Introduction

The Beulah Spa History Project is dedicated in preserving the memory of the Beulah Spa in Upper Norwood, South East London and getting a marker on the site of the well.

The Beulah Spa is a very important place in the history of culture and entertainment in London and was located in the borough of Croydon, though now it seems very much forgotten. 

 It opened in 1831 and lasted up until 1856 (when it closed due to too much competition from the Crystal Palace just around the corner and the coming of the railways which opened up many more recreational places available to visit). In its heyday it was a popular natural saline spring and spa, situated in fashionable pleasure gardens.

The actual Spa spring which was known and used by the locals 150 years earlier, with them collecting the healing water in their leather bottles – hence the name Leather Bottle Lane now Spa Hill. Its waters were analysed by scientist of the day Michael Faraday who said it was purer than the waters of Bath and Wells and contained more salts than the waters of Cheltenham. 

It was a very fashionable pleasure gardens - designed by Decimus Burton (famous for his Hyde Park arches) and updated by a new proprietor Thomas Witlam Atkinson (who was an architect, artist and travel author – famous for his drawing of the Sphinx at Cairo).

It was frequented by the rich and fashionable – Countesses, Dukes, Kaisers and Generals. Even Queen Victoria attended - on four occasions. Her first visit was with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and the last was with her children Princess Vicky and Prince Bertie (Edward VII). Other visitors included Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray.

It hosted grand fetes and galas, recitals by opera singers, a military band which played every day, balloon ascents, tightrope walking, military bands, archery, a camera obscura, an octagonal reading room, gypsy fortune telling, two ornamental lakes, and a singing minstrel, the Beulah Spa reigned in Upper Norwood for over twenty years before the arrival of the Crystal Palace.

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Book (pbk) The Beulah Spa 1831-1856 A New History

Book (pbk) The Beulah Spa 1831-1856 A New History

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A new look at the history of The Beulah Spa 1831-1856, a once popular natural saline spring and spa said by Faraday to be purer than Bath and Wells, containing more salts than the waters of Cheltenham. A very fashionable pleasure gardens designed by Decimus Burton and frequented by the rich and fashionable, the likes of Lady Essex, The Duke of Gloucester, Dickens, Thackeray, Kaiser Wilhelm, and even Queen Victoria and her children. Boasting grand fetes and galas, balloon ascents, tightrope walking, military bands, archery, a camera obscura, an octagonal reading room, gypsy fortune telling and a singing minstrel, the Beulah Spa reigned in Upper Norwood for over twenty years before the arrival of the Crystal Palace. This book features many colour drawings from its heyday during the reigns of William IV and Victoria.

The Beulah Spa Timeline

Beulah Spa Timeline                                                    by Chris Shields 

1066 Lanfranc        The area at Upper Norwood belonged to Archbishop Lanfranc. Canterbury 

1368 William Whitehorse       The manor was purchased by William Whitehorse – shield bearer to King Edward III 

1493 Lady Jane Morton       The Manor of Whitehorse was owned by Lady Jane Morton. On it was a 15 acre farm called Bewyle Farm 

1500s Barret Family        The Manor belonged to the Barret family. Oaks and timbers from the area were used in Deptford dockyard. 

1577    The area was famous for charcoal burning. 

1700   The natural spring was used by locals and Gypsies – known for its healing properties. 

1760   The area of Norwood is reported as being ‘’mostly stubbed up’’ as the timbers had been used for ship building and charcoal. 

1800  Enclosure – The spa spring still remained on common land. 

1800 John Cator     Bewyle Coppice – owned by the Barrat family – is sold to John Cator of Beckenham. 

1802   The Norwood Gypsies are arrested under the Vagrancy Act. 

1806 John Davidson Smith      John Cator dies – the land is sold to John Davidson Smith 

1827    All Saints Church is built to the designs of James Savage. 

1828-1831    John Davidson Smith starts development. He demolishes Bewley Farm and joins it to the Bewley Coppice. He employs Decimus Burton to design the pump house and grounds and to cut a road through his land down to Thornton Heath, to allow access from visitors from Croydon (Decimus Burton Road - now called Grange Road). 

1 August 1831 The Beulah Spa Opens      Opened by the Countess of Essex.   It remains open for 25 years. 

Sep 1832    Spa manager James Fielding gets together with William Goodwin who owns land to west of Leather Bottle Lane and provides accommodation for visitors of the Spa opening The Beulah Spa Hotel. 

