Thetford Chalybeate Spa,
Spring Walks Thetford. Old Postcard.
This largely chronological account, is based on information found in historical Books and ‘Contemporary’ i.e. with the life of the Spa, and later, ‘Retrospective’, Newspaper and Magasine articles, including, M. Manning’s 1992 work, “Taking the Waters in Norfolk”. There will, as a consequence, therefore, be some repetition. © A.D.C.
ACCORDING TO M. MANNING:
“Although the Thetford Spa was short lived, it was the most successful Norfolk Spa, being backed by the Mayor and run by a company. At Thetford the prosperous were required to pay for their treatment and elegant social life. The poor and needy were allowed to drink the water free of charge, but presumably not when the gentry were at the spa house, baths or spring.
Despite its promising beginning, the Thetford Spa as such fell into decline and closed by 1838. Its decline may have been hastened by the decision to bottle water in sealed bottles for sale in London. Unfortunately, the bottlers, for speed and cheapness, often substituted river water for spa water, thus bringing the spa into disrepute. The nearness of the papermill and other industrial premises on the two rivers must have polluted the river water. Some 120-160 gallons of bottled water were dispatched to London every day, according to a guide to Thetford written in 1909. Such a quantity daily could only have been sent by rail and it may be speculated that the bottling operations continued after the pumphouse itself had closed, since the line between Thetford and London was not opened until the 1840’s”…Based on “Taking the Waters in Norfolk” by M. Manning vol 5 no.3 1993 Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society, unless otherwise stated.
“All that Thetford lacked to be fashionable was a viable spa”:
(wrote Phylis Hembry: in her book, ‘British Spas 1815 to the Present’) A chalybeate spring found there in 1746, was not developed; but in 1818, J B Faux the Mayor, paid for laying out a gravelled promenade, the spring Walk, from Nun’s Bridge to a spring in a field near the mill. Fredeerick Accum, a chemist of Soho in London, published in 1819 A Guide to the Chalybeate spring of Thetford dedicated to Faux, and the Mineral Spring Company was formed through the initiative of Messers Munn of the paper mill, who sought to organise a mineral water trade with 60 agents in East Anglia. The spa venture was patronised by the area’s dominant figure, George Henry, Fourth duke of Grafton, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk and Recorder of Thetford, one of whose family habitually sat for the borough. On 13 September 1819 (see report below) he laid the corner-stone of a new plain brick pump-room and baths, which was celebrated by a sumptuous dinner for 115 people in the decorated Guildhall. No doubt he secured the royal visit of William Frederick, sixth duke of Gloucester, who on 18th of October rode out on horseback to the springhead to inspect the progress of the spa building, He was interested in spas and frequently visited Cheltenham and other watering places; he thought Thetford’s water was a stronger chalybeate than Tunbridge’s.
The Suffolk Chronicle, a constant supporter of the new spa, advertised a public dinner in the new Pump Room to open the summer season at 4pm on 3rd June 1820 with tickets at 14s each and a cheaper ball at 9pm on 6th June at 5s each, tea and coffee included. In 1821 a new coach service by a more circuitous to London through Halesworth, Yoxford, Saxmundham, and Aldeborough was inaugurated. The spa’s charmed were also celebrated in verse, this time by George Bloomfield, a local man born in Horningham in 1757. His poem. Thetford Chalybeate Spa,(see below) showed a detailed knowledge of the place.
The venture seemed so favourable that the Lord of the Manor, Sir Thomas Buxton of nearby Shadwell Court, where there was a spring at St Chads Well once frequented by pilgrims, hopefully found another on his land at Thetford which he claimed was equal to Malvern water. But the Thetford spa was ephemeral. The removal of the assizes to Norwich in 1833 may have affected it, for the theatre, flourishing during the assize week, was now nearly deserted. In 1838 the bath was filled up and presumably closed. The brick Spa House over the well is now a private dwelling with an added upper storey. From British Spas from 1815 to the Present A Social History” by Phylis May Hembry.
