St Bartholomew’s Well, Gortroe

IMG_3615This little well proved very elusive. I had tried on two previous occasions to locate it and had driven down small lanes, asked two women on horseback and generally found nothing. Armed with the GPS and a navigator, things proved a little easier the third time. We pulled into the corner and looked hopefully into a very boggy field. I saw nothing but donned my wellies. A shout went up, my husband had seen something – a small grassy hillock, surrounded by furze. Yes, that looked the right shape.

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A grassy hillock – well-shaped?

The field was exceptionally wet, full of bracken and bog grass and furze but the well was wonderful! It did look just a like a small hillock from the back, furze bushes surrounding it but as I went round to the front and cleared away some of the brambles and bracken, I saw it was far more exciting and more or less intact.

St Bartholomew's well Gortroe

The well is a rectangular stone lined trough situated within a beautifully built stone chamber. Above it is a remarkable bee-hive shaped wellhouse, now with a luxuriant topknot of grasses, brambles and furze, a sturdy stone lintel over the entrance. Even more interesting is the long stone line passage way coming out of the well, a good metre and a half tall and two metres long, now colonised by wall pennywort. You look down into it from above. I was tempted to climb down into the well but feared I wouldn’t get out again.

The well is dedicated to Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles, and is also known as Tobar Partalam. Once it was the site of pilgrimage and devotion and rounds were made here on St Bartholomew’s Feast day, 24th August. I imagine that pilgrims approached the well along the stone passage and made their devotions inside. A trout was meant to live within the well and anyone who saw it would have everlasting happiness!  It seems that pattern days frequently got out of hand and this was the case here. There is a story about two young men fighting at the one pattern held here, one man eventually dying of his injuries. The parish priest then banned further pattern day and the well fell into disuse.

Although it felt like no-one had been here for some time there were a few offerings to be seen on a ledge within: a scallop shell, a piece of blue glass and a jam jar.

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A remarkable little place, now forgotten and forlorn, but still essentially intact.

The well is on private land, permission should be sought from the farm opposite.
The location of the well can be found in the Gazetteer.

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