Archaeology and Heritage

St Mary's Conduit and the High Street Obelisk

St Mary’s Conduit

In the grounds of St Mary-le-Wigford’s Church, next to the High Street level crossing is the unique St Mary’s Conduit, where people collected their drinking water from the mid-16th century up until 1906.

This ornate structure - a conduit head - was built using architectural fragments from the Whitefriars/Carmelite Friary which stood, until its dissolution in the 1530s, on the west side of the High Street. Some of the fragments originate from the 14th-century Kyme family chapel at the Friary, whose site is now occupied by shops at the former St Mark’s Station, Station Street and St Mark’s Square.

Before the Dissolution, the monks at the Greyfriars, west of Broadgate, had their own water supply supplied from the natural springs north of Monks Road, probably on the present Lincoln College site, via pipes which served the main conduit head at the Greyfriary. After the religious houses were closed, the Corporation acquired the conduit and extended it to a faucet at the Stonebow, replaced in 1760 by the conduit on an Obelisk on High Bridge, and extended it further in 1864 to the surviving water fountain at St Peter-at-Gowts Church.

According to an 1836 report by Lincoln Corporation, the pipes were still original, of lead and in a poor condition. St Mary’s Conduit was repositioned to its present site in 1864, slightly further away (eastwards) from the High Street, and last supplied water in 1906. Lincoln’s conduits were popularly trusted more than the mains water during the typhoid epidemic of 1904/5.

The High Bridge Obelisk

After concerns about its weight, it was removed in 1939 and recreated in 1996 at St Mark’s, reusing the pineapple pinnacle, the civic shield and one piece of the dolphins feature.

Appropriately perhaps, it was on this site, the Carmelite Friary, that the stone fragments from St Mary’s Conduit originated.