Balsamic Well, Hoxton, London

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid reference – TQ 330 827

Also Known as:

  1. Balsamick Well

Archaeology & History

In that typically rambling style beloved of early writers on medicinal springs, Timothy Byfield (1687) narrated the tale of uncovering this well in an almost alchemical discourse.  It was located when digging out the cellar of a house near Charles Square in the 1680s.  Upon investigation, the waters were found to possess a good quantity of sulphur and a small amount of iron, leading Byfield to proclaim it could cure a whole army of medical disorders, from cleaning out blockages in the alimentary canal, to treating kidney stones, scurvy, ulcers, headaches, migraines and more.  If used correctly and in the right amount,

” There is,” he says, “no unwholesome glebe (concretion) or any dangerous mineral or metal (in them) that casts one unhappy ray into this healing fountain.” On the contrary, they set up ‘* such a pretty bustle or ferment in nature that makes gay a well-temper’d Healthy Body.”

In the early days when Spa Wells were in vogue, the Balsamic Well became a competitor to the nearby St Agnes le Clear Well, which is probably the reason why one doctor dissuaded the toffs of the time to avoid it!

The waters possessed a slight vinegar-esque flavour—hence the name.  In John MacPherson’s (1871) work, he described it as a “chalybeate well” and despite it having that typical “bituminous scum on it, strange to say,” it yielded “a pleasant aromatic flavour.”  The site has long since been covered over.

References:

  1. Byfield, Timothy, A Short and Plain Account of the late-found Balsamick Wells at Hoxdon, London 1687.
  2. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  3. Hembry, Phyllis, The English Spa 1560-1815, Athlone Press: London 1990.
  4. MacPherson, John, Our Baths and Wells, MacMillan: London 1871.
  5. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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