900-Year-Old Holy Well Found Under London Building Still has Drinkable Water
Around the world, to all people, springs of fresh water are special places. Officials recently announced that a spring well with clean, pure water that is fit to drink was discovered in the basement of Australia House, the nation’s diplomatic mission, in London.
The well may date back 900 years and is among 20 or so around the city that have been covered by buildings and roads, an article in ABC says. This well is one of the few that can still be accessed.
The diplomatic building, which houses the high commission, passport and immigration services, is on The Strand and is situated over the remnants of the Fleet River—a major waterway in London in Roman times until it became polluted and much smaller.
“It comes from the Fleet, which is the river now covered by streets. And you'll know the name Fleet Street which was named after it. It's now a subterranean creek. These wells were of great significance, particularly back in the Middle Ages,” High Commissioner Alexander Downer told ABC. “They were used for ceremonial purposes and plays were performed around the well. And as a result of that this part of London evolved as an area where theatres were built.”
Mr. Downer said a medieval monk wrote about the well, describing it as “sweet, wholesome and pure.”
The ABC had the water tested by a scientific lab, which determined it was clean and free from E. coli, Enterococci and Clostridium perfringens.
An employee of Australia House, Duncan Howitt, told the ABC he drank a cup of the water about seven years ago, when a visitor from the Canadian High Commission encouraged it
He was encouraged by a colleague from the Canadian High Commission who had an interest in history when a group of about five people went into the basement. Howitt called the water “fresh and clear. Better than tap water.”
Australia House has been featured in popular culture vehicles, including Harry Potter and Wonder Woman movies. (Photo by Richard Rogerson/Wikimedia Commons)
Australia House’s foundation stone was laid in 1913 by King George V and officially opened in 1918.
“Victoria House had been built in 1907 on the corner of an island site, bounded on the south and east by the Strand, on the north-east by Aldwych and on the west by Melbourne Place,” says an article at the Australian High Commission, United Kingdom, website. “A massive demolition scheme many years before had left this vacant triangle of land, which had been empty so long that wild flowers bloomed there and the Daily Graphic called it ‘a garden of wild flowers in the heart of London . . . this rustic spot in urban surroundings.’ In 1912 the Australian Government bought the freehold of the entire site. The cost of the land was £379,756 and building and other associated costs brought total expenditure to about £1 million.”
Australia House has been occupied longer than any other foreign mission in London, and it is the oldest Australian diplomatic mission.
Lyme Park Wishing Well. Cheshire, England. Andrew Gibson/ Flickr
Wells have rich symbolism in various cultures around the world, says An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, which describes them as:
The feminine principle; the womb of the Great Mother; they psyche. Having contact with the underworld, the well often contains magic waters with powers of healing and wish-fulfilling. A closed well depicts virginity. A well fed by a stream is the union of male and female. … The well, spring or fountain at the foot of the Tree of Life in Paradise gives rise to the Living Waters and the four rivers of Paradise.
Featured image: A well with clean water from the river Fleet has been revealed under Australia House, the diplomatic mission on The Strand in London. (ABC photo by Lisa Millar)
By Mark Miller