The original ice well was built in the mid 1700s, when the well-to-do would store ice, collected from marshes around the Thames or even as far as Norway, in the winter, and would be served in the summer.
This ice well was then remodelled, by Pulhams, in the Victorian era, so that it also had a nice porch with a seat in (currently removed for alleged antisocial behaviour), with a view over the Ha-Ha.
Rediscovered in 1754 (by the Bishop’s domestic chaplain, a Rev Mr Hardwick); a spring seeping into the moat was identified as a chalybeate spring, complete with buried ancient oak steps.
“Chalybeate” means that the water contains minerals, usually iron. There was a fashion for ‘Spa’ cures from about 1600AD onwards with towns like Bath and Tunbridge Wells being built around them, catering to the rich ‘taking the waters’. The Pulham Rock site says that it was supposed to possess healing properties capable of curing almost everything, including:
‘ . . . the colic, the melancholy, and the vapours. It made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly, loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.’
In 1754 it was roofed with thatch over 6 pillars – replaced with tile roof by the Lord of the Manor, Coles-Child, but this has not survived into modern times. The spring is chalybeate, and from a perched water table that also seeps out by Churchill Theatre and along the base of Martin’s Hill. St Blaise was the patron saint of wool carding (bishop of Sebaste in Armenia with a gruesome death) and quite popular in medieval times.
“The Bishops built a well a few hundred yards from the chalybeate spring, and marked it with oak trees. It was about 16 inches in diameter, and the canopy had a roof of thatch, thus heightening the picturesque appearance of the scene, as shown on the left of Fig 2. The water rose so slowly, however, that it took nearly four hours to yield a gallon of water. There was an orifice in the side of the retaining wall that enabled surplus water to trickle over into the adjacent moat – or small lake – that borders the grounds of the palace. It eventually became a place of pilgrimage, and an oratory in honour of St Blaise, the patron saint of the wool trade, was built close by.
After the Reformation, however, the oratory fell into ruin, and the well into disuse, although it is not clear whether they ran out of pilgrims because they died of the colic, melancholy, the vapours or old age while they were waiting for their cups to be filled with chalybeate water, or as a result of drinking it. “
These listed structures were installed by the new Lord of the Manor, Coles-Child, as part of his restoration and modernisation of the old Bishop’s Palace.
Pulhams had invented an early form of concrete, which looks quite convincingly like rocks – but was much easier to install the shapes and forms that customer’s wanted.
The basic structure was constructed from brickwork, and then the artisan would put a rendering of ‘pulhamite’ over the top, putting in rock-like layers and shapes as he plastered the render on. Top of the range installations had fossils incorporated.
The Palace Park boasts the Rockery – a cascade structure out of the moat – and a fernery, which had little scoops in, for planting. The fernery is situated on the spring line behind the little brick pool marking St Blaise’s well.
In 1897 the lord of the manor, Charles Cole-Childs, gave the field known as White Hart Field, to the people. This became Queens Gardens. Before the Glades was built it stretched between Market Square and the Bishops Palace (the Bishops of Rochester were the Lord of the Manor) – the palace is now the Civic Centre.
The current Queens Gardens is between the Glades and the Kentish Way bypass.
from the Friend’s page about this park: “Queen’s Garden represents the last remnant of the countryside hugging the old Market Square on the east side of town. It was part of the farmland belonging to Bromley Palace (now the Civic Centre) stretching from the White Hart Inn in the High Street all the way to Widmore Green. By the l8th century it was known as White Hart Field and it was here that the coaching horses could graze and where the town held their cricket matches. Despite its accustomed use by the townsfolk the field remained in the possession of the Lord of the Manor until donated to the town in 1897 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and on condition it was laid out as a public garden.”
A large section of it was sold to the developer’s of the Glades. They gave some exchange land, but as this lacked the protection of public park land, this was then claimed back in 2015 and the restaurant terrace built on it.
When it was White Hart Field, it was the town’s cricket ground, and the scene of the live changing event for the famous author HG Wells, when in 1894, he says:
The agent of good fortune was “young Sutton,” the grown-up son of the landlord of the Bell. I was playing outside the scoring tent in the cricket field and in all friendliness he picked me up and tossed me in the air. “Whose little kid are you?” he said, and I wriggled, he missed his hold on me and I snapped my tibia across a tent peg. A great fuss of being carried home; a painful setting — for they just set and strapped a broken leg tightly between splints in those days, and the knee and ankle swelled dreadfully — and then for some weeks I found myself enthroned on the sofa in the parlour as the most important thing in the house, consuming unheard-of jellies, fruits, brawn and chicken sent with endless apologies on behalf of her son by Mrs. Sutton, and I could demand and have a fair chance of getting anything that came into my head, books, paper, pencils, and toys — and particularly books.
I had just taken to reading. I had just discovered the art of leaving my body to sit impassive in a crumpled up attitude in a chair or sofa, while I wandered over the hills and far away in novel company and new scenes. And now my father went round nearly every day to the Literary Institute in Market Square and got one or two books for me, and Mrs. Sutton sent some books, and there was always a fresh book to read… I cannot recall now many of the titles of the books I read, I devoured them so fast…
Some pictures of Queens Gardens, past and present:
(1) From An Experiment in Autobiography by H. G. Wells, 1934, Chapter 2.
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Built in 1908 this building housed the offices of Bromley Electric Light Company. Behind was the coal-fired ‘power station’ whose tall chimney dominates old photos of the town centre. It was there for over 30 years.
The architectural style is ‘Queen Anne’ – ‘Streaky Bacon’.
The tattooist (No. 217), and the next door shop, occupy an 18th century house, worthy of mention as it was the premises of two Bromley notable historians and printers, each producing from this shop an invaluable histories of Bromley – Thomas Wilson in 1797 and John Dunkin in 1815.
The row of 5 windows is distinctive in old photos of the High Street.
This shop was the site of Morley’s Academy, which was on the upper floors, where the author HG Wells went to school, after he had graduated from the Dame school on south street. It was demolished in 1902 and replaced with the current building.