The purpose of this website is twofold, firstly, to relate the history of Reffley Spring as far as it can be known from the available evidence, and also to be a reference site for material relating to the Spring and surrounding area. Newspaper articles and references from books and other material have been quoted in their entirety in most cases, resulting in some repetition of the text.
Although it has not been possible to say when Reffley Spring became popular with the public, it can be assumed that it must have been when Springs and Wells became popular in the country generally.
As the ‘Subscribers to Reffley Spring’ paid for their Temple and its immediate environs, to be built for their exclusive use, Reffley Spring did not develop as a traditional Spa or Spaw. Publicly it was principally used for healthy recreation and leisure purposes rather than by virtue of any properties of its spring water.
As it was not the more usual health or commercial potential of the spring, then there has to have been another significant reason to account for its being the site for reclusive meetings being held there by a group, said to be of no more than 30 gentlemen typically, but not exclusively on one day a year, over such a long period. Though as we shall see, meetings were also held to celebrate local and national events of importance in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as well as more public fetes.
In common with a select number of springs elsewhere in the country, it could have been the site of intrigue –informal meetings of Royalists from Lynn and the surrounding area, being one of the few places where they could meet in relative safety under the pretence of ‘taking the waters’, - an activity that was so popular that even during the Cromwellian Protectorate it was not proscribed. It would have been when the political climate changed, at the end of the Cromwellian Era with the Restoration of the Monarchy, that meetings, formerly with the prime intent of protest, could have continued in a more convivial vein.
There may possibly be earlier references in the archives of the Wyche and Thoresby families,- former owners of the land where the Spring is situated, yet to be discovered, that could suggest an earlier date for the formation of "the Subscribers" - sometime between 1688 and 1750 - as there have been in the Folkes Archives, that could tell us more. For instance, inscription on the Obelisk- erected in 1756, stated that it was not the first, suggesting that permission might have been sought at an earlier time from the then landowner, to erect the earlier obelisk.
The Society’s own version of its origins, is that it started as a protest against a Protectorate Edict in the Cromwellian era. As we shall see, that is not clear cut. However, protesting at that time could have taken the form of the act of meeting together and of “Toasting” which unlike today, at that time had evolved into a subtle or not so subtle ‘artform’ –drinking the ‘health’ of ones enemies as vociferously, as of one's ‘friends’, by making use of a mixture of the readily available springwater and brandy – the “Punch” of later years.