Woolwell Road

Just as there are a number of ‘well’ related streets around the heart of old Plymouth – Finewell, Buckwell, Westwell, Ladywell – so too there are a few on the northern edge of the modern city – Widewell, Henwell and Woolwell.

Like the first batch, these are ancient names; Widewell dating back at least to the early seventeenth century, Henwell and Woolwell to the thirteenth century. Wells, or springs, were enormously important to man – and beast – prior to our ability to pipe water aroundtowns and cities and it is perhaps no coincidence that both of these medieval names are thought to have animal elements to them; the former being not literally a hen’s or a chicken’s well, but rather a hind’s (deer’s) well and the latter being thought represent a ‘wolves’ spring’. The earliest note we have of the name, in 1281, is wolewell, and the expert’s interpretation of that ‘wole’ is that it is “probably” a contemporary spelling – or mis-spelling of wolf.