It was probably a mistake to turn up in Beddgelert on a hot weekend in August, parking can be a nightmare. I’ve lived before in tourist traps and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But once you escape the ice cream shops and the procession along the riverbank towards the dog’s grave the crowds begin to thin out. I suspect we were the only ones who had come for the well, but to be fair it’s hardly a major draw.
It is believed that a monastery was founded at Beddgelert, possibly as early as the seventh century although evidence is uncertain; however a Celtic foundation remained in existence up to the early thirteenth century when it transitioned, alongside others in the region at Bardsey and Penmon was converted to become an Augustinian Priory.
By the early part of the century the priory church of Valley St Mary had been established and rebuilt probably having the Princes of Gwynedd as patrons. It was damaged several times during the on going wars between England and the Welsh princes, but survived, owning extensive land across Gwynedd and Anglesey, up until 1538 when it was dissolved alongside the other religious houses across Britain.
From that time on the priory church remained to serve the town as a parish church, but the priory buildings collapsed and nothing remains now save for some lumps and bumps in surrounding fields to show where it once stood.
It can only be assumed that, like its contemporaries, the priory would have had an associated holy well., but it seems as though the any holy well at Beddgelert was lost relatively early. It’s Ffynnon Fair is believed to have been located on the side of the road heading south from Beddgelert towards Aberglaslyn, This is no distance as the crow flies from where the priory stood. however it was turned over to much more mundane uses probably in the eighteenth century if not earlier. Rather than Ffynnon Fair it became known as Ffynnon y Person – The Parson’s Well. Jenkins (1899) writes
One of the parsons at Beddgelert had contracted a habit of leading his horse to water at this well, at a certain time every day regularly, and this gave the well its second name. It had been handed over to cattle long before it was ultimately filled up.
That it did once hold a reputation as a healing well comes from a short note from 1861, mentioning this “so called Ffynnon Fair, it is said that the Brothers would help all diseases by the means of the water, old people from past ages would attribute the well with magical powers” . A similar account is given by Myrddin Fardd. These accounts place the well as being near Dinas y Moch, which is just to the north west of the town. It depends on how accurate these accounts are and what distance we can credit as being near to say for sure whether they and Jenkins are describing the same well.
Harold Hughes and Herbert North explored the area in the 1920s and record the location of the well as being “…close to a stream on the right hand side of the road about 200 yards beyond the Royal Goat hotel on the way to Aberglaslyn. The well has been filled in, so there is now nothing left to mark the position.”
Accordingly, we leave a picture of the above mentioned stream below, which we found beside the cemetery gates, as evidence that there is little left to see of Beddgelert’s Ffynnon Fair or Parson’s Well.
To atone for the disappointment in not finding any spring at Beddgelert we travelled a mile further south on the road to Aberglaslyn where the Level Goch spring can be seen gushing from the rocks at the roadside, bright orange to show the signs of old copper mine workings.
Bott, Alan and Margery Dunn (nd) A Guide to the Priory and Parish Church of St Mary, Beddgelert
Fardd, Myrddin (19080 Llen Gwerin Sir Gaernarfon
Hughes, Harold and Herbert R North (1924) The old Churches of Snowdonia.
Jenkins D E (1899) Beddgelert – it’s Facts, Fairies and Folklore
Y Brython. (1861) Notes, February 1861 p53.