1832   Geroge Hume Weatherhead publishes ‘An Account of the Beulah Saline Spa’. 

1832  "The Band of Royal Artillery played on lawn for several hours – at 3pm there were 15 hundred persons". 

1833   The ‘Celebrated Band of the Grand Duke of Hesse Darmstadt’ perform at the Spa. 

1833    "The Beulah Spa. Mt George Robins very respectfully begs to notify to all those who have felt disappointed at the delay which has interrupted the progress of the intended sale of this most valuable property, consisting of 8 acres of land".  (Brighton Guardian) 

1833  Madame Vestri puts on a ‘new and original burletta’ written by Charles Dance – called ‘The Beulah Spa’ at the Olympic Theatre. 

7 Oct, 20 Nov and 21 Nov 1833   Proposed sale by auction 80 acres Beulah Spa and the proposed 'New Town of Norwood'. 

1834   James Wyld’s ‘A Guide To The Beulah Spa’ is published. 

July 1834    3000 attendees for the ‘Fete Champetre’ in aid of the Blenheim Free Dispensary and Infirmary. 

16 Sep 1834    Pablo Fanque appears at Spa. A tightrope performance, gymnastics and a leopardess with dogs. 

16 Sep 1834   "Proposed sale of 250 acres surrounding Beulah Spa into 70 suitable lots for separate residences". (Sussex Adv & Morning Adv) 

3 Dec 1834   "John Davidson Smith - Stable keeper - Norwood - Declared bankrupt". 

1835    John Davidson Smith ‘necessitated to give up ownership’ of the Beulah Spa. 

1835    Poet Harrison Corbett Wilson publishes ‘Leander; The Wandering Minstrel of Beulah Hill’. 

27 May 1835   "Sale of 250 acres surrounding Beulah Spa into 70 lots for separate residences. The Beulah Spa together with Whitehorse Estate – very important freehold property".  (London Courier & Evening Gaz)  

1835 Thomas Witlam Atkinson     After the sale, Thomas Witlam Atkinson becomes the new proprietor for the Beulah Spa. No residences are built on the land. 

23 July 1835   ''The Landgravine of Hesse Homburg honoured the Countess of Essex with her company at dinner at the Beulah Spa'' 

3 Aug 1835  "Her Majesty honoured the Spa with her Royal presence this afternoon".  (Morning Post) 

1835   "The Donna Maria Military band played in uniforms". 

2 Sep 1835  "The great American aloe is now in blossom". (Morning Adv) 

1835   Atkinson makes many improvements to the Spa – two x man-made lakes. He adds two wings to the confectionary/octagonal reading room. 

1836  Atkinson designs a Georgian Terrace as a ‘New Town of Norwood’ but it is rejected and never built. 

23 May 1836  "The Band of Fusilier Guards played 11 till dusk". 

30 June 1836  "Recently undergone extensive improvements. A newly erected confectionary". (Morning Adv) 

6 July 1836  "The Band of the Cold stream Guards played". (Morning Adv) 

27 July 1836  "These delightful grounds have, during the past week, been visited by many of the nobility and gentry". 

6 Aug 1836  "The grounds have been considerably enlarged amid many improvements". (West Kent Guardian) 

18 Aug 1836    Grande Fete Al Fresco – Celebrated grotesque dancers performing a Chinese comic dance. And an old English Maypole dance. 

1836  Charles Dickens mentions The Beulah Spa in his ‘Sketches by Boz’. 

1 Sep 1836  "Archery Festival with prizes and concert in the Rustic Orchestra". 

14 July 1837   "Laid out with romantic taste".  (Morning Post) 

23 Aug 1837   Metropolitan Society of Florists Floricultural Fete 

6 Sep 1837   "Archery meeting with Countess of Essex" (Morning Adv) 

9 Sep 1837   "Incomparably the most delightful gardens in the neighbourhood of London".  (Morning Post) 

15 Feb 1838  Beulah Spa proprietor, Thomas Atkinson is mentioned in bankruptcy papers. (Wiltshire Independent) 

7 June 1838  The Fete in aid of St Anne’s Society Schools 

13 July 1838  "The Fete in honour of Marshal Soult 10,000 person attending". (London Evening Standard  14 July) 

20 Aug 1838  Grande Fete Maypole. A windmill with acrobats hanging from the sails. A display of fencing. 

6 May 1839  Hoar balloon attempt unsuccessful 

11 May 1839  Hoar larger balloon. Large stage having been erected for the purpose. Unsuccessful 

13 Aug 1839  Grand Fete – demonstration of the lasso and its use. Archery festival. Acrobatics with the celebrated Brahmin Brothers. 

