Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Gardens and Spas - Bagnigge Wells 



    CLERKENWELL may, with all propriety, be termed. the Nassau of London; for, independent of its own well, wherever it is, if there be one, it abounds in other springs and conduits of rare; virtue, with the celebrated Brunnen of Pentonville at its verge, on the side of the New-road; so that it bids fair to rival even Germany itself.
    The great "facility of communication" afforded by omnibuses and steam-boats now places Bagnigge Wells within the reach of the most remote localities, at a cheap rate, how ever distant they may be. The Rhine Antwerp and Boulogne steamers land their passengers at London Bridge. from which spot conveyances may be procured to the bottom of Field-lane, in Holborn. At this point, we would recommend the traveller to pursue his journey on foot through a most interesting district, taking care only to supply himself exactly with such money and personal effects as he may absolutely stand in need of; the commissioners of customs on frontier being exceedingly inquisitive in their examinations. Indeed, the customs altogether at this point want reforming, owing to the various frauds for which they have long been remarkable.
    Field-lane, from the number of receiving-houses by which it is surrounded may be truly designated as being situated in a ring fence. The inhabitants have a custom of doing honour to any distinguished traveller, by displaying numberless silken banners from their houses, over their stalls, like the scarves of knights over their stalls in the old cathedrals. In fact, all the buildings in this spot have an air of venerable antiquity; some of them, indeed, being so very old, that they are fast tumbling down. 
    The traveller may turn to the right at the end of this interesting lane, which the acumen of its inhabitants has made anything but a green one; and the proceed down a long straggling thoroughfare for ten minutes, at the end of which period he had better ask his way, when he will find he has been coming in a totally different direction to what he ought to have done. Retracing his steps, after many minute inquiries, he will arrive at the outer fortifications of Clerkenwell Castle - a stronghold and keep of the latter ages, in which proper objects may secure a residence by an order from any magistrate, and be taken the greatest care of by the amiable governor. A view of the interior is not difficult to be obtained; and commodious vans leave Bow-street, Marlborough-street, and Queen-square daily for this building. Near this spot, Middleton-street derives a melancholy interest from having been the scene of a terrible explosion in August 1843 which blew up the paving-stones - a provision of nature to restore the balance in favour of the wooden blocks which had been some time blown up by Sir Peter Laurie. A short promenade will now bring the visitor to the scene of the present notice.
    We last visited Bagnigge Wells about the beginning of the present week, and, like many travellers, at first passed close to it without seeing it.
    Upon returning, however, our eye was arrested by an ancient door in a wall, over which was inscribed the following-

S. T

    This inscription, of which the above is a fac-simile, was surrounded by a noseless head carved in stone; and underneath was a cartoon drawn in chalk upon the door, evident1y of a later date, and bearing a resemblance to some of the same class in Gell's Pompeii. Underneath was written in letters pf an irregular alphabet "CHUCKY" - the entire drawing being without doubt some local pasquinade.
    Not being able to obtain admittance at the door, we went on a short distance and came to the ruins of the ancient "Wells," of which part of the banqueting-room still exists. These are entirely open to the public, as well as the adjoining pleasure-grounds, although the thick layer of brickbats with which they are covered, renders walking a task of some difficulty. The adjacent premises of an eminent builder, separate them some cubits' length from the road of Gray's Inn, near which, what we suppose to be the "Well," is still visible. It is a round hole in the ground behind the ruins, filled up with rubbish and mosaics of oyster-shells, but at present about eighteen inches deep.
    It is very evident that the character of Bagnigge Wells has much altered within the last century. For bearing that date we have before us the "Song of the 'Prentice to his Mistress," in which the attractions of the place are thus set forth.
    "Come, come, Miss Priscy, make it up,
    And we will lovers he:
    And we will go to Bagnigge Wells,
And there we'll have some tea.
    And there you'll see the ladybirds
    All on the stinging-nettles
    And there you'll see the waterworks,
    And shining copper kettles.
    And there you'll see the fishes, Miss,
    More curious than Whales;
    They re made of gold and silver, Miss,
    And wag their little tails."
    Of the wonders recounted in these stanzas, the stinging-nettles alone remain flourishing, which they do in a great quantity. The waterworks are now confined to two spouts and a butt against the adjacent building and the gold and silver fishes, separately in the form of red herrings and sprats, have been removed to the stalls in the neighbourhood, with a great deal more of the wag in the dealer, than in themselves.
    The real Bagnigge Wells, where company assemble to drink at the present day, is next door to the ruins. The waters are never taken, however, now, without being strongly medicated, by a process carried on at the various brewers' and distillers' of the metropolis ; without this they are supposed, by some classes, to be highly injurious. Their analysis has produced various results. Soda has been detected in one species, analogous to the German Seltzer, and designated "Webb's;" others contain iron in appreciable quantities, and institute a galvanic circle when quaffed from goblets formed from an alloy of tin and lead. Their effects are various:  in some constitutions quickening the circulation and raising the animal temperature - in others producing utter prostration.
    Flannel jackets and brown-paper caps appeared to be the costume chiefly worn by the valetudinarians who were drinking at the Wells during our stay. We patronised the tepid spa by ordering "sixpenny-worth warm," as the portion was termed in the dialect of Bagnigge, for the purpose of drawing the proprietor into conversation. But he was evidently reluctant to impart much information, and told us nothing beyond what we already knew - a custom very prevalent at all the springs we have visited.
    Lodgings, provisions, clothing, &c., are to be had at low rates in the neighbourhood, and there are several delightful spots in the vicinity of Bagnigge Wells.
    The Excursion to Battle Bridge will be found highly interesting, returning by the Brill ; and, to the admirers of nature, the panorama from the summit of King's Cross, embracing the Small Pox Hospital, and imperial Gas Works, with the very low countries surrounding them, is peculiarly worthy of especial notice.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1843

