What’s the Deepest Hole Humans Have Ever Dug by Hand?

© Yiorgos Stamoulis / CC BY-SA 4.0

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: September 9, 2023

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Humans have done some impressive things without the help of technology. That includes digging the Woodingdean Water Well, which is the deepest hole humans have ever dug by hand. And you’ll be surprised by just how long it took them!

Ready to learn more about the Woodingdean Water Well? Let’s dig in!

What Is the Woodingdean Water Well?

Woodingdean Water Well, also known just as the Woodingdean Well, is a man-made well outside the Nuffield Hospital in Woodingdean, near Brighton and Hove, in England.

Although it is the deepest hole humans have ever dug by hand, you couldn’t tell it at a glance. The well is less than three feet wide and appears to be like every other covered well you may come across. However, below, you’ll find that the Woodingdean Water Well is quite unique.

The Woodingdean Water Well is less than three feet wide, and it appears to be like every other covered well that you may come across.

©Yiorgos Stamoulis / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

How Deep Is the Woodingdean Water Well?

Most wells are dug to be around 100 to 800 feet deep. Occasionally, you’ll find some more than 1,000 feet deep, but that’s rare. With that, the depth of the Woodingdean Water Well is impressive, especially considering it was dug by hand.

The Woodingdean Water Well is a whopping 1,280 feet deep. That’s larger than the Eiffel Tower and just a little shorter than the Empire State Building!

An old draw well in Europe

Most wells are dug to be around 100 to 800 feet deep.

©symbiot/Shutterstock.com

How Long Did It Take to Dig Deepest Hole Humans Have Ever Dug By Hand?

A hole larger than the Eiffel Tower — that must have taken years, if not decades, to dig. Right? Well, not quite.

You see, despite being the deepest hole humans have ever dug by hand, the Woodingdean Water Well actually didn’t take that long to be dug. The laborers responsible for this well began digging in 1858. They finished just four years later, in 1862. Not only did it take around four years for the Woodingdean Water Well to be dug, but the crew only consisted of around 45 men.

Although the Woodingdean Water Well was completely dug by hand, it couldn’t have been achieved without some help from the Victorian technology of the time. After digging for so long, the team eventually hit an area where the air was no longer breathable. As a result, they had to send in pipes to run clean air. Even then, however, shifts had to be reduced greatly to preserve the health of the team.

The Eiffel Tower, France

The Woodingdean Water Well is deeper than the Eiffel Tower is tall.

©iStock.com/Sean3810

Other Large Hand-Dug Holes in the World

Although the Woodingdean Water Well is billed as the deepest hand-dug hole in the world, there are a few other top contenders as well. Often, this may even surpass the size of the Woodingdean Water Well in terms of things like the volume of earth moved.

Let’s look at the Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa for instance. This man-made pit was created between the early 1870s and 1914 by hand. Over the course of these years, 50,000 people labored to dig this hole by hand, which ended up being 790 feet deep. While this is just a fraction of the depth of the Woodingdean Water Well, over these forty years, the laborers managed to move over a metric ton of earth in the pursuit of diamonds. That’s a great white shark‘s worth of dirt!

There are other impressive tunnels, mines, and craters created by humans in the world. However, very few were dug by hand alone. Most others utilize modern technologies, such as excavator equipment or even explosives.

Big Hole in Kimberley

The Big Hole in Kimberley, South

Africa

, was created between the early 1870s and 1914 by hand.

©Damian Ryszawy/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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