This page has details of the early history of the Southern Area, the Leechwell Stream, more recent history and various DOS documents.

The History of the Garden

The present garden was an old orchard, part of the property of Leechwell Cottage, until it was divided and Leechwell Bungalow built around 1930. Before that the orchard was owned (or leased) by many different people, one of whom was William Bogan of Bowden House in 1656. Earlier still, the orchard was probably in ownership of the Church or one of the chantry chapels in the town. The orchard is bounded to the north by the distinctive stepped course of Leechwell Lane, said to follow the line of extra-mural burgage plots dating from the Saxon period. A survey of the garden dated 1873 (see below) clearly shows water from the Leechwell flowing through the garden into a pool and then along one side of a cultivated plot tucked behind a bend in the wall of Leechwell Lane. The watercourse eventually joins the stream running through the back gardens of Moorashes and hence to the river Dart.

The Leechwell Holy Well

The Leechwell was Scheduled as a holy well in 2003. It has been described as one of the most ancient and important holy wells in Devon (Faull) and as being a well of high antiquity (Devon County Monuments Register). Its substantial stone structure is built into a deeply cut crossroad site with a raised bench and walled and gated water source. The one source feeds three granite basins, which in turn empty into a large enclosed stone basin. The water is piped beneath the floor of Leechwell Lane but earlier maps (above) show that it once left the well via an open leat through the garden of Leechwell Cottage. From here it entered the pool in the Leechwell Garden.

The Pool

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. Each side is about 13ft long. It is about 2ft deep at the apex and about 3ft 6ins deep at the base, is lined with stone and slate and has two steps leading into it. It is fed by water from the Leechwell, located higher up, 100ft above the garden. Today the water reaches the pool via a culvert or pipe which probably runs outside the wall of the garden, beneath Leechwell Lane.

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.

Leprosy was known in England from the 6th Century. It was incurable, and it is likely that from the first lepers would have sought any form of spiritual, magical, medicinal or cleansing relief, including the use of wells and springs, in their communities. Research suggests that leper hospitals were often built near or on such sites where lepers already gathered and that wells, like the Leechwell for example, were known and used for their supposed healing qualities long before specialist hospitals were founded in the 12th Century.

The Leechwell Stream

There is other evidence that the water from the Leechwell once flowed as an open stream from near the well to the pool in the Bungalow Garden. In 1864, the land that now forms the garden of Leechwell Cottage, the Leechwell Garden and the land on which the new houses on Heathway West have been built, was sold at auction. The poster advertising the auction, below left, contains the words: "and a perpetual Stream of the celebrated Leechwell Water runs through the Premises" The 1873 Survey, shown above, shows the path of this stream as a blue line. The 2006 design for the garden reinstated this stream and extended it down through the garden as an open water-course. Unfortunately when work began on the infrastructure in erly 2010 an open watercourse proved impractical for various reasons so the two new water features are instead joined by a conduit running under the lawn.

Note. The 1864 poster gives the area as 1¾ acres, while the area shown on the 1873 map is about 1½ acres. The missing area may have been the various 'orchard' pieces (shaded pink below) which are now owned by houses in Maudlin Road. Taken together these exactly make up the difference.

Recent History

What's happened since the 1980's when SHDC built the link road and acquired the Bungalow Garden - the 1995 and 2003 plans, SOS, DOS etc (to be written).

DOS Documents

In 2004 DOS held a 3-day "Big Event", summarised in a dossier and during 2005 the DOS Open Space Group, led by Sue Holmes, produced three further documents. These four documents are available for downloading as PDFs (just click on the cover image) but be warned that they are large (6.5, 3.5, 11 and 20 MB respectively).

This document contains summaries and a visual overview of the research done by DOS leading up to the "Big Event".

Following the production of designs for the new buildings for the Southern Area, the South Hams District Council asked DOS to set up a Steering Group to how the open space within the area could be designed and managed. This is what this report is about. It looks at what needs to be done and who could do it.

This Open Space Strategy Report is the "big picture" for open space in Totnes, and seeks to define the value and role of open space and to ensure that open spaces enhance the quality of the environment, the life of local communities and social inclusion by creating a community framework for participation in open space provision and management. It also offers the basis for a greater mutual understanding between the Council and the community on some fundamental aspects of project management.

The third document is a collection of ideas from the community of what we might see at the end. These ideas were shown at an Exhibition in the Civic Hall on 30 June 2005 and then collected in this document.