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It's a mystery

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Mark Cummings | 12:10 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2012



Have a look at this picture and read the email below...then please HELP!

Hi Mark,

Building an orangery at The Red House, Bourton-on-the-Water. Fellow worker, Adrian, noticed a bit of unusual ground, so we investigated it; Only 6 ins below normal ground we uncovered some bricks built on edge, in a circle and about 4 ft. wide. The owners, Iain and Kate Bradley excavated the hole to about 3 ft. deep all last Saturday. We now see the hole opens up to 7 ft. wide, circular with a lovely domed head, which has 8' ventilation holes in it. We estimate it to be 7 ft. deep. The sides are rendered with a very hard material - I'm not sure what it is at the moment, but the brickwork is built in a lime mortar, dating it to about 1830 - 1850 - the same as the house.

We have discovered over the weekend that the house was not only the 3rd ever hospital in Bourton, but it was the 1st with a fully paid staff and it was also an isolation hospital. I've never uncovered anything as exciting as this building in my 54 years in the trade and I really want to know what it was before we reluctantly have to cap it over.

Suggestions so far lean towards: an ice house for storing meat or other foods, a morgue for storing bodies until undertakers collect or surgeons do post mortems, an isolation chamber for patients with unknown symptoms or again awaiting examination, a dousing bath or something along those lines, as the walls were obviously water-proofed at that time.

Bourton historian and good friend, John Finch, has searched local photos of the 2nd half of the 1800s, even an early aerial photo of the property, but nothing conclusive to date.

It has already raised great interest locally, so we desperately need answers this week. Friday it has to be finalised.

Norman

Any ideas...cummings@bbc.co.uk

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