THETFORD SPRING - EARLY ACCOUNTS
In 1746 the water was analysed by Matthew Manning, physician. In a treatise “De Aquis Mineralibus”, Manning suggested that labourers had uncovered an ancient basin, broken pavements and remains of adjoining buildings. He realised the medicinal potential of the spring and thought it might be the site of an early spring/well or shrine – as indeed may be possible, given the long history of Thetford as a Saxon settlement and bishopric site.
The spring is mentioned in a publication of 1781, “An Account of the Nature and Medicinal Virtues of the Principal Mineral Waters of Great Britain and Ireland”:
In the County of Norfolk
“This is a chalybeate and acidulous water, and contains also the fossil alkali. It operates by urine, and also gently by stool. It is recommended in pains of the stomach and bowels; in loss of appetite; in relaxed state of the fibres; in hysteric disorders; and in beginning consumptions”.
In The History of the Town of Thetford, in the Counties of Norfolk and Suffolk by Thomas Martin. 1779, it is stated: “Of the mineral water in this town, I cannot give a better account than by subjoining the Latin Analysis by Matthew Manning…….The doctor supposes these waters to pass through beds of chalk and limestone, intermixed with veins of iron ore, with which mineral they become strongly impregnated, as also with suphur”.
THETFORD SPA – CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS
“In 1819 there was an attempt to turn Thetford into a fashionable spa town for tourists, similar to Bath, Cheltenham and Harrogate. The meadows between the Thet and Little Ouse, close to Nuns Bridges, contained a spring of mineral rich water. A pump room was constructed over the spring and the ‘Thetford Mineral Spring Company’ was formed. The mayor paid for a new gravel path to be laid out along the bank of the river, known as the Spring Walk. The popularity of Thetford’s spa was short lived and by 1838 the pump room had closed, though Spring House and the Spring Walk survive today” From Thetford Town Council website.
This Day is Published…..
“This day is published by Frederick Accum, and sold by Mr. J. Hayward, Superintendent of the Spa, and by all booksellers in town and country, A Guide to the CHAYLBEATE SPRING of THETFORD; exhibiting the General and Primary Effects of the THETFORD Spa, -rules essential to be observed by invalids, previous to commencing a course of the Waters – remarks on the quantity of Water to be taken daily, and time recommended for its first dose – plan to be observed with regard to regimen and diet, whilst taking a course of the Waters – an account of the diseases in which the Thetford Spa will most probably be found to be efficacious – auspicious symptoms of its beneficial effects – unfavourable symptoms, showing that the Water does not agree with the patient – rules to be observed to ensure its good effects – cautionary hints against the indiscriminate use of the Thetford Spa in diseases to which it is inapplicable – and testimonials of Medical Men, showing the curative effects of the Spa in certain obstinate and lingering maladies – with observations on Bathing - and a sketch of the History and present state of Thetford, by Frederick Accum; with Copper-plates”. From: Bury and Norwich Post 1st September 1819 ,and Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 24 September 1819.
Friederick Christian Accum 1769-1838, was a German chemist whose important achievements included advances in gas-lighting, efforts to keep processed foods free of dangerous additives and promotion of interest in the science of chemistry to the general populace. From 1793-1821 he lived in London. Following an apprenticeship as an apothecary, he opened his own commercial laboratory enterprise. He gave, fee based, public lectures in practical chemistry, and collaborated with research efforts at numerous other institutes of science.
Friedrick Accum delivering a Lecture by Thomas Rowlandson/ Accum’s Book Culinary Poisons
Accum’s business cards of the time described his activities: “Mr Accum acquaints the Patrons and Amateurs of Chemistry that he continues to give private Courses of Lectures on Operative and Philosophical Chemistry, Practical Pharmacy and the Art of Analysis, as well as to take Resident Pupils in his House, and that he keeps constantly on sale in as pure a state as possible, all the Re-Agents and Articles of Research made use of in Experimental Chemistry, together with a complete Collection of Chemical apparatus and Instruments to Suit the conveniences of Different Purchasers”.
With the development of new laboratory apparatus, Accum positioned himself in the middle market range with respect to cost and usability. Accum developed portable laboratory kits, intended for farmers, for the analysis of soils and stones. With affordable prices ranging from three to eighty pounds sterling, these chests were the first truly portable laboratories. Taken from the Wikipaedia entry on Accum.
Accum was a prolific writer and most of his publications were written in English, so he would have been the obvious choice to write a treatise on the medicinal benefits of the Thetford spring, most likely he was commissioned by:
John Burrell Faux
"The mayor of Thetford in 1820, Mr J.B.Faux 'at his own expense caused a gravel walk to be constructed extending from the spa to the Nuns Bridge, to serve as a promenade for invalids resorting to the spa'. The tree planting lining this walk was also a mayoral gin." From "Of Public Parks and Promenades", by Anthea Talgel.
n.b. Thetford Spa was patently set up as a commercial operation from the outset, with its own management company, the Thetford Mineral Spring Company, which oversaw the launch of the Spa in lavish style. Also, Phyllis Hembry - in her book, English Spas 1560-1815 - styled Thetford Spa “a syndicated Spa” because it would have had: “a Business Plan, a Membership composition and a Capital Requirement.” According to “A History of Thetford”, “although Thetford Spa initially saw success as a fashionable Spa, it was ultimately the failure of the waters to produce miraculous cures, that led to its downfall”.
The Grand Ceremony for laying the “First Stone of the Pump-Room” was advertised as:
Thetford Committee Room, 27th August, 1819.
On Monday, September the 13th, (instead of Tuesday, the 7th of September, as first advertised), the First Stone of the Pump Room and Baths will be laid, at One o’clock.
A dinner will be provided at the Guildhall, at Four o’clock precisely. Tickets 14s each, to be had at the Red Lion, Thetford, and of Mr Hayward, at the Spring; of Mr. Rackham and Mr. Deck, Bury; of Mr. Pitt, Colchester, Agent to the Company, and of the Booksellers there, any day before Saturday, the 11th of September. N.B. It is particularly recommended by Mr. Accum, that the Water should be put into Stone Bottles in preference to Wooden Vessels or Glass Bottles. From Norfolk Chronicle Saturday 11th September 1819. n.b. The stipulation that the water should only be put in stone bottles, was likely prompted by the fact that even freshly bottled water, would only keep in its pristine state, for a couple of days, thereafter, it would deposit a mineral sediment on the base and sides of the glass bottle, which of course would be all too visible for intending purchasers to see.
This Day is published,
“by Frederick Accum, and sold by Mr. J. Maynard, superintendant of the Spa, and all booksellers in town and country. A GUIDE to the CHALYBEATE SPRING of THETFORD, exhibiting the General and Primary Effects of the THETFORD SPA, &c. &c. with Observations on Bathing, and a sketch of the History and present state of Thetford: with Copper Plates”. From Cambridge Chronicle and Journal Friday 24th September 1819.
The Ceremony of laying the first brick of the Pump-room and Baths, on September 13th 1819, was reported - at considerable length - in the Bury and Norwich Post under the heading:
….The public have already been informed of the intended erections for a Pump-room and Baths, as appendages to the Chalybeate Spring. On Monday Sept. 13, the Corner Stone of these buildings was laid with great ceremony by his Grace the duke of Grafton, amidst a vast concourse of spectators. Preparations had been previously made, by the erection of a semi-circular pavilion for the accommodation of ladies, over against a platform elevated for the Duke and his friends. Early in the morning flags were hoisted on all the Churches, and the Town-hall, together with a large one on the Castle-hill, affording to the countryside round the pleasing intelligence of this interesting event.
