Lower Marsh Farm is a former Duchy of Cornwall property. It sits on the outskirts of the village of Landulph and is home to two ancient Holy Wells.
A farmhouse now stands where pilgrims once gathered before setting sail for St James, Compostela in Spain, in the 15th Century. The estate is still home to the two ancient holy wells that the pilgrims would have used at that time. A beautifully ornate Well House, is home to another fascinating well, although not holy. A map exists that locate the two Holy Wells.
The first Holy Well can be located using the current OS maps. There is a 6 metre long cave with traces of masonry at one side, gradually narrowing and sloping up at the end to a point. Martyns maps of 1748 show the mineral spring water issuing from the Holy Well had been noted for medicinal qualities in 1736 & 1849 and is considered to be an old trial mine. Once mistaken for the Landulph Holy Well, an oak tree now grows at the site.
Current OS Maps mark where the second of the Holy Wells is situated. Maps of 1788 & 1802, name it Holy Well Meadow (Landulph Holy Well). Between 1819 and 1840, the Elliotts of Marsh Farm, pulled the well down. A few carved stones at the farm, were said to have come from the Holy Well. No trace of the well exists today. Landulph Holy Well water was said to be used in baptism ceremonies at Landulph Church.
*The term holy well is a term used for water which has some significance in the folklore of the area where it is located. Legend has it, that the water is said to have been made to flow by the action of a saint, a familiar theme especially in the hagiography of Celtic saints.
Landulph church,which is a short distance from the farm, stands on an ancient ‘lan‘ site. These sites were the sacred enclosures of the Celtic Christian Saints who were very active in Cornwall around the 1400’s. The saints often travelled by water and settled close to where they landed.
It is believed King Brychan was the father of St Dilic. Brychan travelled to Landulph from South Wales. Dilic, his daughter, travelled with her family and spread the Christian word.
St Leonard, was added in the middle ages making the name St Leonard & St Dilpe as it is known today.
The Courtenay family held the Manor of Landulph and the patronage to the church in the 15th century. It was the Courtenay’s that were credited with developing the port as a departure point for pilgrims journeying to the shrine of St James at Compostela in Northern Spain between 1428 & 1456. As the number of pilgrims grew, so did the need for a much bigger church and in 1420 the church was rebuilt, adding the tower and North & South aisles. A small number of Norman walls still exists in the church, as does the original base of the font.
Sadly, there remains no trace of the port today. That said, a stained glass window in Landulph Church still displays the Courtenay Coat of Arms.
In 1538, Henry the VIII executed Henry Courtenay. He claimed the estate, giving it to the Duchy of Cornwall.
In the 1560 Reformation, records note the burning of important artefacts such as pictures of the rood (an ornate carved screen, usually of wood or wrought iron, between the chancel and nave) and pictures of Mary and John, plus the defacing of a wall painting of St Dylytt & St Leonard.
The church is also the resting place of Theodore Palaeologus who is a descendant of the Christian Byzantine Emperors. The Byzantine Emperors were the last Christian Emperors of Greece. Theodore died at the home of Sir Nicholas and Lady Elizabeth Lower of Clifton in 1636 – we can’t be sure that is why the farm is called ‘Lower’ but the Lower family links to the area are widely traceable – read more details here.
The Lowers family, installed two family pews in the church in 1630. On display were the 28 coats of arms of the descendants of their families there. The west wall now holds the display.