Ancient Monuments

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Medieval bridge and part of a late medieval conduit under Holloway Street

A Scheduled Monument in Newtown and St Leonard's, Devon

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Latitude: 50.718 / 50°43'4"N

Longitude: -3.5259 / 3°31'33"W

OS Eastings: 292376.766809

OS Northings: 92041.007972

OS Grid: SX923920

Mapcode National: GBR P1.979C

Mapcode Global: FRA 37H5.XWD

Entry Name: Medieval bridge and part of a late medieval conduit under Holloway Street

Scheduled Date: 8 December 1980

Last Amended: 6 December 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020670

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33045

County: Devon

Electoral Ward/Division: Newtown and St Leonard's

Built-Up Area: Exeter

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Exeter St Leonard

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes the below ground remains of the medieval Larkbeare
Bridge and a length of stone-built conduit of mid-16th century date, which
is immediately adjacent to the east. The bridge lies 2.4m below the modern
surface of Holloway Street and is encased by later masonry and brickwork.
In the medieval period this bridge would have served to carry carted
traffic over the Shutebrook, which cut across the street. Prolonged use of
the road had worn a deep hollow into the valley side giving rise to the
name Holloway Street. The conduit, which channelled the waters of the
Shutebrook, lies beneath the adjacent Larkbeare House; it is likewise
totally below ground and now serves as a storm drain. Both the bridge and
conduit are accessible via a modern manhole and culvert but, for health
and safety reasons, entry is restricted solely to trained personnel of
Exeter City Council. However, both the bridge and conduit have been fully
recorded and documented by S Brown in the Proceedings of the Devon
Archaeological Society.
Records indicate that the bridge comprises a single narrow span, 1.4m
across, with a two-centred arch 1.9m high creating a vault 4.7m wide which
is flanked by parapets 0.5m thick. The vault is supported by six equally
spaced chamfered ribs which spring from a chamfered plinth. The upstream
face of the bridge retains part of the original double arch ring. The
walls and ribs are built of ashlar blocks and the vault is of undressed
stones. The bridge carried a roadway 3.7m wide, this roadway being an
important link in the medieval period between Exeter and its head port at
Topsham. Stone, bound for the 13th and 14th century building programmes at
Exeter Cathedral, would have passed regularly along this route and
construction of the bridge is considered to have taken place in the 13th
century, at this time of heightened use. It is significant that the stone
used in the bridge construction is volcanic trap and sandstone with none
of the characteristic Heavitree breccia which was used extensively
throughout the city from the mid-14th century onwards.
The conduit is 11m in length and it abuts the upstream face of the bridge on
its east side. It averages 1.2m in width and is 2m high with a chamfered
plinth. Its flat roofing slabs are supported by a corbelled course. The north
wall of the conduit was built with two chute openings serving garderobes (open
latrines) in the north wall of Larkbeare House so the conduit acted as a
sewer. All of the work is in large breccia blocks, the same as that used for
the house which is considered to have been constructed in the middle years of
the 16th century.
The ground above the bridge and conduit is excluded from the scheduling,
although the bridge and conduit themselves are included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval and early post-medieval single span bridges are structures designed
to carry a road or track over a river by means of a single arch, typically 3m-
6m in span. They were constructed throughout the medieval period, most
commonly using timber. Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th
century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many
medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post-
medieval period. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance
of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church,
especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse
routes between their landholdings. Some stone built medieval bridges still
survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of
the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. A common
medieval feature is the presence of stone ashlar ribs underneath the arch. The
bridge abutments and revetting of the river banks also form part of the
bridge. Where medieval bridges have been altered in later centuries, original
features are sometimes concealed behind later stonework, including remains of
earlier timber bridges. Bridges were common and important features of medieval
towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road
and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single
span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are
considered to be of national importance. A larger number retain significant
medieval or post-medieval remains, allowing the original form of the bridge to
be determined. These examples are also nationally important.

The medieval Larkbeare Bridge, by virtue of the fact that it is buried
beneath later road deposits, is known to survive well and its medieval
fabric and characteristics have been studied, documented, and published in
detail. Its design elements, including the use of ribbing, suggest a
construction date in the 13th century which would make it one of the
earliest surviving stone bridges in the South West. The ribbed
construction is rare with only a handful of such examples surviving in the
region. The monument will provide evidence of medieval bridge construction
techniques and the associated conduit provides a surviving example of late
medieval sewerage works.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brown, S W, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in The Medieval Larkbeare Bridge, , Vol. 39, (1981), 155-58

Source: Historic England

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