Old Physic Well
Hello Mr Pepys, Have you come to take the water again?
Pepys: Yes my man and it's worth a note in my diary!
probably never happened but Samuel Pepys did visit the well on Well house
lane back in the 17th century.
What was the well? Well, it served a spring and its water was supposed
to have therapeutic qualities.
In 1586 a William Camden wrote: "Upon the south border (of Hertfordshire)
was discovered a medicinal spring which is of great service to the sex
where there is general languor, difficult respiration, febile heat and
loss of appetite. In all colds and fevers and rheumatic complaints. The
Barnet whey is much recommended."
Perhaps it did not catch on as, over 60 years later in 1652, it was reported
in a journal: "There is lately found at Barnet, 10 miles from
London an excellent purging water. It springs from a nitre mine and half
the quantity works as effectively as that of Epsom. It is much approved
of by several eminent physicians and those that have occasion to use it
may repair there for free."
around that time the well became popular and in 1661 the Reverend Joshua
Childrey declared in his book "Natural Rarities of England, Scotland
and Wales" that The Barnet mineral waters: "Were very
You could buy spirits and tobacco from a house beside the well and it
seems like someone had a nice little sideline to cater for the ladies
and gentlemen who traveled from London on a daily basis.
Off to take the water at Barnet
were allowed to take water from the well, except in casks which could
have been due to this 1663 advert for The Angel and Sun, an inn on the
Thames: "Constantly to be sold, all the year, fresh Tunbridge
Water and Epsom Water and Barnet water and Epsom ale and Spruce beer."
July 1664 Samuel Pepys made his first visit to the well and he drank five
glasses and wrote: "The woman (the attendant) would have me drink
three more, but I could not."
11th August 1667 he visited the well at about seven o'clock in the morning
and said: "Many people were a drinking"
From there he went into Barnet where he took tea and cakes.
The popularity of the well lasted until the end of the 18th century
with sometimes up to thirty carriages on hand to take people to and from
In 1808 a Mr Sorrell, a Barnet chemist, was selling the water over the
counter and probably chemists elsewhere were doing the same. Perhaps it
was easier to buy bottle of water rather than go to the well and by 1840
it was reported that "the well house" had been demolished, and
the well covered over and that only a small pump was visible.
The farmer of the well house field where it was situated painted the pump
green to deter people walking across his land. In time the well was forgotten
except by a few locals.
1907 the Hertfordshire county analyst declared that the water was: "Unfit
for drinking and did not posses any medicinal properties."
In 1922 another analysts report said that: "The water retained
its high medicinal properties, was remarkably uncontaminated and safe
Either way, it was not to matter as, in the 1930s, the Well house estate
was built around the well and in 1937 the present building was erected
to cover it. Although threatened with demolition over the years, it still
remains to remind us of a time when Barnet was the fashionable place to
take "The Waters"