St Warna's Well

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St Warna's Well - St Agnes - Isles of Scilly
St Warna's Well

Set on the western fringe of Wingletang Down, next to a small craggy cove on St Agnes' southern shore is St Warna's Well. Comprising of a stone-lined chamber beneath a grassy mound this holy well dates back to Celtic times.

Built on the site of a natural spring the well would have been quite religiously significant. In ancient times springs were often viewed as a direct connection to the underworld and had various superstitions and ceremonies attached to them. With the coming of Christianity to the shores of Cornwall in the 5th or 6th century many such sites were "christianised" although features of the old religion remained.

St Warna's Well - Isles of Scilly
St Warna's Well

The holy well is dedicated to St Warna, of whom little is known and her name is unique to this locale. It is said she sailed across from Ireland on a wicker coracle covered in hide and lived beside the well. Apparently, she had better luck as a seafarer than the many who were shipwrecked on these most-westerly of shores.

One of the most enduring superstitions attached to St Warna's Well consists of throwing pins into the well. The pins were offered to the saint to help steer ships away from the treacherous rocks which lie on the western fringes of the Scillies. However, a dark twist to this custom was the offering of bent pins; here the idea was to draw ships onto the rocks so the locals could plunder their cargo. In those days the bounty from wrecks on the island's coast actually provided an important additional income to the islanders.

Today you may still find the odd offering in the well, but this is usually a coin or two, thrown in for good luck. The spring beneath the well still provides some water for most of the year.