In search of Queen Anne’s Well, Chalvey, Slough
“A small stream known as Chalvey Brook intersects them, whose water, considered beneficial to the eyes, has its source in Queen Anne’s well, situated in a pretty grove of trees near the village of Chalvey, whence Queen Anne and afterwards Queen Charlotte had the water carried up to Windsor Castle in buckets.”
Handbook for travellers
Now swallowed up by Slough, Chalvey once boasted a curious well said have had royal patronage as noted above. Indeed, Queen Anne is said to have had it dug although whether that meant there was no structure before this is unclear. The Mirror of 1832 recorded that:
“a stone was placed there in 1785 by her illustrious consort, George III”.
The accompanying drawing shows a stone with water emerging from a spout with a royal monograph centrally carved.
As noted the water was thought beneficial for eyes but it may have had other potential, Maxwell in his 1973 History of Slough noted:
“It appears that an attempt was made to capitalise on the patronage and as such as Wyld’s 1839 Great Western Railway Guide notes a Dr. Heberden liked the water’s properties to that of the better-known Malvern and indeed the name Chalvey Spa was still current in 1925, as noted in a letter to the Slough Observer when a Richard Bentley recorded small quantities of lithia in the water.”
However, this venture does not appear to have been successful and the spring fell into obscurity
Local historian Michael Bayley according to Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park on his excellent Strange Britain website (who did much work to locate the exact site) makes an interesting observation linked to the strange mound not far from the well. This mound, called the Montem, rather incongruously remains beside the Leisure Centre. The mound was associated with Eton school who would have an annual ceremony at it. Bayley observes:
“The spring is near an artificial mound, Montem, and was by a river crossing; in this case, of an old branch of the Thames dammed off in the 13th century. Up and down the middle and lower Thames these three things in association – a hill or hillock, a holy well and a ford – are usually connected with the name Anne, either Saint or Queen.”
He then believes that the site was originally dedicated to a pagan goddess, Sanct Anner, the Holy one of the Heifer. However, this is a difficult assumption to make considering firstly that Queen Anne did have a historical association with the well, there is no record before this and that the transfer between a pagan Anna and St. Anne is unlikely as the cult of St Anne did not establish itself until the mid-Medieval period long after any pagan memory I would suggest.
More significant is the fact that Cleaver and Park note:
“Curiously one resident recalls a stone bearing this inscription: “The two monkeys, Romeo and Juliet”. Could this have any connection with the local Stab Monk tradition?”
The Stab Monkey tradition was a Whitsun custom unique to this town and may more likely have an ancient origin of course it may have been used as a village insignia!
Lost, found and lost?
Robert Tighe and James Davis (1858) Annals of Windsor state:
“The well, and the original stone trough and spout may yet be traced among a pretty grove of trees and copse wood, but the path which led to it from the village of Chalvey has been stopped up”.
Indeed, Historian Michael Bayley reported in 1970 that this headstone
“went to make a horse trough and the rest was broken up to form a lily pond in the 1920s to discourage the villagers from using the well and the right of way past it.”
Cleaver and Park again note:
“Today’s villagers recall how rubble has been tipped on the well with the building of the school nearby.”
However, the exact site is disputed, Maxwell (1973) wisely states:
“The question of the exact site of Queen Anne’s well gives an admirable example of the danger of relying too unquestioningly on local ‘tradition’ and old people’s ‘recollections’. Quite frequently these turn out to be perfectly correct, or to have a basis of fact which can lead to further discoveries, but there are also times when they are misleading, to say the least. Wherever possible, they should be checked from other sources.”
Maxwell (1973) notes that:
“Some natives of Chalvey in this century have said the well was in the garden of Brookside, which was later dug out to make a lily pond. This lily-pond is now hidden under the pile of rubble removed when the swimming pool was constructed at the back of Sinkins House, Tuns Lane. The site is east of Tuns Lane and north of Church Street, Chalvey.”
