katherine_rossKatherine Ross has worked as a gardener at The Dartington Hall Trust for four years. She is currently researching the history of the gardens as part of her work, and hopes to bring some of the stories and history to life in her blogs.


Recently, the Property team joined forces with us in the gardens for a day of team building.

A small group tackled a pond to the west of the Swan Fountain. Near the end of the morning, Lawrence, our Water and Infrastructure Technician, started tackling a group of Royal Fern with a shovel and uncovered a rustic limestone waterfall.

Since then, the gardens team spent a couple more days in the area, rediscovering one of our listed features, a Holy Well!

The Holy Well
The Holy Well

A Holy Well is a water course with Christian, and sometimes pre-Christian pagan, association. It is often linked with belief and healing properties. Christian legend suggests that the water is made to flow by the action of a saint.

Our Holy Well is dated from early medieval to post-medieval (1066AD to 1750AD) (Gateway, 2013). It consists of a rectangular depression, measuring 4.5 m wide, 6 m long and 1.2 m deep. In the 19th century, the enclosure was dammed to make the pond, with the cascade of limestone rubble, falling 1.5m into a channel below.

From here the water runs into an ancient stone culvert behind a Tiltyard terrace, through the Valley Field and over a further cascade. At the garden boundary, at the Ha-Ha, the water falls between two rocks and disappears. A previous head gardener, Terry Underhill, using a green dye, found that it resurfaces at the Textile Mill on the road leading to Totnes.


The Holy Well is located near the London Plane trees, at point 4 on the estate map. 

5 thoughts on “Gardens blog: Unearthing the ‘Holy Well’

  1. Hi I am doing some research for an art project. I have travelled extensively working with leylines and water especially wells. I am very interested in the well you have uncovered and would like to connect with you about the properties of the water. I work with the elemental realms and off planet energies. I am currently at Plymouth College and would like to base my current project around your well. I am thinking of doing a glass sculpture and my main interests are sacred spaces. Hope to connect soon

  2. If this water is consumable and a mineral rich source of natural wild water, i believe it should be given back to the people so they may be able to collect and drink this natural source of sustenance. Instead of the options we are limited to today, which is drink the corrupt and bleached water that comes through the pipes and out of the taps in our homes, Which some mentally disoriented people have decided is theirs, and that they will charge you and profiteer from it for there own personal gain. Free the water, free the people………

    1. Hi James,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      The water in the well was tested about 10 years ago and found, due to the level of nitrates, to be unsuitable for human consumption.

  3. Where exactly in the garden is this Holly Well? Sorry can’t quite work it out from the available info?? Would like to see it

    1. Hi Colin – it’s near the Azalea Dell, just beyond the corner of the tiltyard to the right of the terraced slope. If you click the line ‘The Holy Well is located near the London Plane trees, at point 4 on the estate map’ at the bottom of the blog you can see the estate map and navigate to point 4. Let us know if you’re still having problems finding it!

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