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Popular Superstitions - Holy Wells In Cornwall

( Originally Published 1884 )

In Cornwall there are several wells which bear the name of some Patron Saint, who appears to have had a Chapel consecrated to him or her on the spot. This appears by the name of Chapel Saint attached by tradition to the spot. These Chapels were most probably mere Oratories ; but in the parish of Maddern there is a well called Maddern Well, which is inclosed in a complete Baptistery, the walls, seats, doorway, and altar, of which still remain. The socket, which received the base of the crucifix or pedestal of the Saint's image, is perfect. The foundations of the outer walls are apparent. The whole ruin is very picturesque, and I wonder that it is passed over in so slight a manner by all Cornish historians, and particularly by Dr. Borlase, who speaks merely of the virtues superstitiously ascribed to the waters. This neglect in Borlase is the more to be wondered at, as the ruin is situated in his native parish. I was struck with being informed that the superstitious of the neighbour-hood attend on the first Thursday in May to consult this oracle by dropping pins, etc. Why on the Thursday? May not this be some vestige of the day on which Baptisteries were opened after their being kept shut and sealed during Lent, which was on Maunday Thursday ? My informant told me that Thursday was the particular day of the week, though some came on the second and third Thursday. May was the first month after Easter, when the waters had been especially blessed ; for then was the great time of baptism. When I visited this Well last week, I found in it a polianthus and some article of an infant's dress, which showed that votaries had been there.

After the sixth century, these Baptisteries were removed into the church.

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