Caesar’s Well, Wimbledon, London, Surrey

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – TQ 2237 7151

Also Known as:

  1. Robin Hood’s Well
  2. Roman Well
  3. Springpond Well

Getting Here

Caesar’s Well in the late-60s

There are numerous ways to get here from all directions: i) from the west-side of Wimbledon Common, on the Robin Hood’s Way A3 road, keep your eyes peeled for the small crossroad  of Robin Hood Lane and Road, obivously taking the one into the park. Keep on the dead straight Robin Hood Ride path until your hit the carpark ¾-mile on; and from here, bear sharp left (NW) for 250 yards or so, where a small slope down on your left takes you there; or, ii) from Wimbledon village side on the A219 Parkside A219 road, where the War Memorial stands, head onto the Common along The Causeway, past the Fox & Grapes going on Camp Road, then up the Sunset Road towards the carpark.  And then, once again go NW for 250 yards or so, where the small slope on your left takes you there.  You’ll find it.

Archaeology & History

Described by William Bartlett (1865) as “the never-failing spring of water, improperly called the Roman Well”, its constant flow was severely tested in the great drought of 1976—and it kept on flowing.  Only just though!  It was highlighted on the early Ordnance Survey map with the plain name of the Springpond Well.  The great historian and folklorist Walter Johnson (1912) gave us the best historical resumé of the site, telling that,

Caesar’s Well around 1900
Caesar’s Well around 1911

“Caesar’s Well, formerly known as Robin Hood or Roman Well—the Springpond Well on the Ordnance Map—issues on the other side of the little watershed above mentioned, at a height of 149 feet O.D.  The well lies in a little hollow, now ringed with Scottish pines. The gathering ground is the land to the east, rising to 198 feet O.D. This area is not large, but quite sufficient to maintain a permanent rill of pure water.  The well, the waters of which once were deemed of special medicinal merit, was enclosed with brick in 1829, and, as the inscription tells us, refaced with granite blocks by Sir Henry W. Peek, M.P., in 1872.  The outflowing waters descend to Brickfield Cottage, where they expand into a turbid duckpond; thence the course is through the yard behind the house, and along the north side of Robin Hood Road to Brook Cottage.  During 1911 the “Well” proper altogether dried up, but water still issued from the stand spout a few yards below, which is supplied by an artificial boring and pipe that tap the spring at a depth of 18 feet.”

Site shown on the 1874 map

The proximity of this never-failing spring to the huge prehistoric enclosure of Caesar’s Camp just a few hundred yards to the south would indicate it was an important water source in Bronze Age times and, I’d hazard, would have been bestowed with some sanctity, as many such wells tended to be.

Folklore

James Rattue (2008) informed us that the name Robin Hood’s Well was known here in the 18th century prior to it being known as Caesar’s Well, but there seems to be no known relationship between Robin Hood and this site.  However, a piece written in 1922 told that there was a lingering tradition that Julius Caesar encamped on Wimbledon Common in 51 BCE and that this folk memory was kept alive in the lore of local children who devoutly believed that the great Roman Emperor drank from the cool depths of this well.

References:

  1. Bartlett, William A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Wimbledon, Simpkin Marsall: London 1865.
  2. Hughes, John L., “Caesar’s Well, Wimbledon Common,” in Source magazine, no.9, Spring 1989.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Wimbledon Common – Its Geology, Antiquities and Natural History, T.Fisher Unwin: London 1912.
  4. Rattue, James, Holy Wells of Surrey, Umbra: Weybridge 2008.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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