In A History Of The Parish Of Upton Cum Chalvey, Richard V.H. Burne in 1913 was keen to investigate and he states:
“I was informed by two local inhabitants that ‘Queen Annie’s Spring’ used to be on the north side of Cippenham Lane…. it is even marked in this position on a Tithe Map of Farnham Parish made circa 1846.”
Maxwell (1973) again notes of this site:
“The watercress beds, now neighboured by the High Voltage Switching Station with its pylons, are overgrown with weeds and partly choked with rubbish. It is to be hoped that the site will be cleared, and recognised as the historic spot it is.”
Sadly despite recording the site for posterity no attempt has been made to officially recognise it. When Cleaver and Park investigated they found some stone work remaining with a small arch. The authors provide a very useful map which I used to locate the spring one summer morning.
However, my investigations have failed to reveal anything substantial. I looked a spring of water but it was much overgrown and no stonework could be found. Hopefully this blog post will raise its profile again and this important heritage site of Slough can be restored and remembered.
Posted on July 19, 2018, in Berkshire, Royal, Saints, Spa and tagged antiquarian, archeology, earth mysteries, folklore, healing wells, Holy Well, Holy well blog, Holy wells blog, Holy wells healing springs Spas folklore local history antiquarian, Holywell blog, Local history, Saints. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
I’m currently doing some research on the historic watercress beds in Slough. I have a couple of questions; do you have a map reference for the well? And what book are you referencing when you quote Maxwell?
Maxwell Fraser History of Slough 1973
I searched for this a few years ago. Im a resident of slough. As a child i played in a wooded area between chalvey and under Keel Drive. In this forest there was a small brooke that originated in chalvey and went far into cippenham.
However, in the wooded area, there was always another stream of water trickling into the main brooke. As a child i found it fascinating and followed it. After some time i discovered its origin not very far from the referenced “watercress beds”. Cress road near by suddenly made sense with its name.
Anyway, the steam suddenly stopped. There was only a huge mound of what seemed like a big rock but very covered in shrubs. I dug down and after enough i could see what seemed like water emerging from The ground. As a child i didnt know what it was.
I believe now that this is the spring in reference. That rock must have been the original monument.
Near by the rock is an allotment that once upon a time had many pylons. I hope someone reads this and makes use of this information one day.
Help! Slough Borough Council are planning To build 200 homes in Montem Park which must have historical connections. Can anyone help protect this area?
Thanks are there plans detailing where exactly I presume they are not building right up the mound? It would be good to finally locate the spring and dig out. Happy to help promote anything or write anything in support!
In Montem Pleasure Grounds as it was called, before the sports centre was built, there was a circular pool that had at its bottom, pebbles. I remember it empty, but on the north side of it, water came out of the ground, in a patch overgrown with brambles, it appeared to be a spirng and everyone called it a spring. When they started to build the sports centre, they dumped a load of gravel near to the pool and some of it into the pool itself. This seemed to block any “drain” in the pool and the spring filled the pool up. We thought this was the original Montem lido. The spring was close to Chalvey brook, and near Montem Mound and is currently under the carpark by my reckoning. Most of Chalvey brook and associated waterways were concreted over by town planners in the 60s and 70s that saw them as a “nuisance”. Now they are to build houses on the site, maybe they will uncover the spring…
That’s interesting thanks. Sadly if they are planning to build there its more likely appearing and then disappearing into a drain….but you never know!
Old maps of the area show TWO springs in Montem Pleasure Grounds and also mark “Watercress Beds” – so that round pool could well be a watercress bed. I have a PDF of an account of the Montem ceremonies by Eton College and it mentions “St. Ann’s SPRING….” Could they be one and the same? Queen Anne’s Well and St. Ann’s Spring?
“The march mid-road in this Montem was peculiarly hot
and dusty, and so about twenty of us broke the line of
march at Chalvey stile, and gained Salt Hill by St Ann’s
spring, to save a mile—at least we thought so.”
Pingback: Queen Anne’s Well, Chalvey - Historical Curiosities of Old Cippenham Village