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Report No: 2003R082

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Restoration of St James's Well, Jacobstow, Cornwall

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St James's Well, Jacobstow

Restoration and Fencing

Ann Preston-Jones David Attwell December 2003

Report number 2003R082

CORNWALL ARCHAEOLOGICAL UNIT Historic Environment Service, Planning Transportation and Estates, Cornwall County Council Kennall Building, Old County Hall, Station Road, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 3AY tel (01872) 323603 fax (01872) 323811 E-mail cau@cornwall.gov.uk

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Acknowledgements

The work described in this report was funded from Cornwall Archaeological Unit's 'Monument Management' budget: a fund to which English Heritage, the Cornwall Heritage Trust and Cornwall County Council contributes. The work was initiated by Mary Carter of Jacobs tow; organised by David Attwell and Ieuan Davies of the North Cornwall District Council's Coast and Countryside Service, who also did the fencing; while the building work was carried out by Malcolm Ure - all with the full support and co-operation of the Shepherd family, who own the land on which the monument is situated. As a culmination of the project, Jacobstow School participated in a colourful and lively pilgrimage to the well, lead by Jo Tagney. Within Cornwall Archaeological Unit, initial surveying was carried out by Dick Cole and Peter Dudley, and Peter Rose edited the report.

Cover illustration

OS 1st Edition 25 inch map, 1884

© Cornwall County Council 2003
No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. in any form or

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Contents
Summary
4

1
2

Introduction 1.1 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Project background Background Location and setting History of the monument Condition of the monument prior to conservation Aims of the conservation work

5 5 5 5 5 5
6 7

3

Results 3.1
3.1.1

Recording
Description of the well-house

7
7

3.2

Results of the conservation work

8
8 8 8

3.2.1 The well-house 3.2.2 Access 3.2.3 Fencing

3.3
4

Schools involvement 9 9

9

Conclusion References 5.1 5.2 Primary sources Publications

5

9 9

6

Project archive

10

List of Figures 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Location of Stjames's Well 1840 Tithe Apportionment map, with the location of St james's Well shown 1884 1 edition OS 25 inch map 1907 2nd edition OS 25 inch map Stjames's Well before conservation Stjames's Well after conservation The pilgrimage to the well
St

Abbreviations CAU Cornwall Archaeological Unit EH English Heritage NGR National Grid Reference PRN Primary Record Number in Cornwall HER HER Cornwall and the Isles of ScillyHistoric Environment Record NCCCS North Cornwall Coast and Countryside Service

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Summary
St James's Well in Jacobstow is one of the lesser - known of Cornish holy wells. Located in a withy copse on private ground one third of a mile from the parish church, the well nowadays consists of a simple rectangular chamber set into a bank, retaining a half-metre deep pool of spring water. This report is concerned with the conservation works which took place here in July 2002. The work involved rebuilding the front section of the side walls of the chamber, and replacing a missing slate capstone and slate sill. Two low dry stone walls were built to either side of the well to revet the bank into which it is set, the area in front of the well gravelled to make access easier and the area around the well fenced off to protect it from cattle trampling.

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1 Introduction
1.1 Project background
In a survey of holy wells in North Cornwall undertaken by David Attwell (of North Cornwall Coast and Countryside Service: NCCCS) and Mike Millard in 1996, St James's Well in Jacobstow was identified as being in poor condition and in need of some repair. Soon after this in November 1997, David Attwell visited again with Ann Preston-Jones to win support for the principle of funding repairing to the well from Cornwall Archaeological Unit's (CAU's) Monument Management budget. On this occasion, we met the owner and talked with him about the idea of undertaking repairs; but for various reasons no further progress was made at the time. The project was revived again in 2001 through the interest of a local, Mary Carter, who gained support from the owners and sought help from David Attwell. After several further meetings, the restoration work was eventually undertaken in July 2002. Pupils from the local school were involved from an early stage, and in September 2002 the project culminated in a colourful and lively pilgrimage of the children to the well, lead by Jo Tagney.

