23 July 2011

Headless Dowser

Winifred was raised to sainthood as a result of two supposed miracles, both arising from the adverse reaction to her chastity of her suitor, Caradog. He decapitated her, and a spring of magic qualities appeared at the spot her head rolled to a halt. Her uncle reunited head and body, and Winifred went on to be a nun and abbess.

That first spring, St Winefride's Well, is in Holywell, Flintshire, and is a destination for pilgrims. St Winifred died circa 660. In 1138 she was dug up and transferred to, and enshrined at, Shrewsbury Abbey. Henry VIII destroyed the shrine in 1540.

En route to Shrewsbury, Winifred's train halted at Woolston, near Oswestry, where another healing spring legendarily sprung. This is covered by a 15th-century well chapel, later used as a cottage, and now in the care of the Landmark Trust. There are steps down into two stone troughs, presumably used for bathing in the waters, which empty into a lovely stream.

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