29 Aug 1839  James C Melvill, secretary Royal Beulah Spa and Gardens - "These beautiful and romantic gardens are now to be seen in the highest state of perfection". 

1839  Italian opera singer Giulia Grisi sings at a concert at the ‘Fete for the Freemason’s Girls’ School. 

10 Oct 1839  "Proprietor of the Beulah Spa, Norwood, against the amount of assessment upon the property, under the new valuation, were assessed at the sum of 300. Mr John Cannon, a clerk employed at the Beulah Spa".  (Morning Post) 

1839 Mr Raper    Atkinson ceases to be the proprietor – The Beulah Spa is sold to a Mr Raper. 

11 July 1840   "The fete at the Beulah Spa for the relief of distressed Polish refugees. Prince Albert failed to turn up although he gave his intention of honouring this fete with his patronage". (London Evening Standard)  

12 July 1840  "Annual fete in aid of the funds of the Polish exiles. Attended by the Duke of Sussex. Tolerably well attended but notwithstanding unproductive". ‘Complete failure’. (The Examiner) 

1841  All Saints Church has a tower and spire added. 

6 May 1841  "Polish Fete produced only £2942 in consequence of bad weather". (Morning Chronicle) 

6 May 1841  "Albert’s visit to Norwood will take place tomorrow" (June 25th).  (Morning Post) 

9 Sep 1845  "George Baker and James Fuller were charged with cutting furze and sallow on the premises of Mr Raper, proprietor of the Beulah Spa".  (South Eastern Gaz) 

1845  Punch Magazine lampoons the Beulah Spa. 

1845  Cruikshank lampoons Thackery’s satirical work by drawing ‘July Down At Beulah’. 

9 March 1847  "Mr Raper applied for a license for a house at the Beulah Spa".  (South Eastern Gaz) 

18 May 1847  "Royal Beulah Spa and gardens A band in attendance One shilling Water sent to all parts at 3s per gallon exclusive of carriage".  (South Eastern Gaz) 

22 July 1847  Grande Fete at the Beulah Spa (Morning Post) 

29 Sep 1847  "Person charged with assaulting Samuel Raper, Beulah Spa". 

5 Dec 1847  "Ballet held at the Beulah Spa". 

14 August 1848 Advertisement - "On Aug 16th to spend a gypsy day at the beautiful gardens of the Beulah Spa". 'Gypsy day' referes to having picnics. 

1849  James Fielding added a large wing to the Beulah Spa Hotel and tavern 

13 March 1849  "Mr Raper (proprietor) of the Beulah Spa the case having been proved, said he was driven to this in consequence of being repeatedly annoyed by children – James Hoffey - = 1 aged 8 + 9 charged with stealing wood". 

1850  Ramo Samee – the Indian juggler and sword swallower performs at the Spa. 

1851 Smith’s widow    Widow of John Davidson Smith regains possession of the Beulah Spa. 

26 July 1851   The Blenheim Free Dispensary Fete  (Illustrated London News) 

1852  ‘Fete Villageoise’ held. 

6 August 1852  "Beulah Spa reopened under management and direction of Mr Thomas Masters of Regent Street". (Evening Mail) 

16 Sept 1852  "Scottish Fete Bands in full highland costume". 

1 Oct 1852  "Beulah Spa attended by numerous gatherings of horticulturalists. Exhibition of autumnal flowers and fruit". (Evening Mail) 

7 Oct 1852  Ticket invitation to a Grand Entertainment and Dinner – calling the Spa ‘The Versailles of London’. 

5 Aug 1853  Royal Beulah Spa Gardens . Now advertised as ‘Ten minutes walk of the New Crystal Palace’. (Morning Advertiser) 

13 Aug 1853  "Double event celebrated by a dinner amongst the directors of the Crystal palace and a Fete amongst the men at Beulah Spa". 

