Underground Greenwich (10) Back Garden Fun

Geoff, who lives at the park end of King William Walk, has an intriguing question. He says:

“Apparently, there’s a well is in my garden. A former resident of thirty years ago told me he was digging in the area outside the back door when he fell down it. He only went down about six foot as it was filled in 110 years ago when they built the properties. He informed me that the foundation of the back wall of the property is sitting on the edge of the well.

Could it be a shaggy dog story? I have no plans to dig up the back garden to find out, but I thought you might be interested.”

The Phantom is very interested indeed. It’s very unlikely the guy’s pulling your leg, Geoff – though of course he could be exaggerating as people who can’t be proved wrong enjoy doing ;-) It’s a fascinating – and topical thing to talk about, given the whole chucking-out of the market folk to build the Stockwell St. development.

We have discussed the Stock Well before – how it dates back to at least Duke Humphrey’s time – he got himself a license to run a conduit (that’s ‘secret tunnel’ to you and me – there are loads of ‘em in Greenwich, especially around Crooms Hill and the Park. They were only for water, of course, but the romantic possibilities for a giddy Phantom are endless…) to his gaff which was more or less where the ORNC is now.

I’m not going to reiterate here what I wrote a year or so ago (click on the “Stock Well” link above to get the original piece) – suffice to say that at the time of writing the pamphlet from which I got the information – just shy of 100 years old now, the exact location of the well was unknown. I think, given the fact that you’re at King William Walk and the Stock Well (it’s thought) was around the corner of what’s now Nevada Street and Stockwell Street, that it’s unlikely that yours is the actual well (though since no one really knows, it could be) – but it may be a very old subsidiary one that came from the main supply.

I know you have no intentions of digging up your garden but I have to say that if it were the Phantom Back Garden, unless it was a display of positively Wisley-worthy immaculateness, I’d be sorely tempted to call in Time Team pronto.

At worst it would be a curiosity, at best it would be the original well – full, if John Stone’s speculation is to be believed, of “archaeological treasures reposing at the bottom of the well, dropped down from the earliest days of Greenwich in the daily and hourly user of the inhabitants through many centuries…” Blimey.

Whether or not Geoff’s is the missing well, I truly hope that the archaeologists will be called into the Stockwell Street development at a very early stage. It is one of the longest-inhabited areas of Greenwich – and this could be the only opportunity to investigate its history before it’s lost or damaged for ever.

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