Tucked down off the road near a sharp bend, and just above the Nant Mair Ffynnon Issui is one of the better preserved wells I come across in a while. Steps lead down from the road to a small dry stone alter enclosing a square basin which collects water running down from a stream in the bank. Today the area is a quiet close off valley hosting a number of ancient farms, but despite this Ffynnon Issui seems to be visited quite often judging by the number of votive offerings on the top of the stone walls. These range from flowers, to sea shells (we’re a long way from the sea here) and lots of coins. Ffynnon Issui is certainly not a place you pass by on the way to somewhere else. You need towing to come here.
The legend claims that St Issui, Isho or Ishow was a 6th century hermit who lived by the well. This suggests that the well was also in use in the pre-Christian ere. The waters from the well were used by St Issui to Baptise the locals. Where he existed or not isn’t certain, but he has made his mark. Unfortunately St Issui didn’t have a good ending. As a holy man is was not unusual from him to provide shelter for travellers. On one occasion a traveller refused to be converted to Christianity and murdered St Issui. The area then became known as Merthyr Issui, though today it marked on the maps under it’s English name of Partishow. Merthyr can have two meanings in Welsh names, meaning either Martyr or Burial Place. Both of which could be valid as the Church just above the well has a small chapel claiming to house the body of the saint under the alter.
After the death of the saint the well developed a reputation as a healing site. Pilgrims visited the site well into the 19th century to seek relief from a variety of diseases. One grateful pilgrim having been cured of leprosy by the holy water, left a hatful of gold to build St Issui’s Church in thanks. And it seems it’s popularity continues today.