MADDERN OR MADRON WELL.
"PLUNGE thy right hand in St. Madron's Spring,
If true to it's troth be the palm you bring;
But if a false sigil thy fingers bear,
Lay them the rather on the burning share"
Loud laughed King Arthur when as he heard
That solemn friar his boding word;
And blithely he swore, as a king he may,
"We tryst for St. Madron's at the break of day."
"Now horse and hattock, both but and ben,"
Was the cry at Lands, with Dundagel men;
And forth they pricked upon Routorr side,
As goodly a raid as a king could ride.
Proud Gwennivar rode like a queen of the land,
With page and with squire at her bridle hand;
And the twice six Knights of the Stony Ring,
They girded and guarded their Cornish king.
Then they halted their steeds at St. Madron's cell,
And they stood by the monk of the Cloistered Well.
"Now off with your gauntlets!" King Arthur he cried;
"And glory or shame for our Tamar side."
'Twere sooth to sing how Gauvain smiled,
When he grasped the waters so soft and mild;
How Lancelot dashed the glistening spray
O'er the rugged beard of the rough Sir Kay.
Sir Bevis he touched and he found no fear;
'Twas a benitée stoup to Sir Bedivere;
How the fountain flashed o'er King Arthur's Queen,
Say, Cornish dames, for ye guess the scene.
"Now rede me my riddle, Sir Mordred, I pray,
My kinsman, mine ancient, my Bien-aimé;
Now rede me my riddle , and read it aright,
Art though traitorous knave knave or my trusty knight?"
He plunged his right arm in the judgement well,
It bubbled and boiled like a cauldron of hell;
He drew and he lifted his quivering limb __
Ha! Sir Judas, how Madron had sodden him.
Now let Uter Pendragon do what he can,
Still the Tamar River will run as it ran;
Let king or let kaiser be fond or be fell,
Ye may harowe their troth in St. Madron's Well.
Rev. R.S. Hawker
OF the holy well at St Maddern, Carne 1writes thus :
" It has been contended that a virgin was the patroness of this church that she was buried at Minster and that many
miracles were performed at her grave. A learned commentator, however, is satisfied that it was St
Motran, who was one of the large company that came from Ireland with St
Buriana, and he was slain at the mouth of the Hayle ; the body was begged,
and afterwards buried here. Near by was the miraculous Well of St Maddern, over which a chapel was built, so sacred was it held.
(This chapel was destroyed by the fanaticism of Major Ceely in
the days of Cromwell.) It stood at no great distance on the moor, and the soil around it was black and boggy, mingled with a
gray moorstone. . . .
" The votaries bent awfully and tremblingly over its sedgy bank, and gazed on its clear bosom for a few minutes ere they proved
the fatal ordeal then an imploring look was cast towards the figure of St
Motran, many a crossing was repeated, and at last the pin or pebble held aloof was dropped into the depth beneath.
Often did the rustic beauty fix her eye intently on the bubbles that rose, and broke, and disappeared ; for in that moment the lover
was lost, or the faithful husband gained. It was only on particular days, however, according to the increase or decrease of the
moon, that the hidden virtues of the well were consulted." 2
Of this well we have the following notice by William Scawen, Esq., Vice- Warden of the
Stannaries. The paper from which we extract it was first printed by Davies Gilbert, Esq.,
F.R.S., as an appendix to his "Parochial History of Cornwall." Its complete title is, "Observations
on an Ancient Manuscript, entitled ' Passio Christo,' written in the Cornish
Language, and now preserved in the Bodleian Library ; with an Account of the Language, Manners, and Customs of the People of Cornwall, (from
a Manuscript in the Library of Thomas Artie, Esq., 1777)" :
"Of St Mardren's Well (which is a parish west to the Mount), a fresh true story of two persons, both of them lame and decrepit, thus recovered
from their infirmity. These two persons, after they had applied themselves to divers physicians and chirurgeons, for cure, and rinding no success
by them, they resorted to St Mardren's Well, and according to the ancient custom which they had heard of, the same which was once in a year to
wit, on Corpus Christi evening to lay some small offering on the altar there, and to lie on the ground all night, drink of the water there, and in
the morning after to take a good draught more, and to take and carry away some of the water, each of them in a bottle, at their departure. This
course these two men followed, and within three weeks they found the effect of it, and, by degrees their strength increasing, were able to move
themselves on crutches. The year following they took the same course again, after which they were able to go with the help of a stick ; and at
length one of them, John Thomas, being a fisherman, was, and is at this day, able to follow his fishing craft. The other, whose name was William
Cork, was a soldier under the command of my kinsman, Colonel William Godolphin (as he has often told me), was able to perform his duty, and
died in the service of his majesty King Charles. But herewith take also this :
" One Mr Hutchens, a person well known in those parts, and now lately dead, being parson of Ludgvan, a near neighbouring parish to St Mardren's
Well, he observed that many of his parishioners often frequented this
well superstitiously, for which he reproved them privately, and sometimes publicly, in his sermons ; but afterwards he, the said Mr Hutchens,
meeting with a woman coming from the well with a bottle in her hand, desired
her earnestly that he might drink thereof, being then troubled with colical
pains, which accordingly he did, and was eased of his infirmity. The latter story is a full confutation of the former ; for, if the taking the water
accidently thus prevailed upon the party to his cure, as it is likely it did,
then the miracle which was intended to be by the ceremony of lying on the ground and offering is wholly fled, and it leaves the virtue of the water
to be the true cause of the cure. And we have here, as in many places
of the land, great variety of salutary springs, which have diversity of
operations, which by natural reason have been found to be productive of good
effects, and not by miracle, as the vain fancies of monks and friars have been exercised in heretofore."
Bishop Hale, of Exeter, in his "Great Mystery of Godliness," says :
"Of which kind was that noe less than miraculous cure, which, at St Maddern's Well, in Cornwall, was wrought upon a poore cripple ;
where of, besides the attestation of many hundreds of the neighbours, I tooke a
strict and impartial examination in my last triennial visitation there. This
man, for sixteen years, was forced to walke upon his hands, by reason of the sinews of his leggs were soe contracted that he cold not goe or walke
on his feet, who upon monition in a dream to wash in that well, which accordingly he did, was suddainly restored to the use of his limbs ; and
I sawe him both able to walk and gett his owne maintenance. I found here was neither art nor collusion, the cure done, the author our invisible
In Madron Well and, I have no doubt, in many others may be found frequently the pins which have been dropped by maidens desirous of
knowing "when they were to be married." I once witnessed the whole ceremony performed by a group of beautiful girls, who had walked on a
May morning from Penzance. Two pieces of straw, about an inch long
each, were crossed and the pin run through them. This cross was then dropped into the water, and the rising bubbles carefully counted, as they
marked the number of years which would pass ere the arrival of the happy day. This practice also prevailed amongst the visitors to the well at the
foot of Monacuddle Grove, near St Austell.
On approaching the waters, each visitor is expected to throw in a crooked pin ; and, if you are lucky, you may possibly see the other pins rising from
the bottom to meet the most recent offering. Rags and votive offerings to the genius of the waters are hung around many of the wells. Mr Couch
says : " At Madron Well, near Penzance, I observed the custom of hanging rags on the thorns which grew in the enclosure."
1. " Tales of the West," by the author of " Letters from the East."
2. The tale of "The Legend of Pacorra."