Saint Winefride (called in her native Welsh Gwenffrewi; in modern English Winifred and various variations) was a legendary 7th century Welsh noblewoman who was canonized after dying for the sake of her chastity. A healing spring at the site of her death is now a shrine and pilgrimage site called St Winefride's Well in Holywell, known as the Lourdes of Wales. In modern times, St Winefride has been unofficially adopted as the patron saint of payrolls and payroll clerks.
According to legend, Winefride was the daughter of a Welsh nobleman, Tyfid ap Eiludd. Her suitor, Caradog, was enraged when she decided to become a nun, and decapitated her. In one version of the tale, her head rolled downhill, and, where it stopped, a healing spring appeared. Winefride's head was subsequently rejoined to her body due to the efforts of her maternal uncle, Saint Beuno, and she was restored to life. She later became a nun and abbess at Gwytherin in Denbighshire, and Caradog, cursed by Beuno, melted into the ground. More elaborate versions of this tale relate many details of her life, including Winefride's pilgrimage to Rome.
In spite of the slim records for this period, there appears to be a historical basis for this personage. Winefride's brother Owain is known to have killed Caradog as revenge for a crime. She succeeded the Abbess, Saint Tenoi, who is believed to be her maternal grand-aunt.
Another well named after St Winifred is in the hamlet of Woolston near Oswestry in Shropshire. It is thought that on her way to Shrewsbury Abbey, Winifred's body was laid here overnight and a spring sprang up out of the ground. The water is supposed to have healing powers and be good at healing bruises, wounds and broken bones. The well is covered by a 15th century half-timbered cottage. The water flows through a series of stone troughs and into a large pond, which then flows into a stream. The cottage is in a quiet, peaceful setting in the middle of the countryside, and is maintained by the Landmark Trust.
Another spring supposed arising from the laying down of Winefride's body is at Holywell Farm, midway between Tattenhall and Clutton, Cheshire. There is a spring in the garden of this non working farm which supplies two houses with their drinking water.
English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins memorialized Saint Winefride in his unfinished drama, "St Winefred's Well."
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