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March 12, 2005

Gruesome goings-on at the holy well

by Feòrag

England: Many holy wells have gruesome legends attached to them, but the one associated with Lidwell in Devon isn't your usual tale of saintly self-sacrifice. Instead, the well was used by an early serial killer:

On the slopes of Haldon Hill lie the remains of Lidwell Chapel, the site of one of Devon's more macabre tales. The name, Lidwell, is actually a corruption of Lady's Well and the chapel is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Like so many other churches and chapels, it was built on what was formerly a pagan place of worship, a sacred well, probably dedicated to the goddess of spring. There is, too, evidence of the original well and this can be seen in a corner of the grounds.

This isolated ruin, adjacent to farmland and situated to the northwest of Teignmouth, was, in medieval times, the focal point of a small settlement and leper sanctuary where the monks could provide care for the sufferers, all of whom would be compelled to live outside their community. The legend concerns one monk in particular, a hermit or recluse who lived at Lidwell during the early part of the fourteenth century. This man is said to have lured passing travellers into the chapel where he would rob them, murder them and dispose of their bodies by throwing them down the well.

In support of the legend, the Bishop's register of the year 1329 contains an entry relating to the execution of a Hermit Monk who had been convicted of murder. Intrigued by what we had unearthed and wanting to know more about this curio, we felt that the next logical step would be to visit the scene of crime so a team of five members of TNC arranged to go and look the place over as soon as we could.

And so starts the tale of a group of criminologists who discover that well-hunting can be a wet and frustrating business. But the tale takes a turn for the fortean:

The walls of the chapel survive up to the eaves, but even with the place open to the vast sky overhead, we were, all three of us, still aware of an uncomfortable feeling of entrapment. Just inside the entrance, we located the remains of the well and, with the cloying mud sucking at our boots, we hurriedly took our photographs, close-ups of the chapel, some of the spiked railings that surrounded us and another series of shots of the well from a different angle.

We continued taking photos as we retraced our steps along the route to the main road. Then we headed back to the office to download the images and that is when we experienced our own mystery.

None of the photographs of the well appeared!

'The Mad Monk of Lidwell Chapel' - TNC on-the-ground Investigation. - The New Criminologist, 12th March 2005.

Posted in Forteana and Heritage at 20:22. Last modified on September 28 2006 at 23:43.
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