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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021390

Date first listed: 22-Apr-2005


Ordnance survey map of Immersion bath associated with Leechwell holy well, 40m north east of Leechwell Cottage
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: South Hams (District Authority)

Parish: Totnes

National Grid Reference: SX 80074 60184


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

Reasons for Designation

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 attention.


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


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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number: 36031

Legacy System: RSM


Waterhouse, Robert, The pond in the Bungalow Garden, adjoining Leechwell Lane,, 2004, Unpublished fieldwork notes

End of official listing