Friday, 1 August 2014


The sacred spring of St. Winefride at Holywell in Clwyd, north Wales, has been a place of pilgrimage for at least a thousand years. She was a virgin who was decapitated for rejecting the advances of a Welsh chieftain, and her blood turned into a spring of clear water. Fortunately her uncle Beuno, who was also a saint, picked up her fallen head, replaced it on her neck, and she was restored to life. To commemorate this miracle, pictures and statues of St. Winefride always show the line of a white scar round her neck.

The present shrine is late mediaeval, and may well have been built by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.

Several Kings visited the shrine, including Henry V, Edward IV and Richard III. After the Reformation it remained popular with Catholics, despite official disapproval. Some of the Gunpowder Plotters came here, to pray for success in their plan to blow up Parliament. James II came to pray for the birth of a son, and his prayer was answered, but the consequence was his overthrow in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688.

 Families of Irish travellers are bathing in the miraculous healing waters, just as they have done for centuries. But Simon Jenkins points out that the original spring ran dry in 1917, as a result of local mining, and water had to be diverted from elsewhere!.

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