St. Brigid’s Well

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St. Brigid’s Well, Askamore

From a report of Sinclair Turrell, August 1999

St. Brigid’s Well is situated in the townland of Brideswell Big. It lies on the north slope of Sliabh Gower.

The site consists of a ruined stone building in the form of two small circular chambers, joined at one edge. To the south of this, on higher ground, is a disused graveyard. A path, known as St. Brigid’s Track leads from here to the well. The 1665 Civil survey records that in 1640 the locality was known as Tobar Bríde and later letters record that a patron took place here until banned around 1800.

A local Tobar Bríde Heritage Group was set up in 1997 by local residents with the aim of researching and conserving the well. As part of this project an investigation of the ruined structure took place in August 1999 by a group of local volunteers, prior to the commencement of urgently needed conservation work.

A granite masonry spout, known locally as St. Brigid’s Footprint is probably earlier than the 18th century, and two bullaun stones have also been found in the vicinity, suggesting there may have been an earlier ecclesiastical site here.

In common with many other holy wells, St. Brigid’s Well is the subject of local folklore. It is reputed that St. Brigid visited the site and a stone known as St. Brigid’s Footprint is said to bear the impression of her foot. The 1930’s folklore survey records the story of a man who took the ‘footprint’ away and threw it in a ditch. The next day he was astonished to find that the stone had miraculously returned to its place. The water is said to provide a cure for rheumatism.

The civil survey of 1654 gives the name of the townland as Tobar Bride and records that the land belonged to Brian Kavanagh, a protestant, who owned a total of 1800 acres of taxable arable land.

The Wexford Ordinance Survey letters of 1840 note ‘a small graveyard in the townland of Brideswell Big with a holy well of the same name at which a patron was held till about 40 years ago when it was abolished by the Priest’.

According to Laurence Harte writing in 1925, the stone said to bear the imprint of St. Brigid’s foot is probably a sacrarium.

Two stones of identical form are to be found in St. Brigid’s Well at Kildare. There must have been a second stone at Brideswell, and they were probably placed at the exit of the chambers with the water running through them.

Wells dedicated to St. Brigid are fairly common in Co. Wexford, with up to 8 recorded. There are 13 recorded in Co. Wicklow.

At Brideswell, the early use of the townland name Tobar Bride, recorded in the 1654 civil survey, together with the bullaun stones hint at the possibility that this was formerly the site of a monastery.

The well was removed from the register of National Monuments in the 1980s, although the graveyard is still listed.

The Heritage group has worked to repair the walls and resupply the site with water. Part of the project involved clearing the undergrowth from the area known as the churchyard.

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