About one o’clock the duke’s arrival was announced by the merry peals of St.Peter’s bells. The Dower Duchess arrived soon after, with other branches of that noble family. At half past one the procession moved from the Guildhall in the following order: -
The Superintendant of the Spring, bearing a white flag, inscribed, “Thetford Spa, Fountain of Health.” and followed by other flags, and a line of constables. The Master Mason and Master Bricklayer, the former bearing a silver trowel, and the latter a plan and elevation of the building. They were succeeded by the Band, the Spring Company and the Corporation of Thetford, with their Chaplain, Insignia, and Banners. The Duke was supported by the Mayor and Coroner, and followed by Lord Charles Fitzroy and Ridley Colborne, Esq. members for the Borough. On their arrival on the ground they were greeted by a number of distinguished personages, among whom were, the Marquis of ;Cornwallis and some of his family; General Fitzroy, the Rev. G. F. Tavel and Lady Augusta; Lady Henry Fitzroy, John Conyers Esq. Capt. Beauchamp, George Beauchamp, Esq. and others. By this time above 2000 persons were collected on the ground. On the lower stone, to which the upper one was screwed and cemented, was inscribed, “ This stone was laid by the Most Noble George Henry, Duke of Grafton, Sept. 13, 1819.” A Metallic Die at the end of the inscription was sunk, having the words “Thetford Chalybeate, 1819.” The whole being prepared, the duke proceeded with his silver trowel to spread the mortar, upon which a signal gun was fired, and the stone lowered into its position, and having been properly adjusted, received from his Grace several blows from his mallet. His Grace having laid the stone, congratulated the company on the interesting occasion which had brought them together, expressing the pleasure he felt at being able to promote the interests of those who had undertaken these works. And cordially wishing success to them, and every other which might tend to advance the prosperity of the Town of Thetford. The Mayor then presented the duke with a Gold Cup, bearing the Arms of the Town, in which he drank “Success to the Spa;” it was then handed to the Duchess, and the other distinguished persons present. His Grace was then conducted to the Spring, and drank of its waters, as did the Duchess. A grand salute was fired on the company’s return. The procession retired from the ground in the same order, but by a different route, the bells of St.Peter’s Church firing as they passed over the bridge, and through the main streets. At eight o’clock the company, to the number of 115 persons, sat down to a sumptuous dinner in the Guildhall, which was tastefully decorated with shrubs and flowers. On the removal of the cloth the following toasts were given by the Mayor:- “The King,” in silence.- “The Prince Regent.” – “The Duke of York and the Army.” – “The Duke of Clarence and the Navy.” After which the following song, composed for the occasion, was sung by Mr. Winkup, to the tune of “God save the King.”
The Duke of Grafton then rose to propose the health of J.B. Faux Esq. but said he felt quite at a loss in which of his three characters to propose him – whether as Chairman of the Committee, as President of the Meeting, or as Mayor of the Borough, in all which situations he had so highly distinguished himself.
The Mayor rose to return thanks, and said – “ I beg you believe I am truly sensible of the great and distinguished compliment you have just paid me. I could not have been placed, Gentlemen, in a situation to feel more highly honoured, nor could I have met you on an occasion when I should have felt a deeper interest. As far as the present day may be prospectively connected with the interests of the place, I think it may fairly be looked upon as a day of greatest import Thetford ever knew. Gentlemen, on looking round a company so elevated, so respectable, and numerous as the present, I cannot but feel myself imperiously called upon (and it is no ungrateful task to me, Gentlemen, I will assure you) not only to give you my own thanks, but those of the inhabitants at large, for the manner in which you have this day appeared among us, as, Gentlemen, we must be well convinced you have, with no other views than those of manifesting an attachment to the Town, and assisting us with disinterested zeal in the advancement of her welfare and prosperity. In other places, (adverting to the immediate business of the day) where medicinal waters have been found, the rapidity of those places in the acquirement of consequence and opulence hath been beyond all calculation: may the same good results attend our discovery at Thetford; and surely Gentlemen, there can be no more desirable way of attaining it, than in dealing out (what appears so providentially placed in our hands) the means of promoting the health and prolonging the lives of our friends. Gentlemen, I will draw no invidious comparison between the virtue of the medicinal waters of Thetford and those of any other place; we are before the public; the curative effects of the waters are known to hundreds. The physical properties of the waters are stamped by the testimonials of eminent medical men. Their chemical analysis hath a tower of strength in the name of Accum; and, Gentlemen, there can be little doubt, an enduring fame and an auspicious success hath been secured for them, by the flattering patronage of the present day.”
The Mayor then proposed the health of his Grace the duke of Grafton, who, he observed, following the long and constant friendships of his illustrious house, in his anxieties for all that concerned the welfare of Thetford, had not only given the honour of his company, but with a promptitude that would be long remembered, by the Shareholders and the Inhabitants most gratefully, had added his weight to the enterprising undertaking of the day: “and I am sure (added the Mayor) with not only satisfaction, but a rich reward, if in laying the foundation stone of the Pump-room today, he hath laid the foundation of any future benefit to Thetford.”
