St. Winifride's Well

A Well reputed to have healing powers and a chapel are located on the site, a place of pilgrimage for 1300 years. 

The Chapel was built over the well in 1490.


Winifred( the Anglicised version of Winifride) was a 7th century Welsh woman, the daughter of a local chief and neice of St Bueno Her family connections mean that she is sometimes called a princess.

Winifride was pursued by a suitor named Caradoc, but when she told him that she had decided to become a nun, Caradoc flew into a rage and cut off Winifrides head with a sword.

There are different versions of this story one being that her head rolled down the hill and where it came to rest a spring gushed out from the ground.

This spring and the well that later developed around it have been thought to have healing powers ever since Winifride`s uncle Bueno was passing and managed to reattach the head to the body.

He then called the wrath of Heaven on Caradoc and he was struck dead on the spot and the ground swallowed his body whole Bueno then vowed that if anyone should sit or stand on that spot and ask God three times for help it would be granted.

The stone on which he made this vow is known as Bueno`s stone and lies in the outer pool of the holy well.

As for Winifride she became a nun at Gwytherin (Denbs) Abbey eventually becoming the abbess she died around 660AD and was buried at the abbey but in 1138 her bones were carried with great ceremony to Shrewsbury Abbey which became popular as a pilgrimage during medieval times, Reference can be made of this period in Ellis Peter`s novel “ A Morbid Taste For Bones” in the Brother Cadfael mysteries.

After the story of St. Winifride the spring at Holywell quickly became known as a place of pilgrimage and healing, It is the oldest pilgrimage site in the British Isles. From the 15th century it belonged to nearby Basinwerk Abbey.

The unique shrine you see today ,along with the Well Chapel, is dated from c.1500. The buildings were reputedly funded by Henry Tudor`s mother Margaret Beaufort, after he had become King Henry V11in 1485.

The well is in a chamber which is open on one side, to the pool in which the pilgrims can bathe The upper storey houses the Chapel nave
When the grandson, of Margaret Beaufort, Henry V111, came to the throne and during the reformation he caused the shrine and saintly relics to be destroyed but some have been recovered and are housed at Shrewsbury and Holywell.

In the 17th century the well became known as a symbol of the survival of Catholic recusancy in Wales.

From early in their mission to England,the Jesuits supported the Well,In 1605 Many of those involved with the Gunpowder Plot visited it with Father Edward Oldcome to give thanks for his recovery from cancer or as some said to plan “The Plot”.

James II is known to have visited with his wife Mary of Modena during 1686 after several failed attempts to produce an heir to the throne and shortly after this visit Mary became pregnant with a son,James.

In 2005 a museum and library were opened in the Victorian building , formerly home to the Well`s custodians.

Objects on display include a reliquary casket from c 800 known as Arch Gwenfrewi(Winifride`s coffin).

This is thought to be the oldest known object directly connected to a native Welsh saint.

Also on show are 17th century chalice veils depicting St Winifride, signed by Mary Bodenham, she embroidered the veils after seeing her father-in-law, Sir Roger Bodenham,being cured at the well in 1606.

There is also a child`s bodice providing a rare insight to the clothing of the ordinary people at that time It survived because it was used to wrap relics of Catholics who were martyred in that that era for refusing to become Protestants.