Norfolk Industrial Archeology Society

site visit 1991

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Norfolk Industrial Archeology Society visited the site in 1991 and reported on its condition:  In November 1991 only the spa basin was found to remain. 

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Reffley Spring bason 1990’s                                                                                                    photo Alan Leventhall

The Obelisk and Sphinxes were removed to safety by the Bretheren some years before to protect them from vandalism.  The temple was demolished after vandals damaged door, windows and roof during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  It is recorded that the Bretheren spent nearly one thousand pounds in repair in  the 1970’s but, since no official measures were taken to protect the site by heritage bodies or by the district or county councils, the destruction continued until the condition of the buildings made them unsafe. One wonders why this spring and buildings were not accorded listed building protection.

Only a few traces of foundations could be found at the presumed location of the temple, besides the spa basin.  A stone alter-table with an inscription: Presented by a Friend 1778 has disappeared. Other stone features which once ornamented the grounds have gone also.  The spa basin, damaged , is empty of water, and the whole site presents a depressed and litter-strewn appearance, overgrown with scrub and brambles.  The basin is circular, measuring c 2.9 metres diameter by 0.4 metres deep and is of stone.  The base for the Obelisk remains and outlet and inlet pipes were visible – but damaged. From Journal of the Norfolk Industrial Archeology Society Vol 5 No. 3 1993 page 150.

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Gaywood Valley

Archeological and Historical Project –

Reffley 19th and 20th October 2013.

 

The main target of the weekend was to gain information about the Reffley Temple. These two pits, one at the side of the Temple site, and one downhill from it, were to try to find any associated activity.

Dr Mary Chester-Kadwell, Keith Robinson and Dr Clive Bond surveying Reffley spring well.       Picture: Ian Burt. Andrew Papworth Friday, December 13, 2013.

Two of the many folk who stopped to chat about what we were doing.

We soon found evidence of the abundant clay deposits which underlie the hill, and the two pits were closed at 30cms. There were a few finds but nothing immediately identifiable as having a connection to the Temple. The Temple pit was covered and left to be reopened the next day.

A large slab of worked stone, which may have been a lintel, or a mantelpiece.

 Sunday.

Mary Chester-Kadwell and several society members set about the Temple site pit, which soon gave up a large number of finds that gave a strong indication of the bacchanalian nature of the activities that occurred there. 

The rubble strewn remains of the basin out of which the spring flowed. In the centre is the base upon which the obelisk was placed.

 

Project Survey

Plan of Pool Basin

 

On the weekend of 19/20th October 2013 the Gaywood Valley project carried out a survey of the Reffley Woods area. This consisted of three test pits of which two were on public land and the other, by special permission, in the wooded area close to the temple location. The team also produced a photographic record of the remaining structures (the pool basin) and a detailed plan of the pool basin was made.

The site of the temple is private woodland and is now very overgrown, with undergrowth covering piles of masonry from the buildings. As we had not been given leave to clear the site it was not possible to determine the exact location of the temple and its outbuilding but it was believed to be roughly South-East of the Pool area.

Photo of Surveyed Pool

 

The former pool basin seemed to be in a fairly good state of repair although it is now dry and filled with rubble and some rubbish. Two items in the basin looked as if they had originally come from the temple. One was a carved block of smooth black stone, which had, what appeared to be, a fixing slot on the top. It is possible that this had been part of the base of one of the two sphinxes that flanked the entrance to the temple. The other was a square block made of stone or concrete and again looked like the base of some statue or ornament or perhaps a submerged stepping stone to allow easy access to the water spout at the pools centre.

We used a handheld GPS device to fix its location and carried out a survey measuring various points on the structure to a base line. The basin consists of a central stone block mounted on a concrete base on which, originally, the obelisk and its inscribed base once stood. It appears that the stone block was originally bevelled at the top but the West, East and South edges are now so badly damaged that no sign of this can be seen. There is a central hole in the top of the block and an exit, where the lion-headed spout is shown in the old photographs, to the North-West. Although the channel is quite large it is unlikely that the originating spring (in Spring Wood) would have supplied much more that a steady trickle of water. The feed pipe can be seen at the North-East of the basin where a pipe can be seen entering the basin at a low level. We could see no evidence of pipework linking this entry with the main, central block channels, but some remnant of this may still exist under the rubble.

The basin itself consists of a circular brick wall, its top being flush with the surrounding woodland floor. The wall is brick-built with a thin cement skim, the brick-type being consistent with the quoted 18th century date. The concrete has been formed so that it appears to be consulted of two levels of large, shaped stone. Immediately above the water entry point the rim has a gap but, as the edges have crumbled, it is not possible to tell if this was originally an overflow or if it has been vandalised.

Photos taken of Pool Basin Area

 

Annotated photograph of Pool Basin

 

Start of Survey

 

 

Picture, showing rubbish fill of basin

 

Stone block in pool Basin, possibly part of sphinx pedistal

 

 

Close-up of probable Lion-Headed Spout position

 

Water entry pipe at edge of basin

 

 

Square Stone Block - Purpose Unknown

 

Annotated photo of start of Survey showing major features of Pool Basin

Project Survey

In producing this write-up I have used internet sources for much of the information. However one has to beware that the Brethren were a secret society and some of the material may be based on speculation or maybe biased. Also the Temple and the spring basin are sited on private land and the number of pictures available of this iconic landmark are very limited.

If you have any old photos, information or perhaps stories from your youth we would really love to hear from you.

If you have anything of interest please contact me Bill Howard, Gaywood Valley Archaeological and Historical Project or West Norfolk & King's Lynn Archaeology Society. The temple was a definitive part of the hamlet of Reffley and it would be a shame that information about it was lost.

Forthcoming Events

  • Exhibition at True's Yard The artefacts recovered from our excavations along the Gaywood Valley will be on show at True's Yard in King's Lynn from 21st January.

  • Photos and Audio There are also a selection of photos and audio interviews on-line on our HistoryPin Channel History Pin Channel

 

Text and photographs are taken from the Gaywood Valley and Archeological and Historical Project website. Permission has been obtained from the Society to use this material.