Every-Day Book
vol II date    /    index  


March 2.

St. Ceada, or Chad. Martyrs under the Lombards, 6th Cent. St. Simplicius, Pope A.D. 483. St. Marnan, A. D. 620. St. Charles the Good, Earl of Flanders, A.D. 1124. St. Joavan, or Joevin.

St. Chad, A.D. 673.

His name is in the calendar of the church of England. He was founder of the see, and bishop of Lichfield. According to Bede, joyful melody as of persons sweetly singing descended from heaven into his oratory for half an hour, and then mounted again to heaven. This was to presage his death, and accordingly he died, attended by his brother's soul and musical angels.

St. Chad's Well

Is near Battle-bridge. The miraculous water is aperient, and was some years ago quaffed by the bilious and other invalids, who flocked thither in crowds, to drink at the cost of sixpence, what people of these latter days by "the ingenious chemists' art," can make as effectual as St. Chad's virtues "at the small price of one half-penny."

If any one desire to visit this spot of ancient renown, let him descend from Holborn-bars to the very bottom of Grays-inn-lane. On the left-hand side formerly stood a considerable hill, whereon were wont to climb and browze certain mountain goats of the metropolis, in common language called swine; the hill was the largest heap of cinder-dust in the neighbourhood of London. It was formed by the annual accumulation of some thousands of cart loads, since exported to Russia for making bricks to rebuild Moscow, after the conflagration of that capital on the entrance of Napoleon. Opposite to this unsightly site, and on the right-hand side of the road is an angle-wise faded inscription:

triangular sign of St. Chad's Well

It stands, or rather dejects, over an elderly pair of wooden gates, one whereof opens on a scene which the unaccustomed eye may take for the pleasure-ground of Giant Despair. Trees stand as if made not to vegetate, clipped hedges seem willing to decline, and nameless weeds straggle weakly upon unlimited borders. If you look upwards you perceive painted on an octagon board "Health Restored and Preserved." Further on towards the left, stands a low, old-fashioned, comfortable-looking, large windowed dwelling; and ten to one, but there also stands, at the open door, an ancient ailing female, in a black bonnet, a clean coloured cotton gown, and a check apron; her silver hair only in part tucked beneath the narrow border of a frilled cap, with a sedate and patient, yet, somewhat inquiring look. This is "the Lady of the Well." She gratuitously informs you, that "the gardens" of "St. Chad's well" are "for circulation" by paying for the water, of which you may drink as much, or as little, or nothing, as you please, at one guinea per year, 9s. 6d. monthly, or 1s. 6d. weekly. You qualify for a single visit by paying sixpence, and a large glass tumbler full of warm water is handed to you. As a stranger, you are told, that "St. Chad's well was famous at one time." Should you be inquisitive, the dame will instruct you, with an earnest eye, that "people are not what they were," "things are not as they used to be," and she "can't tell what'll happen next." Oracles have not ceased. While drinking St. Chad's water you observe an immense copper into which it is poured, wherein it is heated to due efficacy, and from whence it is drawn by a cock, into the glasses. You also remark, hanging on the wall, a "tribute of gratitude" versified, and inscribed on vellum, beneath a pane of glass stained by the hand of time and let into a black frame: this is an effusion for value received from St Chad's invaluable water. But, above all, there is a full-sized portrait in oil, of a stout, comely personage, with a ruddy countenance, in a coat or cloak, supposed scarlet, a laced cravat falling down the breast, and a small red night cap carelessly placed on the head, conveying the idea that it was painted for the likeness of some opulent butcher who flourished in the reign of queen Anne. Ask the dame about it, and she refers you to "Rhone." This is a tall old man, who would be taller if he were not bent by years. "I am ninety-four," he will tell you, "this present year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five." All that he has to communicate concerning the portrait is, "I have heard say it is the portrait of St. Chad." Should you venture to differ, he adds, "this is the opinion of most people who come here." You may gather that it is his own undoubted belief. On pacing the garden alleys, and peeping at the places of retirement, you imagine the whole may have been improved and beautified for the last time by some countryman of William III., who came over and died in the same year with that king, and whose works here, in wood and box, have been following him piecemeal ever since.

St. Chad's well is scarcely known in the neighbourhood, save by its sign-board of invitation and forbidding externals. An old American loyalist, who has lived in Pentonville ever since "the rebellion" forced him to the mother country, enters to "totter not unseen" between the stunted hedgerows; it was the first "place of pleasure" he came to after his arrival, and he goes no where besides,—"every thing else is so altered." For the same reason, a tall, spare, thin-faced man, with dull grey eyes and underhung chin, from the neighbourhood of Bethnal-green, walks hither for his "Sunday morning's exercise," to untruss a theological point with a law clerk, who also attends the place because his father, "when he was 'prentice to Mr. —— the great law stationer in Chancery-lane in 1776, and sat writing for sixteen hours a day, received great benefit from the waters, which he came to drink fasting, once a week." Such persons from local attachment, and a few male and female atrabilarians, who without a powerful motive would never breathe the pure morning air, resort to this spot for their health. St. Chad's well, is haunted, not frequented. A few years and it will be with its water as with the water of St. Pancras' well, which is enclosed in the garden of a private house, near old St. Pancras' churchyard.

Holy Wells.

The holy wells of London have all declined in reputation, even to St. Bride's well, whose fame gave the name of Bridewell to an adjoining hospital and prison, and at last, attached the name to every house of correction throughout the kingdom. The last public use of the water of St. Bride's well drained it so much, that the inhabitants of St. Bride's parish could not get their usual supply. This exhaustion was effected by a sudden demand. Several men were engaged in filling thousands of bottles, a day or two before the 19th of July 1821, on which day his majesty, king George IV. was crowned at Westminster; and Mr. Walker of the hotel, No. 10, Bridge-street, Blackfriars, purveyor of water to the coronation, obtained it, by the only means which the sainted fluid is now attainable, from the cast-iron pump over St. Bride's well, in Bride-lane.


Dwarf Cerastium. Cerastium pumilum.
Dedicated to St. Chad.