Geology Site Account
Wanstead Spa (site of), WANSTEAD, London Borough of Redbridge, Historical site only
Historical site only
When the spring at Wanstead was first discovered in the early seventeenth century it caused some excitement, comparison being made with the famous springs at Tunbridge Wells. Although interest in it appears only to have lasted a few years it was sufficiently important at the time to have been given the name ‘Wanstead Spa’.
Unfortunately it is not known exactly where the original spring was situated although much later, in the nineteenth century, a mineral spring with supposed medicinal properties was in existence in Wanstead. Water from this spring was said to be ‘chalybeate’ (containing a high concentration of iron compounds) leaving a considerable reddish deposit. The spring was on the roadside in Blake Hall Road and people would kneel down to drink the water and take it away in bottles. It ceased to exist after 1870 when drainage operations nearby deprived it of its water. There is no evidence that this was the same spring as that which came to prominence in the seventeenth century but it most likely was.
The geological map shows that the spring in Blake Hall road was at the junction of the gravel of the highest (Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath) terrace of the Thames and the underlying impervious London Clay. The chemical decomposition of iron sulphide (pyrite) to soluble iron oxide in the London Clay would have been responsible for the ‘chalybeate’ character of the water.
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Reference: Christy & Thresh 1910 (p.11-12), Cowell & Cowell 2001 (p.67), Pewsey 2000.
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