Archaeological Excavation at No. 3 Well Street Exeter (OASIS ID: borderar1-224498)

Border Archaeology, 2017

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Border Archaeology (2017) Archaeological Excavation at No. 3 Well Street Exeter (OASIS ID: borderar1-224498) [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Archaeological Excavation at No. 3 Well Street Exeter (OASIS ID: borderar1-224498)

This site was thought to enclose the location of the holy well of St. Sidwell. Local folklore suggests the well sprang up when Sidwell, a young Saxon Christian woman living in Exeter in the 8th century, was killed at the site. Folklore aside, the well became an important water source supplying the city through a system of lead pipes until its replacement in around 1347. The aim of the archaeological investigation was to identify any surviving structural remains associated with the well. An octagonal structure of fine local Heavitree masonry was discovered and is believed to represent the latest, probably late medieval phase of the original well structure.

The well had been disturbed by a brick conduit on the west side. The octagonal well was substantial enough to have supported some form of roofing structure and was surrounded by a cobbled surface with a drainage channel respecting the octagonal form. The cobbled gully had been much disturbed by later activity. A well-constructed L-shaped wall adjacent to the medieval well may have originally formed part of an enclosure. Borehole evaluation of the well's stratigraphy revealed 2m of clays above peaty organic material just above the bedrock at 3.3m. This strongly suggests that the site was originally a marshy area surrounding a natural spring formed between bedrock strata, which the well structure subsequently formalised. A later 19th -century brick well had been cut through the medieval cobbling surrounding the octagonal well and may represent an attempt to supersede the medieval well.