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Geology Site Account

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Vange Mineral Well, LANGDON HILLS, Thurrock District, TQ70028627, Historical site only

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Site name: Vange Mineral Well (known as Vange Well No.5)

Grid reference: TQ 7002 8627

Brief description of site:

In the parish of Fobbing, not far from the Five Bells interchange at Vange, is the remains of a curious domed structure which originally resembled a temple. Although the building was originally built on open land, it is now situated in Martinhole Wood, which is part of Langdon Hills Country Park. It is now sadly a ruin but in the early twentieth century It was the centre of a widely publicised mineral water business. The site is on the slopes of One Tree Hill and the water originates from the junction between the sandy Claygate Beds and the impervious London Clay below.

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History of the well

The story starts in 1899 when a well on land at Hovells Farm was found to have a high mineral content and an analyst’s report recommended the water for a number of ailments including stomach disorders and rickets. In 1919 the Vange Water Company was set up and the venture came to the notice of the national newspapers, the publicity resulting in crowds coming to the well to purchase the water. The water was bottled in distinctive thick glass bottles and became available in chemists with a signed photograph of the owner of the company as verification of the product’s authenticity. More wells were sunk and over the most successful well (Vange Well No. 5) the elaborate domed pump house was built. Alongside the Southend Road a giant sign was erected announcing ‘The Vale of Health’ and orders came in from all over England, encouraged the over-zealous advertising which described the water as ‘the most wonderful discovery of the age’ and that it had ‘effected most marvellous cures to numerous sufferers all over the British Isles’.

The site is on the slopes of One Tree Hill and the water originates from the junction between the sandy Claygate Beds and the impervious London Clay below. The mineral content of any spring water varies depending on the chemistry of the strata through which the water has passed. In this case Dr. Thresh, the Medical Officer of Health for Essex, helped the business along by claiming that the water “contained all the necessary sulphates for water of the highest medicinal value”. In 1922 a rival company was set up nearby and this led to a bitter dispute with both enterprises claiming to sell ‘genuine Vange water’.

Both companies had ceased trading by 1924. It was claimed that this may have been at least partly due to contamination of the water from a sanatorium further up the hill. Whatever the reason, the pump house ruin stands as a reminder to this geological enterprise. The building is situated near the edge of the wood by the stream. It can be easily reached by the footpath down the hill from the Information Centre car park on One Tree Hill.

The building is in danger of complete collapse. The ruin should be repaired so that it does not deteriorate further.



The ruins Vange Well No. 5 in November 2020. Photo: J. Saward

 

Extract from OS map of 1939 showing the Vange Mineral Well
Extract from OS map of 1939 showing the Vange Mineral Well

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Reference: Fox 1960, Cowell & Cowell 2001 (p.50-58)

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