History

Seething Wells is seeping with interesting history and heritage, having even contributed to the survival of London during the 19th Century Cholera pandemic.

Cholera

Cholera

Back when people talked a little like the characters from Oliver Twist and Americans’ perceptions of British teeth were just about accurate, Londoners used fresh springs and the River Thames (or, more commonly known as, Monster Stink) as their main sources of water. Yet, with the influx of mass migration due to industrialisation, London’s population boomed which, yes you’ve guessed it, also brought with it a boom of sewage.

These tiny springs and our beloved River Thames couldn’t take this and, with the fear of Cholera spreading from North East India at the back of his mind, in 1829 James Simpson collaborated with Chelsea Waterworks to create the first slow sand filtration of water, which purified that murky river of ours.

Monster Soup or the Thames

Monster Soup or the Thames

In 1831, however, a forty-year-old pauper from Sunderland (that’s up north guys) was found to have Cholera. Bloody paupers.

In 1852 Lambeth Waterworks, with the help of good ol’ Simpson, unveiled their new, untainted waterworks at none other than Seething Wells.

For years after that northern bloke spread Cholera, many disillusioned scientists thought that dirty air was the cause of the disease. But John Snow had a different idea (no, not the Channel 4 news presenter with the awesome ties). Dr John dropped everything when he heard about the Broad Street outbreak and commenced his investigation immediately. His morbidly named The Ghost Map showed that it was actually people drinking from that nappy-drenched pump on Broad Street who were affected.

Seething Wells

Seething Wells

And voila! John Snow’s Grand Experiment, which compared Seething Wells’ water to the Battersea water, helped to expose the cause of Cholera. So, in effect, Seething Wells pretty much saved London’s dirty ass. So make sure you appreciate how clean that water of yours really is.

Because the pure filter beds of Seething Wells are practically untouched, as well as being one of the few areas of still water on the Thames, the area is filled with a vast and unique wildlife.

Check out the Seething Wells timeline here.


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  1. 1.The area is swarming with bats! At the last count there were eight different species of bat roosting near Seething Wells. That’s out of the 10 that are regularly spotted in London. 

    A Bat

    A Bat

  2. 2. There was a punk poet/ musician called Steven ‘Seething’ Wells (1960-2009) 

    Two punks

    Two punks

  3. 3.Seething Wells will turn you quackers! The Amber listed Tufted Duck is among the 75 different species of bird found in the area. 

    The rare tufted duck

    The rare tufted duck

  4. 4. During construction there was a large import of chalk which brought in a wide variety of chalk grassland species including the pyramidal orchid, a London Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. 

    Pyramidial Orchid

    Pyramidial Orchid

  5. 5.The architecture of the area is attributed to a Norman/Romanesque style of building, with distinctive tower windows and an unusually broad arch and often with at least two carved mouldings. download (1)

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