In a field beneath the imposing immensity of Gop Cairn, lies Ffynnon Wen, its once impressive wellhouse and changing rooms reduced to rubble. A curious thing in a curious place, very little is known about it, but there are interesting aspects to this holy well that would warrant further study. And it is holy. The Royal Commission visited the site in 1910 and in its report stated,
‘Though no traditions exist respecting the cult associated with the spring, or its popularity, there can be little doubt that the name signifies ‘the Holy Well’ (gwyn, mutated by the feminine ffynnon into wen=blessed) and denotes its primarily religious character’
So holy it is then, or likely so, but its powers remain a mystery
Our earliest record of the well is by Edward Lhuyd in his Parochialia of 1699, in which he mentions a ‘Ffynnon Gwaynysgor’, which can be identified by its distance from the church as Ffynnon Wen. But he says nothing more about the well. And this is interesting, since his failure to name it as Ffynnon Wen or to mention buildings about it would suggest that the well underwent something of a later, post 1699 surge in popularity. This can probably be linked to nearby Cop’rieni Hall, now known as Gop Farm. Indeed, there has been the suggestion that the later name of the well was in fact a corruption of Ffynnon Shon Wynn, after John Wynne of Cop’rieni Hall and the benefactor of nearby Trelawnyd, which he had renamed Newmarket in 1710. The present house is largely 19th century, but it retains a doorway which is dated to 1622, predating our John Wynne, and a really rather beautiful 17th century dovecote.
Overgrown but retaining a sense of calm, there is little to now show of the buildings that once stood here.
Those antiquarians subsequent to Lhuyd to whom we would normally turn to for further information on Ffynnon Gwaynysgor or indeed Ffynnon Wen are noticeably silent, including the Flintshire native, Thomas Pennant, adding to the possibility that there was little remembered of any antiquity of the site, that the buildings were not so much an open recognition of a venerated history, if one did indeed exist, but a later affectation of the landowner and which failed to register as anything else with later writers.
What then seems to have been built in the 18th century was a stone well house, some 5 feet square with steps leading down into a long narrow pool. The stone lined pool trench within the well house was discovered by the landowner in the early part of this century after the site was dug out in preparation for the creation of a modern duck pond. There was also what was believed to have been a dressing room, at roughly the same dimensions as the well house. Very little of either remains now, though as the Royal Commissions photographs show in 1910, the remains were substantial enough at the beginning of the 20th century. It is possible to see what Roberts and Woodall, writing in A Gossiping Guide to Wales (1902), describes as,
‘Ffynnon wen, a well with a pointed stone roof, and slight remains of other buildings’.
The Royal Commission's photograph of the building about the Well, do seem to show the 'pointed roof' written of in 1902
Ironically, the buildings that were raised sometime in the 18th century around a holy well that had perhaps fallen into obscurity also raised the reputation of the well considerably, leading, it seems to a steady stream of visitors in the many years following. The Royal Commission report of 1912 states that following its visit in 1910, the then landowner,
‘incensed by the number of visitors to the well, the then (not the present) tenant of the farm destroyed the covering to the well.’
The report also mentions a slab which originally roofed the building, and it might be this slab that could be seen in the 1980s covering what remained of the well chamber. Even that, however, has now been lost - in pieces about the site.
The view towards Y Gop from Ffynnon Wen.
Ffynnon Wen is lost. Having emerged from relative obscurity in the 18th century, it has disappeared again beneath the ire of landowners, tenant farmers and the desire for a duck pond. Lost it may be, but forgotten? That would be up to you.