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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020670

Date first listed: 08-Dec-1980

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Dec-2002


Ordnance survey map of Medieval bridge and part of a late medieval conduit under Holloway Street
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: Exeter (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: SX 92376 92037


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33045

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing