Monday, June 01, 2009

Camber Well Found

I do, of course, love London's wells and their folklore. Thanks to Ross MacFarlane for passing this one. More of Ross's forthcoming Greenwich walk soon.

Ancient well that gave name to Camberwell unearthed

An ancient well that gave its name to the London district of Camberwell has been unearthed in a woman's back garden.

The original Camber Well, which is believed to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old, was covered up more than a century ago after falling into disuse.

But local historian
John Chaple used 19th Century Ordinance Survey maps to pinpoint its location – behind the home of 64-year-old Noreen Morrin.

Archaeologists have confirmed his discovery, and Southwark Council has now offered to erect a commemorative plaque near her south London home.

Mr Chaple said: "I live in Camberwell and have been fascinated for a long time by the Camber Well, which people trekked to from all over Peckham and Dulwich for their drinking water.

"I managed to persuade Noreen to let me dig up her lawn and filled several huge bags with soil. Luckily, she was interested in local history too.

He added: "I was only about two feet out, which shows the incredible accuracy of the maps. Four or five feet under the lawn there was a big void, which was exciting to find.

"It is possible the well has gone dry but I would be surprised if there wasn't water down there. It will be expensive to excavate but I would love to find out."

Mrs Morrin, a former midwife, said: "It is amazing to have such a piece of ancient history in my garden."

Some history books have claimed that "camber"' meant crooked and that water from the Camber Well could cure "crippled or crooked people".

Another theory is that the well was named after Prince Camber, son of Brutus of Troy who according to legend was the founder of London.


Anonymous said...

fantastic - but where is it in Camberwell I wonder?

Scott Wood said...

Looked into that. Apparently it's on Grove Park which is off Camberwell Grove. Next time I'm in Camberwell I'll be looking out for it.

spincat said...

There is a very high wall around the garden (however, the householder sounds friendly) ... I remember trying to identify the site a few years ago and found what I thought was the place; was also looking for a way in to a small wooded / allotment area practically next to it which I thought might have some old trees from Dr Lettsom's amazing garden - the latter being a private keyholder garden for local residents.

Anonymous said...

There's a huge amount of information here:

He identifies location as 13 Grove Park - but also mentions that there was more than one well in Camberwell.

Transpontine said...

Next question - where was the well in Endwell Road, or in search of the Brockley spring...

spincat said...

Interesting article on Brockley Society website
covering brockley wells, springs and even visions:

I remember reading that there was thought to be an abbey well site near Endwell Court, by the entrance to a school, but this isn't referred to in the article - need to check out the source of this.

Scott Wood said...

I'll have a look - I've got something brewing about Ladywell wells and I'm planning a well walk around there in August so thanks for posting this.

I may be mis-remembering this but I think I've seen a photo of a green patch of grass on Endwell Street by Chris Woods, who's done a fair bit of research into Brockley sites.

Anonymous said...

could do a well dressing

as in derbyshire

but with a progressive feature

or maybe in memory of the two students brutally killed in our borough