St. Ann's Well Gardens - The Chalybeate

By Steve Myall

An article in the Brighton Gazette, June 17th 1824, recommends the Chalybeate, (now St. Ann's Well Gardens) the curative mineral spring beside Kemp's home, The Temple, on Montpelier Road:

"Surrounded on the northern and western sides by a plantation of firs, and open on the east and south, (this area) commands a beautiful view of cornfields, meadows etc., to the ocean, and is unquestionably one of the most pleasant and rural situations in the vicinity of Brighton".   

It was certainly a lovely location for Kemp to build his Temple in 1819, and the neighbouring Chalybeate waters became a favourite venue of Queen Adelaide. They were claimed to cure most ailments, and in the early nineteenth century the gardens became one of the principal places of rendezvous for the popular rustic fetes and public breakfasts that were much in vogue in fashionable society.

It was Dr. Richard Russell, who died in 1759 and was said to be the founder of fashionable Brighton, who "discovered" the Chalybeate Spring, making use of it for treating his rich patients. The waters were already much in favour with local sheep farmers.

Photo:'Swiss Cottage, Chalybeate'

'Swiss Cottage, Chalybeate'

Lithograph published by Mason and Ackermann, c1835. This cottage stood at the southern entrance to the Chalybeate grounds, where visitors would leave their servants and horses.  In Saunders’ 1837 Directory visitors to Brighton were told ‘A Commodious and elegant building (seen middle distance to the right) comprising a reading room and other conveniences, has been recently erected, together with a pretty rustic cottage’.  

Dr. Russell built the first more modest twin-gabled house around the spring itself in the early 1750s, (first illustration below) and this was replaced by a classical building in about 1830 (second illustration below). The latter was demolished in 1934.      

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'St. Ann's Well Gardens - The Chalybeate' page



Watercolour of  the first building over the Chalybeate spring, c.1790,  inscribed top right  ‘At Wick, near Brighton, Sussex’ and depicting the plantation of firs described in the Brighton Gazette article mentioned above.      

Photo:The Chalybeate

The Chalybeate

Lithograph c1836 published in Wallis’s Royal Edition ‘Brighton As It Is’, showing the replacement building over the spring, where the brick well cover stands today.  

This page was added on 18/06/2011.
Comments about this page

The image of the Swiss Cottage is incorrectly explained - if you look at other images of the Swiss Cottage it proves that the artist captured the view from inside the park looking onto Furze Hill. The buildings in a background are the Decimus Burton Wick Hall on the right (demolised in the 1930's) and Wick Lodge on the left (the latter was extended over the years and is now the Bodhissatva Centre).

By lois
On 31/08/2011

Thank you Iois for that interesting correction. I had assumed that the large building to the right was the new pump room, but your identification seems more sensible, and it means that the brick coloured buildings in the far distance could be the backs of some of the Brunswick estate - possible?

By Steve Myall
On 01/09/2011

That could be possible - unless the artist had recreated the scene 'Canaletto style' where landmarks are not correct in the correlation to each other in the picture - if only it were a photograph! I wonder also about the date - the lithograph is dated 1835 and the Decimus Burton Wick Hall was built between 1830 and 1840. My query about which way the artist is facing arises from the positioning of the gables on the Swiss Cottage, which of course may be have been changed during its active life. Intriguing!

By Lois Pawson
On 01/09/2011

I remember the cottage in the 1950s. We must be looking south in the image. The only odd thing is the shadows suggesting very early morning sunlight. It's not a photo so that must be just to give the best effect. Maybe old maps would help to place the other buildings. They are not within the Chalybeate grounds.

By Pat Benham
On 15/03/2012

Interesting lith and I agree about the position looking out onto Furze Hill. My great x 3 aunt (plus various family members) lived in the Swiss Cottage throughout the 1850s and early 60s; her husband was the gardener there. St Ann's Well today displays a nice photo of the cottage late 1800s / early 1900s.

By Paul M
On 19/01/2015

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