Victorian London - Publications - History - Views of the Pleasure Gardens of London, by H.A.Rogers, 1896

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Bagnigge Wells Gardens

 (Circa 1690-1842)


WELLS, and the place I sing, at early dawn
Frequented oft, where male and female meet,
And strive to drink a long adieu to pain.
In that refreshing Vale with fragrance fill'd
                         * * *
... where each by turns
His venal Doxy woo'd, and stil'd the place
Black Mary's Hole
-there stands a Dome superb,
Hight Bagnigge; where, from our Forefathers hid,
Long have two Springs in dull stagnation slept;
But taught at length by subtle art to flow,
They rise, forth from Oblivion's bed they rise,
And manifest their Virtues to Mankind.
                         * * *
Of these the one will purge the human frame
The other call'd Chalybeate, corroborates the Nerves, 
And winds up firm the tottering Jack of Life.
Delightful Spot! and bounded on the right
With summit super-eminent, debas'd
With Dunghill's name inglorious! tho' by some
Than Pindus' Mount more priz'd, or cloud-crown'd head
Of strong-bas'd Promontory. For from thence
Springs richer Pasturage, and Earth receives
The stercorareous Compost with a smile.
From hence the eye surveys the faint remains
Of Land Hockleian, where the race canine
Whilom were wont with surly bulls to cope,
And rugged Russian bears, much fam'd of old
For black-ey'd Heroes, where stout Britons dar'd
The Combat of the Fist, jaw-breaking sport,
Discountenanc' d of late. Sweet brick-kiln there
Wheels up the steep of air its dusky wreaths,
Cloud above cloud ascending. Sight of sights!
Efluvium strong! yet preferable far
To leaf of myrtle, or the flower of bean.

Close by the Garden Wall meand'ring stream
Its jetty Wave devolves, degraded oft
With term of Ditch. Insinuation vile!
Dishonourable name! and rough to ear
Of Water-drinking Mortal. Silence! thou,
Do thou the lips of bitter Malice close,
If once she dare the gliding Lymph prophane,
Or with unhallow'd tongue proclaim it foul.

A holey Temple there invites the view
To Cloacina sacred. Here repair
In order due her Votaries well-pleas'd,
And offer up their Morning Sacrifice
With lowly reverence, performing rites
With modest face, averted from the Fane.
                 * * * *
Here ambulates th' Attorney looking grave,
And Rake from Bacchanalian rout uprose,
And mad festivity. Here, too, the Cit
With belly turtle-stuffed, and Man of Gout
With leg of size enormous. Hobbling on,
The pump-room he salutes, and in the chair
He squats himself unwieldy. Much he drinks,
And much he laughs to see the females quaff,
The friendly beverage. He, nor jest obscene,
Of meretrician wench, nor quibble quaint
Of prentic'd punster heeds, himself a wit
And dealer in conundrunis, hut retorts
The repartee jocosely- ...
                  * * * *
Farewel, sweet vale! how much dost thou excel
or Andalusia !-More methinks b
Than do the hills around thy bosom girt
The mounts recourded in poetic song.
Yet e'er I leave thy bounds, let me proclaim
With voice of inspiration, that from thee,
And from thy genuine Wells our heads derive,
Their fluid volatility.--And hence
The dull Mechanic, careless of his shop,
Into a Politician brightens. Hence
The man of Law conceives, and hence the Bard
"Bursts forth all oracle, and mystic song."

