The Holy Well of St Leonard’s

Extracted from the Fifteenth Report of the Committee on Devonshire Folk-lore.

Trans. Devon. Assoc., vol. XXX, (1898), p. 90.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The paper was read at the Association’s July 1898 Honiton meeting. St Leonard’s Well is located against the outside of the west wall of the churchyard of St Leonard’s parish church in Sheepstor. It is sheltered by what appears to be a fragment of the church’s old east window, removed during Victorian restorations. Water from the well flows into a basin formed by the base of the window, although it may have originally risen on nearby church land before being piped to the roadside for the convenience of the villagers. In May 2019: St Leonard's Well was recorded as Pastscape Monument No. 438815 and Historic England List ID 1326392. Pastscape informs the reader that the well’s original site was in a field belonging to a church glebe. Water was then piped to the roadside, where "a canopy was built with fragments from the old east window of the church". A description and photograph of the well may be accessed The Megalithic Portal website. Detailed genealogical information on the Elford family of Sheepstor, mentioned in the article, may be accessed at the Legendary Dartmoor website. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Sheepstor. — There is a Holy Well, S. Leonards, at Sheepstor, in a field belonging to the glebe east of the church. Recently the rector has led the water from the spring, which never fails, to the roadside, for the convenience of the villagers, and to prevent incessant traffic over the field.

Below this churchyard is the Bull-ring, still roughly circular. To see the baiting the people sat on the south wall of the churchyard and round the raised bank of the further side.

There is at Sheepstor, above Lerystone House, the old seat of the Elfords, a Windstone, an elevated platform of cut granite, on which the wheat was winnowed. It bears date and initials-  

“J.E.     A. E.  1637."

That is, John and Anne Elford. She was daughter of John Northcote, of Hayne, and they were married in 1637.