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23 November 2014
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The Nine Wells of Llangeler

Eight of the nine wells are listed in Francis Jones’s Holy Wells of Wales; the ninth is Ffynnon y Gybyddion, back along the Cistercian Way from Rebecca's Well.

We were unable to find Rebecca’s Well, though it was in use until late in the nineteenth century as a healing well for gravel and sore eyes. Local tradition now claims it was named after the famous Rebecca rioters, but it was described as ‘recently discovered’ in Carlisle’s Topographical Dictionary of Wales in 1811, thirty years before the farmers of west Wales took to borrowing their wives’ clothing in order to demolish toll gates. The water was believed to be most powerful in the morning before sunrise, so many people travelled through the night to drink from the well before dawn. Ffynnon Fair is in a field near the old grange chapel at Capel Mair but there is no public access.

Many of the other wells are also lost, but the vicar made enquiries and found not one but two candidates for Ffynnon Celer. Carlisle’s Topographical Directory describes this as ‘on the glebe near the church’. It had a little well chapel and was popular for a range of infirmities, used by ‘such a concourse of people that no fair in Wales can equal it in multitude’. Lhuyd’s description (in the 1690s) of the ‘cemetery’ or ‘llech’ where the sick were supposed to sleep after bathing in the well in order to ensure a cure sounds very much like a Neolithic burial mound, but there is no trace of one now, nor indeed of the well chapel where those who had been healed left their crutches.

One local farmer said that the well was behind the church. Accompanied by the vicar, we followed the footpath through the churchyard, through a gate and down the slope to the right of the hedge. An overgrown hollow lane leads off to the left but it is easier to follow it through the field. At the next hedge, the hollow lane bends slightly to the left. This was certainly the site of a well - but was it the well? All that now remains is a muddy pit with the remains of a retaining wall, under the ash trees.

On the other hand, the people who live at the local big house, Plas Geler, say that the well is in their grounds. According to Lhuyd, sick people walked up from the well to the churchyard, which makes it look as though this idea is the right one

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The well behind Llangeler church

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