- Shrubs of Parnassus. -  J. COPYWELL (W. WOTY), 1760.


                        * * *
AH! I loves life and all the joy it yields,
Says Madam Fussock, warm from Spittlefields,
Bon Ton's the space twixt Saturday and Monday,
And riding in a one-horse chair o' Sunday!
Tis drinking tea, on summer's afternoons
At Bagnigge Wells, with china and gilt spoons!
                     * * *

-COLMAN, Prologue to Bon Ton, 1775.



THY arbours, Bagnigge, and the gay alcove,
Where the frail Nymphs in am'rous dalliance rove;
Where prentic'd Youths enjoy the Sunday feast,
And City Matrons boast their Sabbath's rest
Where unfledged Templars first as fops parade,
And new made Ensigns sport their first cockade.
                         * * *

(Probably by CHURCHILL), 1779.


COME, come, Miss Prissy, make it up, and we will lovers be,
And we will go to Bagnigge Wells, and there will have some tea;
It's there you'll see the lady-birds upon the stinging-nettles,
And there you'll see the waiters, ma'am, with all their shining kettles. 
Oh la! Oh dear! Oh dash my vig, how funny.

It's there you'll see the waiters, ma'am, will serve you in a trice,
With rolls all hot and butter pats serv'd up so neat and nice;
And there you'll see the fishes, ma'am, more curioser than whales,
Oh! they're made of gold and silver, ma'am, and they wag their little tails. 
Oh la! Oh dear! &c.

And there you'll hear the organ, ma'am, and see the water-spout,
Oh, we'll have some rum and water, ma'am, before that we go out,
We'll coach it into town, ma'am, we won't return to shop,
But we'll go to Thingimy hall, ma'am, and there we'll have a drop. 
Oh la! Oh dear! &c.

- Old Song

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            * * *
EVERY evening he was seen
In a jacket and shorts of velveteen;
And to Bagnigg-e Wells then in a bran
New gown she went with the dog's-meat man
She walked up and down with the dog's-meat man;
And the people all said that around did stan',
He was quite a dandy dog's-meat man.

- Popular Street Ballad, 1800


WHAT passion cannot Music raise and quell!
When G(riffith) * struck his corded shell,
The list'ning Drunkards stood around,
And, wond'ring, on their faces fell.

* Organist at the Wells.

- Vide DRV(DEN)'S Ode to S. Cecilia's Night.
Pub'd for the Benefit of decayed Musicians.

So Cits to Bagnigge Wells repair,
To swallow dust and call it air.

- Every Night Book, 1827.


AIR- "Let us haste to Kelvin Grove."

WILL you go to Bagnigge Wells, Bonnet builder, O!
Where the Fleet-ditch fragrant smells, Bonnet builder, O!
Where the fishes used to swim, So nice and sleek and trim, 
But the pond's now covered in, Bonnet builder, O!

Will you toddle with your Bill, Bonnet builder, O!
To the Crown at Pentonville, Bonnet builder, O!
Where the cove sells Kennett ale, Which, like you, looks very pale; 
I like it best when stale, Bonnet builder, O!

Then we'll to the Conduit go, Bonnet builder, O!
You're fond of it, I know, Bonnet builder, O!
Where the songsters sing so sweet, And the garden looks so neat, 
As the stockings on your feet, Bonnet builder, O!

Oh! I must cut my stick, Bonnet builder, O! 
For here there's no pon tick, Bonnet builder, O!
Now sorely do I fear We must pass the Belvidere, 
Unless you can stand a tear, Bonnet builder, O!

Poverty on me frowns, Bonnet builder, O!
I've now left but three browns, Bonnet builder, O!
Ere six o'clock to-morrow, Five shillings I will borrow 
Till when I leave in sorrow, Bonnet builder, O!

And when I'm gone to bed, Bonnet builder, O!
With my night-cap on my head, Bonnet builder, O!
Will you, builder, if you hear The pot-boy crying "Beer!" 
Take a pint for me, my dear, Bonnet builder, O!

-The Little Melodist, 1839.