‘The Silver Well: Legend says that St Augustine once visited Dorset. While there he met some shepherds grazing their flocks and asked them whether they would prefer beer or water to drink. The temperate shepherds replied ‘water’ whereupon St. Augustine struck the ground with his staff, crying, ‘Cerno El’ as the water gushed out. The words were supposedly a pun on Cernel, the old name of the village and meant ‘I perceive God.’
It is thought that the above legend was invented by the Benedictine monks of Cerne Abbey to serve as an attraction to pilgrims.
Closer to the truth perhaps is the story of St. Edwold, a member of the Mercian Royal Family who one day had a vision of a silver well. He went wandering through the countryside and when he came to Cerne he gave some silver pennies to a shepherd in return for bread and water. The shepherd then showed him a well where he could drink and St Edwold recognised it as the well of his vision. He built a small hermitage by the spring and lived there until his death in 871…’
Information Plaque, Cerne Abbas
‘Are the monks responsible for the Legend of Silver Well such villains if they tweak the truth in order to entice pilgrims to their shrine?
People who have embarked on a Pilgrimage always get something, even if that something isn not quite what they bargained for.
And how true is the earlier story of St Edwold for that matter?
There was doubtless a hermit and a hermitage at one time.
How he actually came to be there is quite another thing altogether.’
Excerpt from, The Heart of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent