Family renovating kitchen dig up 300-year-old well while adding underfloor heating

A couple discover a well lying underneath their kitchen flooring as they were undergoing their kitchen renovation
Kevin and Ellie Mort dug up their floor to install underfloor heating and discovered a well (Image credit: Kevin and Ellie Mort)

A family renovating their kitchen were surprised to find a 300-year-old well beneath their floor after pulling up the old tiles to install underfloor heating.

Rather than cover it back over, Kevin Mort and his daughter Ellie, who live in Audlem, near Cheshire, started filming their unusual discovery for their TikTok page and decided to keep digging to see what else they might uncover. 

We take a look at what happened when they continued digging down into the well and how they eventually chose to incorporate the 17ft deep hole into their renovating a house design by making it into a feature on their kitchen floor.

Lifted up existing floor to find soil and water

Kevin and Ellie explain that they pulled up their kitchen floor tiles to install underfloor heating as well as digging out the concrete subfloor.

When they hit the soil they soon noticed it was damp in one particular spot as well as having a different, more gravelly consistency. Further investigation with a metal crowbar revealed a hole that filled with water. Intrigued — and a little panic for the stability of their home — they continued digging until they hit the brick walls of an old well.

It turns out the house was built over 300 years ago and was extended over the original courtyard to accommodate a larger kitchen — this courtyard clearly housed an old well, which was filled in to be built over.

@mortylad

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Excavated well to find original handmade bricks

Digging out the well wasn't easy either as it involved pumping out fresh water as well as removing the thick mud inside. When the couple finally reached the bottom, 17ft down, they discovered a natural clay base but "no coins or gold unfortunately".

That said, perhaps one of the more delightful discoveries was the well's construction itself with handmade clay bricks, likely dating back to when their home was built in the 1600/1700s. The family carefully washed down the side of the well to showcase the in all their glory.

Towards the bottom these bricks narrowed, making progress removing the infill as well as the water harder. Once dug out, however, Kevin and Ellie found that all the clay bricks were still intact and the well was in working order, refilling itself with around 8ft water at the bottom. 

@mortylad

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Added airflow inside well to combat condensation

After discovering the well, Kevin and Ellie decided to incorporate it their kitchen design by making it a feature in their floor. "The well is part of our home's history and we want to preserve that," explained Ellie.

The plan was to add reinforced glass over the top of it so it could being walked over safely. This did mean taking measures to make sure condensation wouldn't interfere with the view deep inside the hole.

For this, Kevin chose to install an airflow inside the well, essentially adding a concealed black plastic pipe to allow fresh air from outdoors into the space.

In terms of the smell, they described this as being "earthy" while they were digging it out but the smell soon disappeared once it had been opened up. The water inside wasn't stagnant either, as it is deep enough to penetrate into the water table with fresh water moving through the clay base and brick constantly. Ellie said that they are having the water inside the tested to see if it is drinkable but have no plans to actually drink or use any water from it.

Installed underfloor heating around the well

Once the well was dug out and an airflow added, the next job was to go back to their original plan and lay the unfloor heating — but the new addition of the well meant the insulation and wet underfloor heating pipes would have to be laid around the feature. 

@mortylad

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Adding lighting and reinforced glass

Transforming the well into a focal point wasn't just about adding glass. Lights were added onto the well walls to illuminate the dark interior and highlight the detailing of the handmade bricks while also ensuring the feature wasn't just a black hole under foot.

Kevin and Ellie then dry-fitted a bespoke circular metal frame over the top of the brickwork, which also concealed the top of the bricks to give an uninterrupted view of the walls of the well. This was packed out before being mortared into place.

Next came the centrepiece — a 31.5mm toughened glass panel weighing 290 pounds, acquired from specialist well glass fitter . The couple first cleaned the glass and then positioned it on the special frame.

It was then time to test out walking over their new feature and admiring the well from above — even the family's sausage dog had a go!

You can see the rest of their work via their TikTok account @mortylad.

@mortylad

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Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.