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PRIDEAUX PLACE, PADSTOW

 

St PETROC

WELLS and DEER

 

PRIDEAUX WELLS

The well in Fentonluna Lane is framed by inscribed stones, the newest of them being over the well and declares a date of 1592. This date commemorates the official completion date of the House. The stones originally formed part of the original “fortified” gate entrance ( which had been demolished by 1758 ) to Prideaux Place, before the site was enlarged and the entrance moved to the west. The original gateway shows on the painting by Edmond Prideaux, as well as a drawing he made from inside the House.

 

The Well is considered by Lane Davies to be “the well mentioned in the Gotha Lives .. where water sprang up at the Saint's striking his staff on the ground". Henderson feels that the church is on the site of the Lanwethinoc monastery. Priory buildings and tower now form part of the House.

 

North East of Prideaux Place is another well, the water course used to flow through the edge of the Colonel's walk, but now flows at the road edge. This originally fed the well discovered at the head of the Colonel's walk and subsequently the Fentonluna well. Edmond Prideaux’s drawings indicate there were two lines of trees in 1730 in the two fields now forming the Deer Park. It appears that the present Deer Park was formed when the formal gardens built by Edmond Prideaux around 1738 were demolished in about 1750, though deer have been managed at Prideaux by Edmond Prideaux, as his Cash Book reveals. The present Deer Park was fenced in 1895.

 

ST. PETROC AND THE WELL

St. Petroc arrived at Padstow in 518 A.D., according to Fuller. St. Samson was already in Padstow, attempting to finish his chapel. Petroc came ashore to discover reapers hard at work. They answered his greeting rudely, saying that he could best serve their needs by providing water, whereupon he struck a rock and so gushed forth a fountain "and from it a most salubrious stream has never ceased to flow". When the reapers praised God for the miracle, Petroc wished to know how it was that they knew God and they pointed to Samson, who was standing nearby.

 

It is this legend that must have been drawn on for the "Moses striking the Rock" plastered panel in the Susanna Room at Prideaux Place, perhaps significantly on the North End, as it in this direction that the well is situated.

 

St Petroc was the son of a Welsh chieftan / king ( who was grandfather of St. Cadoc ), the king being descended from Roman blood. The Vita Petroci in The Ducal Library of Gotha, Germany, states that St.Petroc descends from "Constantine the Emperor", Constantius I (Chlorus) Flavius Valerius, b 250 AD, he died in Ehoracurn ' York ) on 25 July 306 A.D.  St Petroc was born in Cambria, one of 24 brothers, his name stemming from the old British "petru" meaning "fourth", this in turn being taken as a name of purity.  St Petroc died in 564 A.D.

 

 

THE STAG & St PETROC

To quote Vita Petroci again..."On a certain day....he saw a stag appear in the distance, fleeing towards him as hard as it could go, pursued by the huntsmen of Constantine, a rich man, with hallooing and barking of dogs." Petroc "protected it from being hurt". Constantine "would have struck the servant of God with his sword, but was suddenly smitten with paralysis" ... " until he besought pardon". Constantine and his huntsmen were converted to Christianity. The deer herd is an integral part of the Prideaux-Brune estate.

 

St PETROC’s TOMB

It is said that he was buried at Padstow, close by his tomb there is "a spring of living water, which heals eye troubles and inward complaints, if there be faith."

 

The weight of evidence, such as it is, points to the tomb being near the well at the start of the Colonel’s Walk, at the head of the Deer Park.

 

A stone statuette ( Cataclews stone ) of considerable antiquity is placed in the stone wall along the edge of the Deer Park,  which appears to be either an angel or a saint.

It was found near this position when the fencing was being constructed. This may well have been a route “marker” for the pilgrim.

 

WELLS & CHRISTIANITY

Holy wells were probably the earliest form of "tourist attraction". They and the saints of the time were a part of a great mystery, when even our shadows were a source of wonder. So water forcing it's way from the ground was a matter of some great veneration. If a holy man knew the whereabouts of a likely source of water then this was the place where he/she would settle down. Sites were not seen until later, when the origins of the water were shrouded in holy mystique. This does not imply that the sites were any the less Blessed with the Holy Spirit. In fact, the origins of water from the ground had been regarded as magic for much longer than Christianity itself. These early chapels would have been built of timber, only being replaced with buildings of stone after the Danes.

 

In old language "Venton" / "fenton" indicates a well or open spring, and it may well be that a Saint took over a site already venerated by the locals, and even the cures practiced by some local sage.

 

The earliest reference to the Celtic Church is 200 A.D. It is testimony to the strong local resistance to the breaking of traditions and, more particularly, religious foundation in the Celtic Saints, that the Cornish Saint names have survived the onslaught of external influence, abuse and legislation. Reference could be made to the Act of Elizabeth ( 1568 ), when all local chapels were sold off and demolished. This only had the effect of making Holy sites more important to the worshipper. The Romans left in 407, leaving a great void, The Dark Ages, a time of Legends, the arrival of kings and priests from Dumnonia, Ireland and France. Celtic Saints arrived by coracle or "floating on a millstone", an allusion to the difference in size and design between Cornish and Welsh boats.

The Celtic Saints brought a very different form of Christianity to that introduced by the Romans in 313, to be supplanted by that of the Saxons in 635 and it was not until Charlemagne subjugation of the Saxons in 800 that Roman and Celtic Christianity converged in Cornwall.

 

Parish boundaries, as we know them today, were laid out by Egbert ( 803 - 839 ), and thereby the names of the Parishes. Needless to say the Cornish resisted the Parish system, clinging to the Monastic ( tribal ) system until 994, when Aethelread gave Bishop Ealdred a charter over Cornwall. There followed two great battles, one at St.Buryan and the other at Kit Hill. The defeat of the Cornish resulted in the church of St. Germans being made the ecclesiastical administration of Cornwall. The pilgrimage route from Males and Ireland was easier by sea to the North Cornwall, to cross Cornwall to the South, and then to North France by boat again. This was by no means as hard going as the full cross England route or the sea route around Lands End.

 

Holy sites were visited en-route by pilgrims, ensuring the maintenance of the sites and their traditions.

 

Following the Synod of Whitby in 663 A.D., many of the Holy wells were re-dedicated to The Virgin Mary, thereby continuing the religious tradition of supplanting the old with new in loco.

 

It would have been a requirement to have a Chapel nearby to celebrate the Mass, giving thanks to the patron saint of the well.

 

 

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