of fresh-water alga' - perhaps the Byssus jolithus formerly found in the Holywell well?
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