Caesar’s Well, Wimbledon Common

by John L. Hughes

Wimbledon Common is an extensive plateau of floodplain gravel overlying a bed of London Clay. These strata give rise to several springs, the best-known being ‘Caesar’s Well’, so called because it is located some 400 yards due north of an Iron Age hillfort, dated circa 250 BC, and fancifully named ‘Caesar’s Camp’. This latter now forms a part of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Course.

To find the well, travel along Camp Road, Wimbledon Village, taking the right fork through a white barred gate. Follow this road across the golf links for some 300 yards, until it terminates in a small car park. Take the centre one of three paths through the bushes, walking for about 200 yards, when Caesar’s Well will be seen down a gentle slope to the left, on a small plateau midst tall pines.

The wellhead is at an elevation of 198 feet O.D., and is about five feet in diameter. It was enclosed by a brick surround in 1829, this being replaced in 1872 by the present structure which consists of twelve massive stone slabs radiating from the lip of the well. They are inscribed ‘HW PEEK MP 1872’, and serve as a memorial to the then local Member, who played an important part in conserving the Common.

Sadly, Caesar’s Well is now filled with thick black sludge to within a foot of the brim. This is because the spring beneath suddenly dried up in 1911 for no obvious reason. A boring was made a few feet down the hill, and water tapped at a depth of eighteen feet. An enclosed standpipe was installed, and the water, once deemed to have medicinal properties, issues musically from this, flowing into a massive granite cistern then through a drain hole down a tree trunk lined culvert, running downhill to join the Beverley Brook, which eventually enters the Thames.

The spring has never since failed. During the exceptionally dry summer of 1976, for example, it continued to flow – albeit at a reduced rate – while the surrounding areas were badly parched and ravaged by woodland fires.

Much local evidence has been found to indicate that the area was used by Neolithic Man (circa 3000 to 1000 BC) who quite possibly drank (and perhaps worshipped) at this ancient site. I left a strip of white linen at the wellhead, and in so doing felt that I was a very minute and humble part of a human history that spans a period of some five thousand years.

Text © John L. Hughes (1989)

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