2 Background
2.1 Location and setting
St James's Well stands at 155 metres above sea level on shales of the Upper Carboniferous Crackington Formation. The surprisingly constant hum of traffic heard at the well's site is a reminder that the well is set just below the ridge which carries the A39 trunk road: an ancient highway which here is also the parish boundary between Jacobstow and the neighbouring parishes of St Gennys and Poundstock. The well stands in a hollow at the head of a stream which runs past Jacobstow Church, also dedicated to St James, one third of a mile to the south-east. To the northwest of the well, the ground rising towards the A39 is catde pasture but to the south-east, in the valley-head, is marshy ground overgrown with willow carr. The well - a small square stone chamber - is set into the bramble and scrub-covered scarp which divides the two areas.

2.2

History of the monument

There are no antiquarian accounts of this well, whose authenticity is deduced instead from early maps. The field in which the well stands is named 'James Well' by the 1840 Tithe Apportionment (Fig 2) and is marked as 'Stjames's Well (remains of)' on the 1884 and 1907 Ordnance Survey 25 Inch maps (Figs 3 and 4). This map evidence is assumed to reflect authentic local tradition that this is the site of a holy well. The absence of any other documentary proof is not unusual for holy wells and other medieval cult sites of secondary importance to the parish church. There is, however, a local folk-tale associated with the well, which was repeated by Richard Heard (1977, 6). The story goes that under the well there lies a crock of gold; and 'if ever man so much as cleans it out there will be thunder and lightening, the Almighty showing his disapproval'. No wonder the weather was so dreadful in the summer of 2002 !

2.3

Condition of the monument prior to conservation

Over forty years ago, Lane-Davies (1960, 29) noted that the holy well of St James seemed 'worth preserving' and that 'the tree above it should be cut down and a channel made for the water to get away'. In 1970, Meyrick found it to be 'rather derelict', difficult to find, used for watering catde and in need of some restoration'. The Ordnance Survey's archaeological surveyor noted in 1976 that the three-sided chamber was 'heavily overgrown'.
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Prior to the conservation work described in this report, the well consisted of three faces of slate masonry, standing almost one metre high, set into a bank, A single slate slab roofed the back half of the well. Water from the well was conducted via an alkathene pipe to an old bath, used as a cattle trough, set a few metres to the south-east. The problems of this monument were associated with long neglect and with cattle trampling. The unmortared back wall of the well was in reasonable condition but the front parts of the two sides wails were unconsolidated and loose, leaning slightly and partly tumbled. The pipe to take the water to the nearby bath/trough was set just below the surface of the water. Around and above the well, the bank into which it is set was thickly overgrown with brambles, gorse, hazel and wild flowers. The ground in the hollow in which the well is set is naturally marshy, but cattle trampling through the area to reach the trough had poached the ground deeply, making it even boggier and more churned up. In 2000, a simple wooden rail and a bit of barbed wire were set in front of the well to prevent cattle from damaging it: but while this certainly kept the cattle off, it also made access for humans more difficult and detracted from the appearance of the monument (Fig 5).

2.4

Aims of the conservation work

In summary, it can be said that the state of the well prior to conservation was due to a combination of neglect and cattle trampling. To counter this, the following project aims were agreed between the owners of the well, David Attwell of NCCCS, Mary Carter and Ann Preston-Jones of CAU. • • • • • • • • • • • • Stabilisation, where necessary, of the original stonework Rebuilding, where necessary, of the front part of the side walls of the structure, in stone retrieved from the site or in a closely matching local stone Replacement of one slate capstone to fonn a more complete roof to the well-house Clearance of silt and debris from the well basin Placing a new slate sill to retain the front edge of the well basin Improving drainage of water from the well by clearing silt and possibly by inserting an extra pipe Rebuilding a low dry stone facing to the bank to either side of the well Clearing vegetation from the bank into which the well is set Surfacing the ground in front of the well with gravel to provide a better drained surface and to make access easier for visitors. Removing the bath/trough well. so that the cattle are not drawn to the immediate vicinity of the

Fencing a small area around the well to prevent cattle from damaging it or poaching the ground around it. To make a full photographic above work. and descriptive record of the well before, during and after the

The overarching principles were that the work should be kept to a minimum necessary to secure the well, should be low key and sympathetic and that there should be no hidden agenda regarding public access.

