Urban landscape — 10 July 2012

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I doubt if many spectators at last week’s All England final realised they were sitting on land once owned by the predecessors of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The first Earl Spencer who had inherited Wimbledon Park would like to spend the summer in SW19. But to live there the Lord of the Manor of Wimbledon as befitted his status needed a reliable source of fresh water.

When the well was first dug in 1763 it was only about 30 feet deep. An appliance powered by a horse walking around the ground floor of the building lifted the water to a storage tank under the dome.

In 1798, needing to improve the supply of water, Earl Spencer ordered the well to be deepened.

After 15 months of excavation, and at a depth of 563 feet, the workmen struck water. The water shot up over 100 feet, nearly drowning the workmen in the process, but even with its new depth, the well soon silted up.

This the original water tower was converted into a dwelling in 1975 after remaining derelict for many years. Of all the buildings constructed by the Spencers in Wimbledon, this is the only one to survive to the present day.

A plaque on the side of the property reads:
‘Built to provide water for Earl Spencer’s house, nearby in 1763. In 1798 the well was increased in depth to over 500ft, but it soon silted up. The building was converted to a private house in 1976.’

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Gibson

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Plenty of ways to help keep water wells open these days. I have to say I love buildings like this though; you just don’t see the same kind of work put into the architecture in modern buildings.

    • Thanks for your comment. Another water related building worth checking out is the old water board headquarters in Roseberry Avenue

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