The Duke, in returning thanks, expressed his promptitude on every occasion to assist in the promotion of those objects which might render a present benefit to strangers resorting to the Spa, and ultimate prosperity to the town of Thetford. The very animated address of the Mayor called for his warmest thanks, and he trusted every individual concerned in this undertaking would see it crowned with success.
After a song by Mr. Jones, the health of the Ladies of Thetford was drunk with great enthusiasm.
The Health of the Representatives of the Borough being drunk, Lord Charles Fitzroy rose, and returned thanks in a neat and appropriate speech,- Ridley Colborne, Esq. trusted he should duly appreciate the honour done to him on the present occasion. He sincerely hoped the object would prove highly beneficial not to the Gentlemen only who formed the Company, but by the resort of strangers, an increase of wealth to the Town. The air had long been famed for contributing to the health and longevity of its inhabitants, and now, his trusted, its Waters would be equally famed for restoring the sick.
At the suggestion of F.K. Eagle, Esq. the health of the Committee was drunk with three times three.
A letter was then read from the Rev. H.C.Manning, apologising for his absence, and recalling to the minds of those present the grateful remembrance of one whom he ventured to term, under Providence, “the Founder of the Thetford Spring,” and without whose anxious and ernest interference, now nearly fourteen (fourscore) years since, it had probably been as unconsciously re-consigned to oblivion, as it had been providentially rescued from it. To that individual they were indebted for a long and expensive research into the qualities and virtues of this Spring; under the best lights which chemistry then afforded, and which finally empowered him to pronounce them equivalent to those of any known Mineral Waters then in existence. He needed scarcely to add to his well-earned eulogy the name of his respected Father, Dr. Matthew Manning.
After the letter had been read, the Duke proposed that the company should drink to the memory of Dr. Matthew Manning, which was done accordingly.
Upon the health of Mr. Accum being drunk, he rose to acknowledge to toast, and to express the great pleasure he felt in being able to state to the Meeting, from a careful investigation of the real nature and properties of this fountain of health, that the Mineral Waters of Thetford were inferior to none.
The health of Lord Petre, and several other toasts, having been drunk, the company separated soon after nine o’clock,- The Ball in the evening at the Assembly Room was opened by Lord Charles Fitzroy and Miss Umphelby, a friend of the Mayoress. About 200 persons were present, and thus concluded the festivities of the day. From the Bury and Norwich Post Wednesday 22nd September 1819.
The following week a brief entry in the same paper was published:
Errata.- In that part of the account of the Thetford Spa Festival, last week, respecting the original discovery of the medicinal virtues of the spring, by Dr. Matthew Manning, for “nearly fourteen,” read “fourscore years.” From the Bury and Norwich Post Wednesday 29th September 1819.
All could not have been going entirely well, for the development of Thetford Spa, as according to this item from the Norfolk Chronicle:
THETFORD CHALYBEATE SPRING
In consequence of the continued Fraud and Impositions practiced upon the public, by persons adulterating the Water and otherwise. The Company (in order to prevent such abuses) are desirous of Appointing Agents for the Sale of the Water at the following places: (60 listed)
Applications are requested to be made (if by letter post-paid) to the secretary of the Thetford Mineral Spring Company, Thetford.
The public are hereby informed, that in future no water will be sent out after the 11th of October next, (except for private use) in any other quantities than Half Pint, Pint and Quart stone bottles, which will be sealed and stamped on the side, “Thetford Chalybeate Spring . 1818, G. and R. Munn,” and none will be genuine unless it bears that seal and stamp. From Norfolk Chronicle Saturday 16 October 1819.
n.b. The use of glass bottles would have revealed to Customers, that the water deposited a ‘brown sediment’ on the base and sides of the bottle after a couple of days from when it was bottled, thereby rendering the product unsaleable.
