Back in the 1990s when I was researching the Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire I first found the site of Orston Spa, a rare ‘intact’ site. My book describes it as follows:
“the wall had recently been re-pointed, although the steps look vandalised as some of its stones had fallen off. The spa consists of about a five foot high small red stone structure reached by a flight of five steps to one side. The water is accessed via a small rectangular opening and the waters arise in a small basin which looks to date from original spa foundation.”
This had been an improvement on what Robert Morrell (1988) encountered. When he visited the site he was told that drainage work during the Second World War cut off the supply, although it was latter was restored. The farmer who owned the land surrounding the site and who helped maintain it said that he had to have it buried as it had become a rubbish trap! So I was not expecting to find much so I was pleasantly surprised.
Roll forward to 2020 and during lockdown I thought it was local enough to have another look especially as I had heard again due to vandalism it had been filled in.
History of the site
The site is first mentioned in Newbury and Carnan’s 1769 “Description of England and Wales”
“At Orston is a mineral water which as it rises out of the spring, has a sweet chalybete, and a little roughish taste; but when it has stood for sometime it becomes harsh. With the addition of a little predominating salt of a calcareous nitre it will purge those of a Gross Habit of Body, and turn the throat and tongue of its Drinker perfectly Black. It is good in the Hypochrondiac Melencholy, Scurvy, want of Appetite, Costiveness, Stoppage of the urine, Obstruction of the Bowels, Ulcers in the Lungs, Indigestion, Pain in the Stomach, and to aid the Vaporous Debility of Ladies.”
Sadly the patrons never really came. The establishment of facilities, however meagre, was probably due to the actions of the second Earl Manvers, Robert Charles as he owned the land the spa was on. (He was more successful with Birley Spa in Derbyshire.) However, it appears not to have attracted fame beyond the county and is missed by contemporary spa visitors such as Granville.
The V.C.H record state that:
“Orston ‘spa,’ supposed to be mineralized by the decay of pyrites from the bone bed.”
Up until the Second World War, people in the village would visit the spring and collect water in stone bottles. The land enclosing the spring was given to the Parish Council to provide income for its upkeep and such it is now a registered common. It had an iron cup affixed to this structure so that people could collect from it; this had long gone.
The site in 2020 – a first I had a worry for turning up where I thought it was – I had forgotten a map – I found my fears where correct – the field lacked a spring – but I was wrong! Travelling back I found the small wooden sign directing me into a small enclosed garden – a registered common – where the spa would be found. And it remained although it looked slightly more forlorn again perhaps. To prevent further damage a metal fence had been inserted around it which at first I thought had prevented access but it did move. The flow was still notable and irony and the basin was visible still.