Ffynnon Fair or St Mary’s Well is at Cefn in Denbighshire.
We didn’t realise you needed permission to visit the well, we didn’t find that out until later. Finding it was a challenge, mainly because we’d forgotten the map. After driving from St Aspah to Denbigh and back looking for signs we were forced to return to Denbigh and find a shop open enough to sell us an OS map on a bank holiday.
That got us close enough, and after asking a lady in a cottage up the lane for directions we finally found the route. Down a track, through a gate across a field of cows (always wary of cows), where we paused to watch a herd of wild deer grazing before they jumped a barbed wire fence, across a very boggy stream we finally found the well site.
Amongst other things the claim to fame of St Mary’s at Cefn is that it is the picture on the cover of my copy of the well hunters Bible Holy Wells of Wales by Francis Jones, at least that’s why I chose to visit there today.
The setting is sublime, a broad river valley flanked by steeply sloping woodland, the well lies beside a gloriously ruined chapel, encircled by an iron fence, and totally overgrown. Much more so than in the accompanying pictures.
The earliest part of the chapel building is thought to date from the 13th Century. In the 15th Century a chancel was added and the well basin was rebuilt. The basin is in the form of a star, similar to the more famous well at Holywell which Lady Margaret Beaufort had built in the same century. This has led to speculation that she was also involved in the construction of St Mary’s Well as the expansion of the chapel would have required substantial funds.
Following the Reformation the well began to fall into disrepair though there are records dating from the 1640s which make references to clandestine marriages being conducted there. By the 18th Century the chapel was in ruins and the pilgrimages had ended.
The well itself is contained in a star shaped stone enclosure just outside the chapel , it was flowing freely, out of the well and down through the chapel and the water was very cold on a hot day, I’m sure I felt better for touching it – but the woodland setting, on a hot day makes it a perfect place for a pilgrimage anyway.
as I had forgotten to take a camera too, the photos are taken from the BBC website