Bagnigge Wells

Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.


Walter Thornbury, 'Bagnigge Wells', in Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878) pp. 296-298. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

Walter Thornbury. "Bagnigge Wells", in Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878) 296-298. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

Thornbury, Walter. "Bagnigge Wells", Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878). 296-298. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

In this section



Nell Gwynne at Bagnigge Wells—Bagnigge House—"Black Mary's Hole"—The Royal Bagnigge Wells—"The 'Prentice to his Mistress""A Bagnigge Well's Scene."—Mr. Deputy Dumpling—Curious Print of Bagnigge Wells.

Bagnigge Wells House was originally the summer residence of Nell Gwynne. Here, near the Fleet and amid fields, she entertained Charles and his saturnine brother with concerts and merry breakfasts, in the careless Bohemian way in which the noble specimen of divine right delighted. The ground where the house stood was then called Bagnigge Vale.

Bagnigge House, "near the 'Pindar of Wakefield,'" became a place of entertainment for rusticating Londoners as early as 1680. It stood on the site of the present Phoenix Brewery. The garden entrance was a little south-west of the Clerkenwell Police Court. The gate and an inscription remained in Coppice Row, on the left, going from Clerkenwell towards the New Road, as late as 1847. In the memory of man the garden still possessed fruit-trees; and at the north side stood a picturesque gable-ended house, the front luxuriously covered with vines. At the back stood a small brewery, The "Pinder of Wakefield" was an old public-house in the Gray's Inn Road, near Chad's Well, formerly much frequented by the wagoners of the great north road. The Pinder of Wakefield was a jolly Yorkshireman, it will be remembered, who once thrashed Robin Hood himself.

About 1760 Bagnigge House became famous, from the discovery in the garden of two mineral springs. Dr. Bevis, who wrote a pamphlet on Bagnigge Wells, describes them as near Coppice Row and Spa Fields, and about a quarter of a mile from Battle Bridge Turnpike, and the great new road from Paddington to Islington, and near a footpath which led from Southampton Row and Russell Square to Pentonville. The doctor also mentions that over one of the chimney-pieces was the garter of St. George, the Royal arms, and a bust of "Eleanor Gwynne, a favourite of Charles II.'s." Cromwell says that a black woman named Woolaston lived near one of the fountains, and sold the water, and that, therefore, it was called "Black Mary's Hole." The spring was situated, says Mr. Pinks, in the garden of No. 3 Spring Place. Close by there used to be a low public-house called "The Fox at Bay," a resort, about 1730, of footpads and highwaymen.

In the "Shrubs of Parnassus," poems on several occasions, by W. Woty, otherwise "John Copywell," published in 1760, there are some lines entitled "Bagnigge Wells," wherein the following allusion is made to these springs:—
. . . . . . "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."

In the Daily Advertisement for July, 1775, we find the following:—

"The Royal Bagnigge Wells, between the Foundling Hospital and Islington.—Mr. Davis, the proprietor, takes this method to inform the publick, that both the chalybeate and purging waters are in the greatest perfection ever known, and may be drank at 3d. each person, or delivered at the pump-room at 8d. per gallon. They are recommended by the most eminent physicians for various disorders, as specified in the handbills. Likewise in a treatise written on those waters by the late Dr. Bevis, dedicated to the Royal Society, and may be had at the bar, price 1s., where ladies and gentlemen may depend upon having the best tea, coffee, hot loaves, &c."

The prologue to Colman's Bon Ton, published in 1775, notices Bagnigge Wells as a place of low fashion:—
"Ah, I loves life and all the joy it yields,
Says Madam Fupock, warm from Spittlefields,
Bon Ton's the space 'twixt Saturday and Monday,
And riding in a one-horse chair on Sunday,
'Tis drinking tea on summer's afternoons
At Bagnigge Wells, with china and gilt spoons."