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3 Results
3.1 Recording
As the work to St James's Well was limited, and the well a very simple structure, the level of archaeological recording was also kept to a minimum. The following elements were involved:

Photography: The well, and its setting, were recorded with black and white prints and colour slides
before work commenced, while work was taking place, and on completion of the project.

5uroey: The well was planned in its setting at the boundary of improved pasture and willow can,
using an Electronic Distance Measurer. The cattle trough/bath, within the survey area were also included. cattle tracks, new fence, and trees

Description: A full description was made of the well-house prior to conservation and after, and notes were made as work proceeded.

3.1.1 Description of the well-house
'Well-house' is almost too grand a name for this feature. 'Well-chamber' might be more appropriate, for St James's Well is a very small, simple structure, with no evidence that it was ever any finer. In essence, the spring water rises from a change in slope or low bank marking the boundary between improved pasture to the north-west and a marshy willow-grown area to the south-east. The water is contained within a small, three-sided, rectangular chamber, open on the south-east, from which water is nowadays taken through an alkathene pipe to a nearby cattle trough. The chamber measures 0.75 metres wide by 1.16 metres deep and is 0.99 metres high from outside ground level. Following the removal of silt and rubble from the well, the basin is 0.6 metres deep below outside ground level and the water 0.5 metres deep (at the time of recording). The walls are constructed of roughly coursed, local stone, with individual stones up to 40 x 15 cm across, and the well is now roofed with two slate capstones (one only before the conservation work). There is no sign of any mortar in the masonry, nor any sign of drill marks in the stonework to take door fittings - although as the front edge of the structure was in the worst condition, evidence for anything like this could easily have been lost. The scarp in which the spring rises has been cut back to accommodate the well-chamber, and the steepened sides of the bank showed signs, before the conservation work, of having been roughly stone faced. To the west of the well, this feature is more of a low bank, rising from 0.1 up to 0.6 metres high. To the west of this bank, a cattle track descends the scarp from the pasture into the copse, but it is possible that the cattle track follows an old path to the well, for two sets of stones set into the track may represent rough steps. In front (to the south-east) of the well, the silt-laden ground is extremely wet and muddy, but more solid ground could be felt beneath the silt. It was postulated that this might represent either rubble from a previous, ruined, structure, or earlier surfacing laid to make access to the well easier. This surface was not investigated in any way.

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3.2

Results of the conservationwork

3.2.1 The well-house The work to the well-house by Malcolm Ure was carried out in July 2002. The aims of the work, set out in section 2.4, were entirely fulfilled. The two front edges of the well chamber were re-built, mainly using stone retrieved from the wellbasin, or found in the vicinity. By using local stone, a good match was achieved between the stone already in the well and the 'new' material. No mortar was used to lay the new stone and as a result, the blend between old and new parts of the structure is excellent. A new Delabole slate capstone, 1.2m long by 0.52m wide and 3cm thick, was used to roof the front part of the chamber; and earthed and turfed over to help the whole structure merge into the bank behind. Below water level, a new alkathene pipe was inserted to carry away water to the trough and a thick Delabole slate slab (79cm long x 35cm wide and 20cm thick) laid to fonn a substantial threshold. The pipe was buried for its entire length within the new enclosure and then laid on the surface to the trough (bath), which was removed to the other side of the copse and a good distance from the well. To either side of the newly re-built well-house, low walls were built to revet the steep sides of the bank into which the well is built. Some local stone was used, but this had to be supplemented with brought-in hedging stone. A single piece of Delabole slate, built into the left hand wall, right next to the well, was carved with '2002', the date of the restoration. These walls, rising from only 15 20cm high to 80 to 90cm high where they abut the well-chamber, are each 2 metres long and curve gently towards each other, leading the eye into the well whose new 'doorway' stands nearly 1 metre high and is 76cm wide. These leading-walls were also topped with earth and turf so that they blend naturally with their surroundings. (See Fig 6.) 3.2.2 Access

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To make access easier to the well, where muddy ground had previously made it very difficult to approach, chip pings were laid, in a radius of 4 to 5 metres from the well: in front of it, to either side, and on the path leading down the scarp into the corpse. Obtained from a local quarry the shades of the chip pings which vary from blue to grey and brown to buff, is a fortunate blend which matches the local stone well and reflects the dappled light within the copse. 3.2.3 Fencing