The Duke of Grafton, again, visited the Thetford Spa, this time accompanied by a party of the Nobility……
ROYAL VISIT TO THETFORD SPA
On Thursday afternoon (18th October 1819), the bells of St. Peter’s announced the approach of the Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by the Duke of Grafton, (the Noble Recorder) the Earl and Countess of Euston, Lord Charles Fitzroy and Ridley Colborne, and Isabella Fitzroy, Lady Shelly, Colonel and Lady Pierrepoint, Sir Archibald Murray, &c. The party having arrived at the Town Hall, were received by the Mayor and Coroner. His Royal Highness was then introduced to the Corporation, and on the solicitation of the Mayor, graciously received the Freedom of the Borough, which was immediately voted, and the following address read by the Deputy Recorder:
“We the Mayor, Recorder, Burgesses, and Commonality of the Borough of Thetford, beg to address your Royal Highness on your arrival within this ancient Borough of Thetford, beg leave to address your Royal Highness on your arrival within this ancient Borough. We cannot omit an opportunity of testifying our loyal attachment to any part of the family of our revered and beloved Sovereign, and we embrace it in the person of your Royal Highness with unbounded satisfaction. Our ancestors in this Borough enjoyed many opportunities of expressing their allegiance to their Sovereigns’ in person, when the town had the honour to be occasionally a Royal residence: and while we follow their precedent at this remote period of time, we indulge the hope that your Royal Highness will accept this humble Address, and allow us to assure your Royal Highness, that the distinction does not more endear your presence to us than the knowledge we possess of your many eminent public and private virtues.”
The Deputy Recorder then presented the Duke with the Docket of Freedom, and his Royal Highness was graciously pleased to return the following answer: Mr Mayor, and Gentlemen,-“ I feel myself extremely flattered by the manner in which I have been received, and by those expressions of firm attachment to my family and myself which your Address contains. I accept from this Corporation the honour of the Freedom of the Borough most cordially, and shall ever have the most lively intesest for the welfare of the very loyal and ancient town of Thetford.”
The Royal Duke was then conducted to the Assembly Room, where an excellent cold collation was prepared (at a very short notice) by the Mayor, consisting of Game, confectionary, pines, &c. &c. of which the distinguished party, with the Corporation and several Gentlemen of the town, partook, his Royal Highness conversing most affably with all around him. His Royal Highness then signified his wish to visit the Spa, and having mounted his horse, proceeded to the Spring, with an immense retinue, frequently cheering him on his way. Having inspected the Pump-Room and Baths, which are now in great progress, he went down to the Spring-head, and expressed himself much pleased with the beauties of its situation, and stated that in his opinion the water was a stronger Chalybeate than that of Tonbridge. The Mayor having then presented his Royal Highness with Accum’s Guide to the Spa, he expressed his desire to see the town, and having been conducted through the principal streets by the Mayor and Corporation, about half past five o’clock crossed the bridge where his travelling chariot was in waiting, took leave of those gentlemen who had attended him in the most courteous and condescending manner, and expressing himself much pleased with his visit to Thetford, departed for Weeting Hall, the seat of colonel Dixon. The amiable and condescending manners of his Royal Highness by this short visit, are indelibly impressed upon the minds of the inhabitants of Thetford. From Bury and Norwich Post 3rd November 1819.
In its April 1821 edition, The Gentleman’s Magasine published (p313-4) its:
Account of Thetford and its Mineral Spring.
Mr. Urban.(editor.) April 6. The Mineral Spring at Thetford Norfolk has of late attracted so much attention, that I am induced to send you a description of the Town, and of the newly erected Pump=room and Baths.
Thetford has long been a place of peculiar interest to the Antiquary, from the circumstance of it having been the Sitomagus of the Iceni, whilst Britain endured the Roman yoke; and afterwards becoming the metropolis of East Anglia, under whose Kings it enjoyed a series of prosperity and grandeur, until that sanguinary encounter with the Danish army in the year 870; when, after experiencing all the horrors of a siege, the town with its monastery, was burnt and destroyed. It had, however, so far recovered its fallen greatness in the days of the Confessor, as to register 947 burgesses.
