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St Werstan's Holy Well



NGR 77378 45830
Site Number: C124
By Bruce Osborne and Cora Weaver (C) 2012
Area 1. Malvern Town Centre Springs and Wells
Malvern Hills, England


Location: in the general vicinity of the house known as Bello Sguardo, named after the famous residence of the Duke of Florence.
Description: there is an occasional small outfall from a pipe, though the exact location of St Werstan's Well is lost.

The site west of Rose Bank Gardens is of great antiquity and importance to Malvern. At the northern end of the gardens are the 99 steps. This is an ancient processional way going back to medieval times, linking a hermitage with the priory. The location can be determined from the 1744 estate map where the building survives as St Michaels Hermitage.
 
In the 1820s author Mary Southall recorded that James Bannister, the proprietor of the cottage built over the walls of Werstan's chapel, 'in removing the earth behind the cottage, found a number of earthen-pipes curiously constructed, so as to slide one into another, evidently for the purpose of conveying the water from St. Ann's Well to the hermitage.'[1]
 
St Werstan is the patron saint of Malvern Springs and Wells and the lower outfall of the St Ann's valley spring is believed to be the remnants of the original St Werstan's Well. Early documents relating to the site confirm the presence of a water source here, where the ancient hermitage was located.
 
In April 1919 Dr Henry Jacob gave a lecture on Malvern Past and Present. He said that just because at that time he couldn't track the legend of St Werstan back past the Priory Church's fifteenth century windows, or the words of the traveller John Leland c.1540, 'this beautiful legend would not be summarily consigned to the limbo of discredited fable'. Since then extensive research and the publication of The Illumination of St Werstan the Martyr (2006) has enabled the legend to be verified as fact.

From the above we can conmclude that St Werstan founded his hermitage in the valley below the present day St Ann's Well building where the house Bello Squardo is situated at the northern end of Rose Bank Gardens. A late 19th-century guide book recorded that, 'The site of St Werstan's Chapel is now generally identified with a place formerly known as The Hermitage, now called indifferently Il Bello Sguardo Holy Walk.' [2] Werstan lived in a cave initially in the sandstone outcrop and his martyrdom occurred in the early 1050s when the Celts attacked the area. He was replaced by Aldwyn who received a charter from Edward the Confessor. Werstan's hermitage became the founding site for the first formal religious establishment during the reign of William the Conqueror and this led to the eventual establishment of the priory and Malvern town itself. It is likely that the spring was venerated in the early days as a healing spring named after the martyred saint and this gave rise to the long term tradition of it being a healing well. The naming of the source as St Ann's occurred much later and the construction of a building for the well eventually took place at the head of the valley, well above the original site of St Werstan's oratory.[3]

The springs that have an easterly aspect were anciently regarded as of special merit. Their purity and medicianl qualities were in part derived from the morning sun rising and shining upon them, thus preventing any bad effects from the morning "damps". This particularly applied in the summer season and would be a consideration when Werstan determined the siting of his hermitage.[4]
 
 
 
 


In the year 2005 the St Werstan Award was created, honouring the martyr's name, This is in recognition of the lasting impact that he had on Malvern when pioneering the first religious settlement in the locality of the present day St Ann's Well. It is fitting that his name is being linked with this scheme to encourage enhancement of Malvern's water heritage. The Award is a public recognition of outstanding endeavour in the conservation or renovation of Malvern springs and wells and their immediate environment. The award is administered by the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells and is in conjunction with Coca-Cola Malvern The Original English Water. Click the logo above to find further details of the awards.

Illustrations:
1. The 99 Seps, formerly a processional way between the Priory and St Werstan's hermitage, now part of Rosebank Gardens.
2. St Werstan - patron saint of Malvern Springs and Wells.
3. On the Foley Estate map of 1744, St Michael's Hermitage is all that remains of Werstan's mid-11th century monastic establishment, which was built downhill from St Ann's spring.
4. The Abbey Gateway and St Werstan's oratory, later dedicated to St Michael, higher on the hills above the Priory where the waters from St Ann's Well valley would have made this a good place to reside in medieval times. 

 
Footnotes:
[1] Southall, M (1825) A Description of Malvern. p.51.
[2] Norman May's Guide to Malvern, Norman May & Co Ltd (1895), p14.
[3] Osborne B E. Weaver C W. The Illumination of St Werstan the Martyr, 2007.
[4] Chambers J. A General History of Malvern 1817. p.115.

 
The map alongside is a small section of our more comprehensive map of the area. For the complete map together with a description and history of this site see "Celebrated Springs of the Malvern Hills" (2012).

 

Click on Website below or the top banner to go to the DISCOVERY TRAIL INDEX of springs and wells.
 




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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

 

Celebrated Springs of 
THE MALVERN HILLS
  

 

A definitive work that is the culmination of 20 years researching the springs and wells of the Malvern Hills, published by Phillimore. This is the ideal explorers guide enabling the reader to discover the location and often the astounding and long forgotten history of over 130 celebrated springs and wells sites around the Malvern Hills. The book is hard back with dust cover, large quarto size with lavish illustrations and extended text. Celebrated Springs contains about 200 illustrations and well researched text over a similar number of pages, together with seven area maps to guide the explorer to the locations around the Malvern Hills. It also includes details on the long history of bottling water in the Malvern Hills.


Written by Bruce Osborne and Cora Weaver, this book is available on-line for £15.00 (delivered UK) - click Malvern Bookshop on the green panel top left. Alternatively send a cheque payable to Cora Weaver with your name and address to 4 Hall Green, Malvern, Worcs. WR14 3QX.





1) TOPOGRAPHICAL LOCATION:
Malvern Hills - arguably Britain's original National Park
2) LANDSCAPE:
Rolling Countryside
3) INFORMATION CATEGORY:
A Spring, Spout, Fountain or Holy Well Site
4) MALVERN SPRING OR WELL SITE DETAILS:
1 SPLASH - Lost - Nothing Much To See
5) GENERAL VISITOR INFORMATION:
Access On Foot
On Private Property








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