The Well of St Keyne

There was once a radiantly beautiful girl from Wales who, alongside fifteen of her brothers and sisters, was made a saint and sent to Cornwall. With golden hair and leaf green eyes St. Keyne became a lady renowned for her inventive miracles and extraordinary integrity. She spent her entire life travelling alone and unmolested, held in awe as a saint of exceptional virtue.

Nearing the end of her days, St. Keyne returned to Cornwall to retire. She settled in the Looe Valley, a place that was and still is both beautiful and tranquil. The valley lay shaded by many trees rising on bluebell banks up from the river. St. Keyne thought it would be lovely to decorate the well with a lasting emblem. She planted four trees about the spring; an oak and an elm side by side, an ash on the bank behind and a willow to sweep the pool. As they grew, St. Keyne entwined their branches so they would grow as one trunk to shroud the well. She spent a lot of time praying and delighting in the trees.

Dying, she was carried carefully to sit in her favourite place by the holy well. The sound of the spring gurgling soothed her and the deep green of her trees reflected back at her in the water. Her eyes shone with gratitude for the last strength it gave her fading spirit and she blessed the spring. That afternoon St. Keyne invited a bride and groom newly married in the nearby church to sit with her by the well. She held out two goblets and gestured for the couple to each dip one in the spring water.  When they had done so they both stood expectant for her example. St. Keyne waited, too weak to respond, and the groom thought it polite to gesture for his new wife to drink first. When she had drunk of the clear water of the well, St Keyne told of her last and most eccentric blessing:Whichever shall drink first of the Well of St. Keyne after their wedding vows are said shall be masterful of the marriage and hold the cards to its success. With this virtue her dying words St. Keyne was laid to rest, though her trees and her blessing stayed with the holy well to this day.


 retold by Anna Chorlton

  • Looe Valley