Since the 1400’s there have been named wardens of the Leechwell in Totnes. The water was believed to cure leprosy among other things, and sick folks would journey to Totnes to get healed by the water. To this day there are still named wardens!
The three troughs (from left to right); Toad, Long Crippler and Snake (Long Crippler is an old fashioned name for a slow worm).
The Leechwell in Totnes: A Trilogy
Everything about the well is in threes; there are three pools into which the well pours, the well is sited at the junction of three lanes and the lower immersion pool is an equilateral triangle with sides thirteen feet long.
The Leechwell is located where the three lanes meet.
A surprise discovery.
The immersion pool has yet to be restored back to its former glory, but there are plans to include it into the wonderful Leechwell Gardens sited just downhill from the well. The triangular pool was only discovered recently and quite by accident.
The pool, which is actually triangular, was identified as an Immersion Bath associated with the Leechwell Holy Well and scheduled as an Ancient Monument by English Heritage in 2005 – Leechwell Garden Association
These beautiful old stone walls come at a price it seems. They are bowed out in several places. If you head up hill (the whole area is very steep!) to Maudlin Road, where the original Leper Hospital was sited, you can see a stretch of similar wall has been badly damaged by recent heavy rain. Luckily, no one was hurt.
The Maudlin Leper Hospital
The garden adjoins the grounds assigned to the Maudlin Leper Hospital on the slope above the garden in Maudlin Road. The Maudlin, like many leper hospitals, was established in the 12th Century. Like many, it housed about 12-14 brethren, not all necessarily lepers, and had its own chapel and well. Hospital rules generally required inmates to stay within the hospital grounds, so it is unlikely that they would have used the Leechwell or have been seen much in the town centre. Deeds record that the Maudlin grounds once included a ‘herbe’ or vegetable garden as well as an orchard. The Maudlin Leper Hospital gradually became redundant. It was pulled down and the grounds sold in 1719 – Leecchwell Garden Association
The gardens are run by a volunteer committee who have done a brilliant job in creating this great resource – a real asset to Totnes and a lovely way to spend time with kids. Right now you can watch tadpoles which have hatched up stream get washed down to the lower pool.
The Leechwell Garden Association welcomes new members, if you are interested in joining contact Lu Overy via email -firstname.lastname@example.org