In the opening lines of a satirical poem, attributed to Churchill, entitled "Bagnigge Wells," published in 1779, the kind of persons then resorting to the gardens are described:—
"Thy arbours, Bagnigge, and the gay alcove
Where the frail nymphs in amourous dalliance rove;
Where 'prenticed youths enjoy the Sunday feast,
And City matrons boast their Sabbath rest;
Where unfledged Templars first as fops parade,
And new-made ensigns sport their first cockade."

"In later days," says Mr. Pinks, "Miss Edgeworth, in one of her tales, alludes to this place as one of vulgar resort:—
"The City to Bagnigge Wells repair,
To swallow dust, and call it air."

We have seen an old engraving of Bagnigge Wells Gardens, bearing the following inscription:—
"Frontispiece—A view taken from the centre bridge in the gardens of Bagnigge Wells. Published as the Act directs."

We do not know whether the engraving appeared in a magazine or in a book giving an account of the gardens. The "centre bridge" was, we think, the one crossing the Fleet. The engraving represents on the left a round, railed pond, in the middle of which is the figure of a boy clasping a swan, from the mouth of which issue six jets of water. Round the garden are plain-looking wooden drinking bowers or boxes; and on the right are trees with tall stems and closely-cut formal foliage at the top; and also two large figures representing a pastoral-looking man with a scythe, and a pastoral-looking woman with a hay-rake in one hand and a bird's nest in the other.

In the old song of "The 'Prentice to his Mistress" are the following lines:—
"Come, prithee make it up, miss, and be as lovers be,
We'll go to Bagnigge Wells, miss, and there we'll have some tea;
It's there you'll see the ladybirds perch'd on the stinging nettles,
The chrystal water fountain, and the copper shining kettles,
It's there you'll see the fishes, more curious they than whales,
And they're made of gold and silver, miss, and wags their
little tails,
O! they wags their little tails, they wags their little tails,
O! they're made of gold and silver, miss, and they wags their little tails.
O dear! O la! O dear! O la! O dear! O la! how funny !"

Another engraving, published by the famous print-seller, Carrington Bowles, of St. Paul's Churchyard, represents "A Bagnigge Wells Scene; or, No Resisting Temptation." The scene is laid in the gardens, close by the boy and swan fountain; and a young lady, in an elaborate old-fashioned headdress, and a gaily-trimmed petticoat and long skirt, is plucking a rose from one of the flower-beds, while another damsel of corresponding elegance looks on.

A mezzotint, also published by Bowles, in 1772, shows "The Bread and Butter Manufactory; or, the Humours of Bagnigge Wells." This plate, which is in size fourteen inches by ten, and represents several parties of anciently-dressed ladies and gentlemen, and a boy-waiter with a tray of cups and saucers, was hung up, framed and glazed, in the bar of Old Bagnigge Wells House.

Another engraving, issued by the same publisher, shows "Mr. Deputy Dumpling and Family, enjoying a Summer Afternoon." One of the lower projecting windows of "Bagnigge Wells" Tavern, with the western side-entrance to the gardens, is represented. Over the gate, on a board, are the words "Bagnigge Wells." Mr. Deputy Dumpling is a very short, fat man, wearing a wig, perspiring freely, and carrying a child. His wife, who is also short and fat, is walking behind him, with an open fan and his walking-stick. Beside them is a boy, dragging a perambulator of the period, in which is a girl with a doll.

In 1772, a curious aquatinta print of Bagnigge Wells, from a painting by Saunders, was published by J. R. Smith. It represents the interior of the long room, filled with a gay and numerous company, attired in the fashion of the period. Some are promenading, others are seated at tables partaking of tea. The room is lighted by brazen sconces of wax lights, hanging from the ceiling, and the organ is visible at the distant end. The artist has, after the manner of Hogarth, well depicted the humours of the motley company who are quizzing one another, and being ogled in turn. The prominent feature of the sketch is a richlybedizened madam on the arm of a gallant, who is receiving a polite salute from an officer, by whom she is recognised, at which her companion seems to be somewhat chagrined.

In 1813, Bagnigge Wells boasted a central temple, a grotto stuck with sea-shells and broken glass, alcoves, &c.