The site title "The Pleasures of Reffley" is taken from verses specially written to the music of the popular song called "Batchelors Hall" (1791), by Charles Dibden 1745-1814. This was most likely performed at Reffley Spring, during the celebrations to mark Sir William ffolkes re-election to Parliament in 1818..
Thomas Arne's Cantata, Reffley Spring is available to download, go to the Cantata section in Appendices for link.
Alterations, are ongoing to text, and page order to simplify site.
BOOKS NOW AVAILABLE: See bottom of this page for details
The Lost History of Reffley Spring, in Gaywood, near King’s Lynn.
Reffley Spring has had an illustrious history, popularly as a “place of resort” for the townsfolk of Lynn. This could have started in the middle of the 18th century or earlier, with the popularity of meeting at spas and “drinking the waters”. It was probably at the height of its popularity during the first half of the 19th century. Surprisingly, this has been largely forgotten, and it is the spring’s connection with an obscure and unique society of earlier origin, that has been remembered.
It is possible that Royalist “political intrigue” i.e. clandestine meetings, could have taken place at Reffley Spring over several years in Cromwellian times after the Seige of Lynn, (as they did at a number of other springs and spas in the country), and that this led to the Spring being chosen as the place where it is said, “30 men originally met on one day a year” in protest against a Cromwellian Edict forbidding such gatherings. Later they were known as the “Subscribers to Reffley Spring” who by way of subscription, built the “Temple” there, and later still, they were referred to as the Sons of Reffley, and the Reffley Society or Bretheren, in the press, who met at the spring, for over 300 years.
It was most probably at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, that the public popularity of the spring declined, but "fairs" continued to be held there regularly until the first world war. It was, however, the coming of the railways from the middle of the 19th century, more than anything else, bringing other attractions within easy reach, and Reffley Wood lost much of its attraction, having been considerably reduced in size, by the end of the century.
The Reffley Society, continued to hold its meetings there, well into the 20th century. The spring, however, was said to be seldom visited, and even the Society did not meet there, during the years of the two World Wars.
The Spring remained isolated until the early 1960’s when the Reffley housing estates started to be built, and as they began to encroach on the Spring site, it became the target of relentless vandalism, particularly in the 1970’s which continues up to the present day. There were numerous ultimately unsuccessful attempts to save the Temple during this time, culminating in the members decision in the early 1980’s to finally demolish their Temple, as it was becoming dangerous.
The earliest references to Reffley Spring are in newspapers. A notable item in the Norfolk Chronicle for 8th October 1788, reports on the festivities held at the spring “Celebrating the Centenary of the Glorious Revolution” (of 1688, when William of Orange -with Mary - became King), and the earliest reference so far found in a book, is in the “Topographical Dictionary of Norfolk” 1781 edition. However, an undated Introduction to an “Ode to Reffley Spring” (a poetical piece) published in the “Town and Country Magasine” in July 1772, refers to Jun 24th (presumed to be 1756), which just happens to be the earliest date, that so far, can with certainty, be linked to the Spring. This was the date that Thomas Arne's Cantata "Reffley Spring - the Ceremony for Dedication of the Spring” was performed, the date of which was inscribed on the Obelisk that used to stand in the centre of the spring bason........
.....due mention should also be made of Mary Manning's 1993 work, published by the Norfolk Industrial Archeology Society, entitled: "Taking the Waters in Norfolk" which is the result of her extensive research into the history of the most notable Springs and Spas in Norfolk, which have not hitherto, received the national attention they deserve.
If you have any comments, suggestions or information, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Reffley Spring "1756 to 1865" which covers the period when Reffley spring was at the height of its popularity. Price £5.
Just Published Reffley Spring "1870 to !980" which brings the story up to the modern era. Price £5.
Both volumes available from: Truesyard Museum North St. Kings Lynn Norfolk PE30 1QW
"I started your book on Saturday night and finished it on Sunday morning! I thoroughly enjoyed it Andrew, you set the scene so well and brought Georgian society to my mind as well as the well heeled of Vauxhall & Lynn, and then cleverly brought that all back to Reffley Spring. What a story Reffley has to tell and now it is recorded and not lost, thanks to you and your curiosity and really ’seeing’ what is around you. I hope you feel really pleased at this achievement, that you've actually taken the bull by the horns and gone and done it! Not many ever do that. Well done!" Jo White. (with permission)
Reffley Spring 1870-1980. Just Published.