At every approach to the town, a strong impression of its antiquity is excited, by the appearance of many a stately ruin, or its lofty mound and ramparts; and some visible relick at almost every step recalls to the mind its ancient splendour, which was such (according to the observation of Sir Henry Spelman) as made Thetford at one period more renowned for churches and religious houses, than any place of equal size throughout the island, But the dissolution of the monasteries and the relentless hand of Time have so diminished the number of the former, that only three out of twenty are now remaining; and of the latter, little may be said on this occasion, except that the foundation stone of the Abbey or Cluniac Priory was laid by Henry I. in person; and that it was the burial-place of several of the Earls of Norfolk, and contained also numerous monuments of the Bigods, Mowbrays, and Howards. – The Bishops see, of which it once could boast, was removed to Norwich by Herbert de Losinga in 1094.
Queen Elizabeth had a house in this town, which was frequently visited by her successor James I, in the hunting season.
The population is now estimated at about 3000; and although the town is irregularly built, it contains several excellent houses; it has a neat market-place; good inns, a Wesleyan and Independent chapel, a well- endowed Grammar School, and a spacious Town Hall, where the Lent Assises for the county of Norfolk have been invariably held 700 years; the Jury boxes and seats of one of the boxes and seats of one of the Courts are so constructed, as to be removed at pleasure, when it is occasionally made use of for concerts and assemblies. The mail and other coaches pass through daily. The town is governed by a Mayor, Recorder, ten Aldermen, and twenty Common Council, who send two Members to Parliament.
The chalybeate waters of Thetford have been long known: the late Dr. M. Manning of that place having been primarily instrumental in their re-discovery, after probable lapse of ages; snf having written an analytical treatise upon them, - but this having been drawn up in Latin, in consequence of its forming an appendix to a larger work in that language on mineral waters in general, published in 1746 ( of which appendix a translation has just been given to the public), they remained till very lately in obscurity, when certain circumstances having happily occasioned the re-opening of the Spring, its justly increasing reputation induced the inhabitants, in course of the year 1819, to seek further analysis, considering this preliminary step of the utmost importance, not only to the public, but to the medical practitioner. They accordingly entrusted this research to Mr. Accum of chemical celebrity; the result of whose chemical examination being most satisfactory, a company was immediately formed, for the purpose of erecting suitable buildings, and setting out the grounds for general accommodation. The first stone was laid by his Grace the Duke of Grafton on the 13th of Sept. 1819; and in the month of October following, the spring was honoured by a visit from H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester.
The building, which is an exceedingly neat elevation, is now completed, and has been opened to the Public about twelve months. It comprises a commodious and well-proportioned Pump-room, in which is a recess, where stands a classically embellished pedestal, through which the water is induced. Here, also, London and provincial papers are furnished, with magasines and other periodical publications. Adjoining this room are the superintendant’s apartments, and behind are the hot and cold baths, which were erected solely under the direction of Mr. Accum, and are replete with every convenience. In the yard the poor are supplied with the water gratis. The situation of the edifice, between the tranquil streams of the Lesser Ouse and Thet, far exceeds any idea the cursory traveller through Thetford can conceive; and the approach from the bridge, leaving the nunnery on the left, is on the gently winding bank of the former river, from whence the building makes a most pleasing appearance, seated in the centre of a lawn, and embosomed in trees of luxuriant growth. The prospect from the Pump-room of the adjacent meadows, nunnery, bridges, the waters, and promenade, is highly picturesque. Leaving the buildings, and pursuing to course of the Ouse, the bank of which is skirted and adorned by elms and other forest trees, - we pass through an avenue to the small bridges, where the promenade may be considered to terminate; and immediately below which is the confluence of the two rivers, from whence the navigation to Lynn commences.
The wooded part and delightful scenery of this part of Thetford exhibits a character so totally different from the surrounding country, that it is but justice to entreat the attention of the stranger. I venture, however, to affirm, he will be amply repaid by the visit; he will be amply repaid by the visit; and I have confidence in further asserting, that the well-authenticated proofs of the medical properties of the mineral waters of Thetford, already published have secured them a merited and lasting distinction. H.W.D.
Mr. George Bloomfield’s “Poem of Thetford Chalybeate Spa” was published in the Bury and Norwich Post on Wednesday 18th April 1821: