Ancient Monuments

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Immersion bath associated with Leechwell holy well, 40m north east of Leechwell Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Totnes, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4292 / 50°25'45"N

Longitude: -3.6898 / 3°41'23"W

OS Eastings: 280075.464

OS Northings: 60184.003

OS Grid: SX800601

Mapcode National: GBR QL.MKR5

Mapcode Global: FRA 375X.DCK

Entry Name: Immersion bath associated with Leechwell holy well, 40m north east of Leechwell Cottage

Scheduled Date: 22 April 2005

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021390

English Heritage Legacy ID: 36031

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Totnes

Built-Up Area: Totnes

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Totnes St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes an immersion bath associated with the Leechwell holy
well in Totnes. The bath lies adjacent to a walled historic lane known
locally as Lepers Walk. The immersion bath survives as a triangular pond
denoted by coursed stone rubble walls and a slate slab-lined bottom. The
western corner of the pond has a flat face which may represent blocking of
the original culvert serving the bath. The immersion bath is now fed by a
terracotta pipe with water from the nearby Leechwell holy well. The interior
of the bath measures 4.5m long by up to 3.5m wide and it varies in depth
between 0.15m and 0.6m. Two small stone steps lead into the bath at its
southern corner.
The earliest known reference to the Leechwell dates from the early 12th
century, but the immersion bath may belong to the 13th century when the
nearby leper hospital dedicated to St Mary Magdalene was established. The
bath would have been used to treat leprosy and other skin diseases, as well
as forming a focus for religious activities.
The modern safety fence surrounding the bath is excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A medieval hospital is a group of buildings housing a religious or secular
institution which provided spiritual and medical care. The idea for such
institutions originated in the Anglo-Saxon period although the first definite
foundations were created by Anglo-Norman bishops and queens in the 11th
century. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid 16th century there were
around 800 hospitals. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but had
fallen out of use by this date. Half of the hospitals were suppressed by 1539
as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some smaller institutions
survived until 1547 when they were dissolved by Edward VI. Many of these
smaller hospitals survived as almshouses, some up to the present day. Despite
the large number of hospitals known from documentary sources to have existed,
generally only the larger religious ones have been exactly located. Few
hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by
excavation. In view of these factors all positively identified hospitals are
nationally important. A small number of hospitals were established solely for
the treatment of leprosy. These leper houses differ from other hospitals in
that they were specifically located and arranged to deal with contagious
disease. Their main aim was to provide the sufferer with permanent isolation
from society. In contrast to other hospitals they were normally located away
from population foci.

Despite consolidation work, the immersion bath associated with Leechwell holy
well, 40m north east of Leechwell Cottage survives well and forms part of a
leper hospital and holy well. Considerable documentation survives to augment
our understanding and appreciation of this rare survival. The nearby holy
well forms a focus for visitor and religious activities and, if it was
accessible there is no doubt that the bath would also attract considerable

Source: Historic England


Waterhouse, Robert, The pond in the Bungalow Garden, adjoining Leechwell Lane,, 2004, Unpublished fieldwork notes

Source: Historic England

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