St Mary's and All Saints Church & Holy Well - Atlas Obscura

St Mary's and All Saints Church & Holy Well

Dunsfold, England

An ancient yew tree and holy well nestle beside a remarkable 13th-century church. 


Described as one of the most beautiful churches in all of England, St Mary’s and All Saints Church is located in the small village of Dunsfold, Surrey, about 40 miles southwest of London. Situated by the river Arun and surrounded by lush countryside, the church is a stunning place to visit on a warm summer’s day.

Before the 13th-century stone church was built, the area was a sacred, pagan place of worship. Today, right inside the picturesque churchyard, an ancient yew tree dominates the surrounding cemetery. The tree is thought to be up to 1,500 years old. It no longer has a main trunk so visitors can stand inside its hollow body. The yew predates the medieval church and historians suggest it may have been worshipped in pagan times.

Celtic pagans considered the trees sacred symbols of death, resurrection, everlasting life, and portals to other worlds, and would often build their temples close to yew trees.

Built between 1270 and 1290, St. Mary’s and All Saints Church features incredible medieval architecture and has some of the oldest pews in the country, dating between 1409 and 1441. There’s also some 13th-century stained glass in the church and traces of medieval wall paintings. The baptismal font also dates to the 13th century.

Further down a footpath along the river is another, even older site: a holy well beneath a carved wooden canopy featuring a wooden statue of St Mary. The well’s water is thought to carry healing properties.

The well may have once been associated with a river goddess—her name is now lost to time. According to folklore, the Virgin Mary blessed the water with the power to heal individuals suffering from eye diseases. The wooden structure around the well was built, it’s said, to honor her holy presence.

Know Before You Go

The church and well are situated off a small road located in a residential area. Please be respectful of the residents who live here. There isn't much parking space and there are no toilet facilities or bins—take your rubbish with you.

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March 15, 2024

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