Heading back up the bustling Church Street from the church of Mary in Mullhuddart, there is an interesting vaulted well-house. It was whilst out searching for this that I found the old Church Ruins of Mullach Eadrad from last weeks post. Situated right on the edge of the busy road, this is surely the strangest holy well that I have come across to date. In its day it was said to have been surrounded by trees in a grove effect which must have looked fantastic. Well over the years the peace and tranquillity of the grove has disappeared along with the trees and it is now surrounded by tonnes of concrete in the shape of paths. housing estates and a very busy road. The well has thankfully been recognised by Fingal County Council as ‘County Geological Site’ which probably explains why it hasn’t been knocked and replaced with a bicycle track or something.
The rubble stone corbelled roof structure surrounding the well dates back to around 1700,There is both a front and rear entrance. Entry to the well is via the stone stepson the roadside opening, but with all the surrounding concrete you would need to be a hobbit or leprechaun to walk inside. On the roof are two finials, one a stone carved with a cross in relief and the other a stone niche with an inscription. Like most holy wells, this was once probably a sacred spring for our ancient ancestors. With the coming of the new religion to our shores many of the sacred sites were Christianised, usually by associating them with a saint and changing festival/feast days to Christian ones, Christmas is probably the best known example of this.
The well at Mullhuddart is believed to have been quite popular during Norman times and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, just like the old church a few meters up the road. During the eighteenth century large crowds were said to have gathered here on the 8th of September (Lady’s Day), the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, seeking a cure for whatever ailment they suffered from. It would seem that King Henry VI set up an order initially called the Order of the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary and provided them with a sum of money for the upkeep of Marian shrines in the area, but in particular for the upkeep of Our Lady’s Well. It was this order that erected a small ‘u’-shaped wall as an enclosure around the well and planted a number of trees to create the impression of a grove. After Henrys death the order seemed to disappear. After this the well and presumably the church came under the care of the nuns of Grace Dieu. The Grace Dieu nuns were an order of Augustinian canonesses dedicated to God, the Holy Trinity and Saint Mary founded by Rohese de Verdon in 1241.
Whilst this order did not last long in England, they managed to survive a little longer in Ireland. They capped stone roof with a chimney like stone front & rear is inscribed with various prayers to the Virgin and a small niche and an incised cross above. The well is kept in quite good condition, considering its close proximity to the adjacent busy road; unfortunately upon examining the interior of the well it would seem that the water source has become stagnant. Considering the many housing estates and industrial complexes in the surrounding area it is quite possible that over recent years the source has been damaged.
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