‘Near the village is a noted well, termed Fynnon Vair (St Mary’s Well) highly reverenced in popish times, but now entirely neglected.’

Samuel Lewis, ‘Topographical Dictionary of Wales’ (1865 4th Ed.)

 

At the bottom of a steep and narrow twist of a lane, a little north of St Mary’s Church at the centre of the beautiful village of Ysceifiog, is Ffynnon Fair. Quite exactly where is something of a puzzle, since stories vary. But, as likely as not, it lies beneath the grass covered brick canopy, a few feet from the lane, beside the fast flowing stream that winds its way to the later Ysceifiog Lake, created by the Earl of Denbigh in 1902.

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This small brick canopy is thought to cover Ffynnon Fair, once renowned but now neglected.

Though mentioned by Edward Lhuyd in his late 17th century Parochialia, there are no known traditions of cures here, but its name alone would suggest an old and holy providence. Holy wells dedicated to Mary are many in number throughout Wales - Jones quotes seventy six -  and there are stories and traditions of her visiting Wales. None suggest she made her way to Flintshire, however. Francis Jones suggested that wells dedicated to the Virgin were popular in areas of Anglo-Norman influence, and this is certainly a possibility in this area of Tegeingl - but also makes it clear that Mary was a popular figure throughout Wales from the 4th century on. Samuel Lewis seems clear enough in claiming that Ffynnon Fair was popular, ‘reverenced’ in fact, before the 16th century Reformation. He also makes the point that the Well and the waters about it were the major source of freshwater for the village.

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These stone steps lead down from the lane to the remains of the well.

It's likely that its importance as a holy well diminished with the Reformation, as many did, although its importance as a source of freshwater would have continued for centuries, perhaps even into the 20th century. And Ffynnon Fair is sited in the most wondrous spot - a walk along the bank of the stream, towards Ysceifiog Lake is to be surrounded by natural beauty. You will find the remains of a variety of industry dotted along the path, and old OS maps suggest a factory nearby, the ruined buildings of which can be seen beneath a century of nature. It was here, it is said, that the noted bard, Will Ysceifiog (1790 - 1855) lived - a discussion for another day.