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Ancient pilgrim site in Wales to become well-being centre

04 November 2022

CHURCH IN WALES

St James’s, Holywell

St James’s, Holywell

AN ANCIENT Welsh church beside what is believed to be the oldest continually visited pilgrimage destination in Britain is being turned into a well-being centre.

The church, Grade II* listed St James’s, stands bedside St Winefride’s Holy Well, in Flintshire, where the reputed healing properties of its waters have made it a place of pilgrimage since at least 1115. The centre will offer counselling and nursing services, a community cinema, and a coffee shop. The building, which ceased to be a regular place of worship in 2007, when St Peter’s opened near by, will continue to offer services for events such as weddings, funerals, and civic occasions.

A team of volunteers have started work on the £470,000 project Well-being @ St James’, which includes creating a new chapel space and clearing the grounds. The project manager, Fr Christopher Powell OGS, said last month: “St James’s is facing a bright future and these are exciting days. We’re looking forward to revitalising this important part of Holywell’s heritage and making it available to all those who need it.”

The coffee shop will run in collaboration with local charities to enable those with learning difficulties and mental-health issues to find employment and support. New well-being rooms will offer counselling, including help from support groups with issues including bereavement, cancer, and dementia, and a parish nurse will provide help and guidance on health.

The Priest-in-Charge of Holywell, Fr Dominic Cawdell OGS, said: “The churches in Holywell have been at the heart of the community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, providing food support and access to a range of services. This work has revealed the levels of need in our town, and people now look to the church for support. The opening of a well-being centre at St James’s will significantly help people further in practical, emotional, and spiritual ways.”

St Winefride’s Well is said to spring from the spot where the seventh-century Welsh abbot St Beuno brought his niece Winefride back to life; but it could have much older, pagan origins. A chapel over the spring dates from the late 15th century. The water rises into a star-shaped basin beneath an elaborately vaulted ceiling, before flowing out into a more recent outdoor pool, where pilgrims still visit to bathe in its waters with their claimed healing properties.

Donations to the project can be made at the gofundme.com website.

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