The decision over how large an area to protect around the well and what sort of fencing would be appropriate was a difficult one. The fact that some sort of fencing was needed, to protect the newly-restored well from cattle trampling was never in doubt. However, some of us who were involved in the project felt that the ideal would be to fence off the entire willow-copse which forms the setting for the well. But clearly, this would be a very large area for the fanner to loose from his field: and an area which gives the cattle useful shade in the summer. The extreme alternative under consideration was to erect a metal 'park pale-type' fence, similar to that used recently and with considerable success at St Ruan's Well in Grade parish on the Lizard (prestonJones et al2003). Unfortunately though, the very high cost of erecting a metal fence on a sloping site would have meant that only a very small area could be fenced - with the possible result that the fence would over-dominate the well and make any visitors feel huddled and squashed! In the event, a compromise was reached, which involved fencing an area of approximately 10 x 12 metres around the well, using wooden posts and two strands of barbed wire, with a strand of plain wire at the bottom, so that cattle would be excluded but sheep allowed in to help keep the vegetation down. A wooden bridle gate for access was provided in the north-east comer of the enclosure.

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3.3

Schools involvement

Children from Jacobstow School's Environment Club were involved at an early stage with practical work at the well, preparing it for restoration. Then, in September 2003, the children prepared and rehearsed with Story teller Jo Tagney for a colourful and imaginative pilgrimage to the newly restored well. From the school, the children processed past Jacobstow Church, through shady woods, across fields, over stiles, up dusty lanes and across green pastures to the cool well-house, acting, singing, dancing, and :finallysharing the spring water (Fig 7).

4 Conclusion
The overall conclusion of this project must be that the work has resulted in a transformation to St James's Well and its setting. The transformation, however, is not inappropriate and startling, but subde: a re-discovery and an enhancement of an important feature which might otherwise have become lost in all but name. The finished appearance of the well is simple, but satisfactory and harmonious. The leading walls invite you in, to inspect a structure which is now more of a feature, but not over-elaborate: the simple slate-built walls being, in all probability, a close replica of what was there before. The one feature which did rather jar at first was the new surfacing of stone chippings. At first, these looked rather fresh and intrusive but there is no doubt that with time they will tone down and blend in, and that grass will creep in to hide the edges. Their very big advantage is that they allow visitors to look at the well without the worry of getting stuck in the mud. But the key to the future survival of the well must be in ensuring that it is a living part of the community. And by involving the local school in a festive 'medieval' pageant and pilgrimage to the well has surely ensured that the present generation of children in Jacobstow will never forget or neglect St James's Well.

5 References
5.1
1. 11.

Primary sources
1840 1884 Tithe Apportionment Survey (Microfiche at CAU) OS 25 Inch map

5.2

Publications

Heard, RM, 1977. 'News from the Area Correspondents', Cornwall Archaeological Society Newsletter, 24. Lane-Davies, A, 1970. HolY Wells of Cornwall, Old Cornwall Society publication. Meyrick, J, 1982. A pilgrim s guide to the holY wells of Cornwall. Ordnance Survey, 1976. Archaeological Index Card, SX 19 NE 5. Preston-Jones, A, et al, 2003. St Ruan's Well, Grade: conservation and landscaping, CAU report.

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6 Project archive
The CAU project number is PR2002003 The project's docwnentary, photographic and drawn archive is housed at the offices of Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall County Council, Kennall Building, Old County Hall, Station Road, Truro, TRI 3AY. The contents of this archive are as listed below: 1. A project file containing site records and notes, project correspondence and administration. 2. Field plans stored in an A2-size plastic envelope (GRE 208). 3. Black and white photographs archived under the following index numbers: 1476/3-5 5. TIlls report held in digital form as: G:/DOCUMENT Report.doc /SITES/SlTES GBP 1443/17-19;

4. Colour slides archived under the following index numbers: GCS 33711 - 33718; 33766 - 33774 S/St James' Well

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Fig 5

S t J ames J- Well before conservation work

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StJame.r'.r Well after conservation work

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Fig 7

The piigrimage to the .weiL

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