1854  British art historian William Henry James Weale describes the Beulah Spa as "more or less decayed and neglected". 

18 & 21 Sept 1854  Illuminations – Thousands of Sparkling Lamps. The Glow-Worm Festival. Derby’s Giant Montgolfier balloon. Dancing in the Monster Pavillion. Full Military Band. 

27 Dec 1854  Violent murderous assault ‘intent to murder’ at the Beulah Spa on Mr Stewart Thomas Ker. Frances & William newton were charged at the Central Criminal Court. 

10 Feb 1855  The 'Case of Thomas Masters – hotel keeper of the Crystal palace Hotel and Beulah Spa Hotel' took place at the Bankruptcy Court. Master (formerly a confectioner of Upper Charlotte Street (Freezing apparatus). Debts of 2000 or 3000 were proved. 

5 Sept 1856  The Royal Beulah Spa and gardens are closed and offered for sale

"The Trustees for sale of a freehold estate of acres including the Beulah Spa 600 acres. Plans for laying out the same for building purposes".  (Morning Adv) 

1 Nov 1856    "500 acres freehold estate including Beulah Spa". 

1858 Frederich Horne - Buys the land - sold by auction. "Rosary running wild. Camera table falling to pieces". 

1859   Beulah Spa Estate – chairman – "but the land will be sold, and will no longer one interest. Mr Crowley said that if removal of filter works were found expensive, the owners of the Beulah Spa Estate must pay for it". 

1859   Adverts for - 'Beulah Spa Hydropathic and Sanatory Establishment'. 

1860   Adverts for - 'Beulah Spa Hydro and Hotel'. 

1862 Two grand houses are built on land surrounding Spa grounds (Beulah Hill). Then the grand houses on Grange Road are built 1864 onwards.

1862   Publishes a picture of a proposed hotel and hydropathic establishment – building never realised. (Illustrated London News) 

1864  Frederich Horne builds ‘The Lawns’ mansion on Spa grounds including a gate house (still there today). 

Feb 1867  "Recent sale of 25 acres of Beulah Spa estate would accept £120 per acre".  (Surrey Gaz) 

1887-1903  Many adverts for… 

Beulah Spa Hydropathic – New proprietor 

1898  John Corbet Anderson describes ‘charming grounds of the Beulah Spa remain comparatively intact, the old paths still wind through the shrubberies and woods, the octagonal reading room overgrown with ivy, still stands not far from the once famous well. The well itself, as yet uninjured is full of water’. 

1901 & 1902  Adverts for - Beulah Spa Hydro and Hotel 

1903  Grounds had been reduced from 30 acres to 6.5 acres and had been renamed ‘The Lawns’. 

1903  Writer Alfred Stanley Ford visits the grounds and finds Just a wooden cover lay, at ground level, over the circular rockwork and spa. Takes photo of Octagonal Reading Room. 

1903  The Lawns mansion was put up for sale but failed to be bought so was withdrawn from the market. It became the All Nations Bible College for a time 

1907 Hornsey Walker    After Frederich Horne died, his family sold the estate to a Mr Hornsey Walker who stated that the gates were to remain closed to the house tenants. This wasn’t accepted and in 1907 he was taken to the high court, the locals winning the case and once more being allowed right of entry. 

1908 Croydon Corp   Croydon Corporation acquires the land. 

1907   Turkish baths and new bath rooms open. 

1907   Biggin Hill spring analysis and said to be ‘faintly yellow and impure’. 

4 Sep 1937   Beulah Spa Hotel to be demolished shortly. 

1937-1938  Temporary ‘spit and sawdust’ tavern on site for Beulah Spa hotel. 

1939  The Beulah Spa pub is opened. 

1940s  The Lawns prefabs built. 

1946  Alan and Joan Warwick visit - while looking at the ruins of the Octagon, Alan nearly fell into the Spa well itself. It was still there but hidden in the long grass. They could see the circular rockwork enclosure which was still full of water. 

Mid 1950s   Lakes filled in. 

Mid 1950s   The Lawns mansion now derelict is demolished after a fire. 

1957  The Octagonal Reading Room is still on the Ordnance Survey map as still standing. 

Late 1960s  Children’s playground built. Spa well filled in with building rubble.