The local.xml and page.xml files in our theme do not specify any files for the sidebars' content, nor in the base theme which I assume this one inherits from. But there is content in both, not present in any CMS blocks or anything. Template hints won't work either

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The first place I would look is app/design/frontend/THEME/PACKAGE/template/page for the files 2columnns-left.phtml, 2columns-right.phtml, and 3columns.phtml depending on which layout you have selected for the page you are talking to.

Since not all custom themes will update the default base files, you should also check app/design/frontend/base/default/template/page for the same files by the same names.

I would look for css classes surrounding the text you want to remove and work your way up the html structure from there. You may find a reference to a separate custom/child file, or the text in plain HTML right there.

Have you already looked through your static blocks to ensure that nothing with the word left is in the identifier portion? Custom themes will often add new blocks during installation and leave them enabled so that you are aware of space there to be customized.

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