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Ffynnon Fair (St. Mary’s Well), Llwyn-y-pia

Ffynnon Fair is a holy well situated outside the village of Llwyn-y-pia. The well is the oldest recorded Christian site in the Rhondda. Some historians date the site back further, and it could be pagan in origin. The water from the well is reputed to cure ailments, especially rheumatism and poor eyesight. Rhisiart ap Rhys wrote:

"There are rippling waters at the top of the rock
Farewell to every ailment that desires them!
White wine runs in the rill,
That can kill pain and fatigue!"

There is a legend that a statue of the Virgin Mary appeared in the branches of an oak tree close to the well. It was said to have been incredibly beautiful and a gift from Heaven. The statue resisted all attempts to remove it from the tree, until a chapel and shrine were built. It is said that the statue survived at Penrhys until 1538, when King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries brought the destruction of the shrine, and the public burning of the statue in London along with other religious artefacts.

Simon Topham

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