The Leechwell – Totnes, England - Atlas Obscura

The Leechwell

A historic holy well hidden near a charming English park.  


The Leechwell is a tranquil treasure well worth the small detour from visiting the market. A plaque at the site details a little of the well’s history. The easily missed Leechwell is a historic holy well appearing in records as far back as the 13th century, though its exact built date is unclear.

Threes are a theme of the well, as it’s at the meeting point of three lanes, has three streams of water, and is associated with a three-sided pool close by. The pattern of threes indicates the well’s holy nature, with the number three symbolizing the Holy Trinity.

The well itself sits in a sunken rectangular basin, where water pours into three stone troughs named “toad,” “long crippler,” (an old local word for “slow worm”), and “snake.” The water source is visible through a barred hole in the back wall; each bar is covered almost completely in ribbons tied by locals and visitors.

In the past, locals used the water for its perceived healing properties, particularly for snake bites and joint, eye, and skin conditions. Local legend also claims the water was also used in attempts to cure leprosy. Today, it still sees usage by the town’s new age and pagan communities, many of whom leave offerings around the well and collect its water. Potted plants, candles, and sea shells can often be seen left on the stone shelf above the troughs.

Farther down the hill, in Leechwell Garden, is a triangular immersion pool associated with the well. Both the well itself and the triangular pool are scheduled monuments.

Know Before You Go

The well can be accessed from three different roads; however, accessibility by the garden (Leechwell Lane) route is potentially difficult for wheelchair users due to the positioning of the metal railings. The lane next to the Kingsbridge Inn is more accessible, but still steep and narrow.

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