Ffynnon Fair holy well, near Uwchmynydd

Ffynnon Fair holy well, near Uwchmynydd

Below the Wales Coast Path here is a well which people used to visit at low tide, believing that their wish would be granted if they managed to carry a mouthful or handful of water from the well up the slope to Capel Fair (St Mary’s Chapel).

uwchmynydd_st_marys_chapelFfynnon Fair (which means St Mary’s Well) is submerged by seawater at high tide. Freshwater gathers in a pool there at low tide.

The picture of the ruined chapel, with Ynys Enlli (Bardsey) beyond, is shown here courtesy of the National Library of Wales. It was made by Moses Griffiths for Thomas Pennant’s books about his travels in Wales in the late 18th century.

Pennant wrote that devotees would descend “by a circuitous and most hazardous path to get, at low water, a mouthful of the spring”. If they carried the water safely to the summit of Maen Melyn “their wish, whatsoever it was, was surely to be fulfilled”. This was under the protection of St Mary.

He explained that the chapel was built so that seamen could call on St Mary for protection on the dangerous waters of Swnt Enlli (Bardsey Sound), the sea between here and Bardsey. Nothing remains of the chapel except some earth banks denoting the foundations. According to Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, the circular foundations at the west end, along with the remains depicted by Moses Griffiths, suggest the chapel had a tower, possibly to make it easier for mariners at sea to spot the building as a landmark.

According to an article in the American newspaper Y Drych in 1914 (drawing on an 1886 publication), pilgrims used the chapel and its dormitories to rest and to ask St Mary to ensure their safe passage to Bardsey. The chapel was said to have been filled with decorations, tokens of gratitude and memorial stones to departed saints (all Christians who travelled to Bardsey to die were regarded as saints).

In 1904 a teenage girl, daughter of a Manchester judge, fell into the sea near Ffynnon Fair and drowned during a picnic outing. Her inquest was held at the Tŷ Newydd Hotel, Aberdaron.

With thanks to Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Read more of Thomas Pennant’s Welsh travel stories – National Library of Wales website

View Location Map