A conduit house, C16 or earlier; extended in the mid-C17 and modified in the second half of the C19, and embanked, southern section of Well Path which dates from second half of C19.
Reasons for Designation
The conduit house, which dates from at least the C16 and was extended in the mid-C17 and modified in the late C19, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* conduits houses are a rare building type and this is a good example which has been adapted over the centuries reflecting its longevity as a source of water;
* for its interesting design and form which fully communicates its function.
* it is a testament to the historical provision of a water supply within the town since at least the C16.
* it forms a group with other listed buildings including 27-31 Newtown and the boundary wall to the former brewery site and ramped path with its C19 drinking fountain, which are listed at Grade II.
The conduit house, known in some sources as Ladywell, is situated in Newtown, an area of the town which began to be developed in the second half of the C17. This building, however, has earlier origins and dates from at least the C16. In its original form the conduit house appears to have been a small, above-ground, stone-built structure with a vaulted roof. It was fed probably by the Lady Well stream which rises at Ashley to the north and flows underground to Newtown, but it is unclear whether the conduit house provided water for public or private purposes. In 1661 the land with 'the fountain therein arising', referring to the conduit house, was bought by Paul Methuen, described by the antiquarian John Aubrey (see Sources) as ‘the greatest cloathier of his time’. He lived at The Priory, a C15 house which stood to the east of and downhill from the conduit house. Metheun appears to have been responsible for greatly enlarging the conduit house with an addition to the rear, and installing cisterns and a conduit system, as attested to in mid- and late-C17 documents which variously refer to cisterns, water conduits and pipes that conveyed water to his house and garden. The Priory remained in the ownership of the Metheun family until 1763, and was demolished in 1938.
In the mid-C19 the land immediately to the south-west of the conduit house was redeveloped with a brewery and malthouse, and a boundary wall was built which abutted the conduit house. Sometime between 1841 and 1885 (Tithe and OS maps respectively) the lower section of Well Path, a pathway running uphill from Newtown to St Mary’s Chapel and beyond, which previously respected the conduit house, was realigned and an embankment was constructed to carry the raised path over the building. This incorporated three arched openings which provided access through to the conduit house. During the C19 the conduit house underwent significant modification, probably to increase its supply of water. The superstructure was substantially rebuilt at this time and new cisterns were added; it is uncertain if the earlier cisterns were retained beneath the later replacements.
By the end of the C19, and following the Public Health Act of 1875, Bradford-on-Avon's public springs, including the conduit house, were deemed to be liable to pollution and unable to meet increased demand. In 1883 a water pumping station was built to the west of the town which pumped water to a covered reservoir from where it was gravity-fed into the town. The conduit house probably went out of use around this time, although a deed of 1925 records that access to the conduit system was still required for maintenance.
A conduit house, C16 or earlier; extended in the mid-C17 and modified in the second half of the C19, and the embanked, southern section of Well Path which dates from second half of C19.
MATERIALS: the building is constructed of ashlar and limestone rubble under a monopitch roof covered in corrugated iron sheeting. The embanked, southern section of Well Path is built of limestone rubble with ashlar dressings.
PLAN: the building has an evolved plan and comprises the original, narrow conduit house and, to the rear of this and on a different orientation, a rectangular addition of the mid-C17 which was substantially rebuilt in the C19. The front part of the building (the earliest element of the conduit house) is incorporated into and partly overlain by the southern section of the mid- to late-C19 embankment of Well Path.
EXTERIOR: the south-eastern side of the conduit house is formed by the southern, embanked section of Well Path which is faced with limestone rubble, brought to course. The south-east elevation has a stringcourse and below this are three round-headed, skewed openings with ashlar voussoirs which were repaired in the early C21. Set back within the left-hand arch is a narrow doorway to the original conduit house which stood above ground. This has an almost ogee-arched, peaked head and chamfered jambs and most probably dates from the C16. Iron pintles indicate that a door (not extant) was subsequently added, probably in the C19. The central archway in the embankment has been blocked at the rear, although the upper part of the north-west face of the arch is visible within the conduit house. The right-hand archway leads to the rear of the conduit house and the garden of 27 Newtown which are now accessed by a flight of modern steps. The north-west elevation of the conduit house appears to abut the north-west side of the Well Path embankment and it contains two openings at different heights. The lower opening has a large stone lintel, but its extent is masked externally by the steps and internally by one of the C19 cisterns. The upper window has stone jambs, a chamfered cill and splayed reveals. The rear (north-west) elevation is built of random stone rubble, with a doorway to the far right that has quoins to the left jamb and a timber lintel. Above the doorway is a further opening framed by stone jambs. The mid-C19 boundary wall to the adjacent former brewery site serves as the south-west side of the conduit house.
INTERIOR: the C16 conduit house forming the front part of the building contains two stone troughs set into the floor which are considered to be original to this structure. There is a triangular-shaped opening in the back wall of the rear trough, and a metal sluice and grilled drain cover have been added later, most likely in the C19. The current back wall of the C16 conduit house is formed by the north-west side of the embankment of Well Path and this has been broken through to connect with the later structure to the rear. There is a stone-lined channel and a sluice at the base of this wall. This rear addition to the original conduit house was constructed in the mid-C17, although much of the visible internal fabric dates probably from the second half of the C19 when the building underwent substantial alteration. It houses two large, water storage tanks or cisterns, faced in ashlar and with cement render in places. Three tanks are recorded in some sources, although the possible third tank aligns with the rear doorway and as such is unlikely to have held water. The southern tank cuts across the central archway of the Well Path embankment. A plinth visible in the lower section of the south-west wall is considered to represent the surviving remains of one of the walls of the mid-C17 addition built for Paul Metheun and it continues on a straight alignment where the mid-C19 boundary wall to the brewery turns westwards. The roof timbers comprise a single purlin, reinforced with two later horizontal timbers, and rafters; all are machine sawn.