Holy Well of St. John the Baptist - Atlas Obscura

Holy Well of St. John the Baptist

Bisley, England

This holy spring and its well have been the site of religious devotion for millennia. 


This ancient well sits on the outskirts of the village of Bisley in Surrey. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, the well is fed by a natural, iron-rich spring and has likely been a holy site since before the arrival of Christianity in England.

Since the well is fed from a natural underground spring, it never runs dry nor freezes since the water remains at a consistent temperature throughout the year. As such, the water feels cool in summer, while in winter, the water seems relatively warm. These properties were considered miraculous during the medieval period, and early Christian settlers used the holy water for baptisms.

By 956 CE, a simple wooden church had been established on the site, close to the spring instead of the village center. Throughout the centuries following this first church, the well continued to be used for its christenings and baptisms, and as a refreshing stop for pilgrims journeying to Canterbury.

After a millennium of use, the well had fallen into such a state that, in 2002, St John the Baptist Church applied to restore the well. This modern restoration allows the water to rise to fill the well just above a metal grate, while maintaining a constant flow of russet water from the well into a basin, then a channel, before finally joining a brook past its synonymous church.

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April 10, 2024

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