Dupath Well

Dupath Well
Dupath Well

Set in bucolic, rolling countryside a short distance from Callington is what appears to be a curiously small, but sturdily built chapel. This is in fact Dupath Well, the most impressive and best preserved example of a medieval well house in Cornwall.

This pretty little building dates back to 1510 and is believed to have been built by the Augustinian priory of St Germans, once the seat of the Bishops of Cornwall. Apparently the building was approved a century earlier by Bishop Stafford and the well is dedicated to St Ethelred.

The structure of the well house is entirely of large, cut granite blocks. This even extends to the roof is which is particularly impressive, being made of long stones that span the length of the building. Positioning these massively heavy stones would have been a true feat of medieval engineering.

Each corner of the roof is decorated by a small granite turret, while above the entrance is a much more elaborate, steeple-like decorative structure. The resulting appearance is something like a miniature church, which in some senses it is. Dupath Well House has been used as an oratory (a place for contemplative prayer) and baptistry (where people were baptised) over the years.

Although the little chapel itself is medieval, like many Christian sites in Cornwall the origins far pre-date this. Dupath Well house sits on a small spring which has long been associated with health-giving and healing powers. It is said the waters can help cure skin diseases and whooping cough. Whilst there might not be much demand for the latter people do still visit the well for its curative powers.

Within the well house is an "immersion pool" where the water collects. This trough is just about big enough to form a shallow bath allowing an adult to "bathe" in the holy water. There is also a small granite collecting bowl outside of the building.

A legend that predates the well and gives further reason for its location is that of dueling Saxon chieftains, Gottlieb and Sir Colan. The story goes that this is the site the two fought to the death for the hand of a fair maiden. Sir Colan was triumphant and built the well as penance for his deed. However, he to succumbed to a wound from the duel and died soon after.