Another day – another piece of research! This time, I wanted to find the unimaginatively named ‘Vange Well No. 5’, in Martinhole Wood, One Tree Hill, Basildon, Essex.
It was my second attempt to find it – the first being abandoned because the path was too muddy and slippery. I’d gone with my cousins and mum and we were following the map in Sue Ranford’s excellent book ‘Secret Basildon’. On taking the shortest route, we encountered a treacherous, muddy slope and a confusing fork in the path, so we decided to try again on a drier day, when the going was easier.
On my second attempt, my cousins were away, so only Mum and I set off on the quest. Rather than risk the mud again, we took a slightly longer route across one of the meadows which turned out to be more spectacular than I’d anticipated! We’d inadvertently timed our excursion with the flowering of a host of tiny orchids which bathed the field in purple.
Once in the woods, I began to wonder which path to take when I glanced to my right and there, almost hidden amongst the trees was Vange Well No. 5. Sadly, it is now a ruin although enough remains to be able to imagine it in its heyday when it resembled a small, domed, classical temple.
During the early 1900s, Vange Wells Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were sunk by an entrepreneur, Edwin Cash, former licensee of the ‘Angel’ in Islington. His company Vange Water Co. Ltd. bottled the water which had been tested and shown to have a high mineral content. It was sold in glass bottles for 2/3d (approximately 12p) in all local chemists until approximately 1924, when his company ceased trading. It isn’t known why the Vange Water Co. Ltd. stopped using Vange Well No. 5, although it’s thought that it may have become contaminated by water from a tuberculosis sanatorium further up the hillside.
Since that time, sadly, it has been left to fall into decay and the woods have now engulfed it. If you’d like to read more about the history of Vange Well No. 5, click here to go to the Thurrock website.
So, did my trip help in writing my new book? Well, although the well doesn’t play a large part, it is the setting for an important scene and it was useful for me to get an idea of the scale of the structure – something which isn’t always easy to do from photographs. My only doubt is that a well in the shape of a classical, domed temple in the woods is such a bizarre thing, that the editor might find the whole thing rather unbelievable and ask me to make the story more credible by removing it. Oh well, at least I have the photos to prove such a structure exists!