12 January 2016

St Ann's Well Gardens, Hove

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2023) 

copyright © J. Middleton.
The entrance to St Ann's Well Gardens in Spring 2014


The land on which St Ann’s Well Gardens is situated was once part of the Wick Estate, which was on the east side of Hove and stretched from the sea at Hove northwards into the parish of Preston. The earliest owners after the Norman Conquest were the de Pierpoints from Normandy who came over with William in 1066. This family died out in the 14th century and the next owners were the Smyths or Smiths from whom it eventually passed to the Stapleys. The Stapley family owned the land for 130 years and its most famous member was Anthony Stapley (1590-1655) who was one of those Puritans who signed the death warrant of Charles I. The warrant contained 59 signatures and Anthony Fletcher described Stapley as the ‘only Regicide with an impeccable county background’. Stapley died before the Restoration in 1660 and as his son was a Royalist, the Stapleys managed to hold onto their land. In 1701 John Scutt, a Brighton brewer, bought the Wick Estate for £1,600.
copyright © J. Middleton.
St Ann's Well Garden's Woodland Walk
In 1830 Isaac Lyon Goldsmid purchased the Wick Estate. He paid £51,530 to Thomas Scutt and £3,995 to Thomas Read Kemp. Not part of the deal was three plots (around one-tenth of the whole estate) that had already been sold off to form Brunswick Town. At this juncture the Wick Estate consisted of 216 acres, 1 rod and 33 perches. A great deal was farmland known as Wick or Week Farm and in 1783 it was recorded the farm consisted of 100 acres of pasture, 30 acres of meadow, 5 acres of wood and 10 acres of furze and heath in Preston. Over the years the Goldsmids sold off the land for building purposes and at Hove the following roads were built on land they once owned; Addison Road, Adelaide Crescent, Brunswick Road, Colbourne Road, Davigdor Road, Farm Road, Furze Hill, Highdown Road, Holland Road, Lansdowne Square, Montefiore Road, Nizell’s Avenue, Osmond Road, Palmeira Avenue, Palmeira Square, Rochester Gardens, St John’s Road, Somerhill Avenue, Somerhill Road, Western Road, Wolstonbury Road, York Avenue and York Road. But the Goldsmids still owned the freehold of many properties and in fact it was not until 1976 that the last remaining 39 properties were sold to the Martlet Housing Association.

It was said the Goldsmids dominated the English bond market until 1810 but they were not popular with the establishment who disliked their monopoly. When disaster struck, nobody was prepared to help. Sir Francis Baring and Abraham Goldsmid had floated a large Government loan when Baring suddenly died – the result was that the firm crashed. It remained to Isaac Lyon Goldsmid to restore the family’s fortunes and reputation. His father Asher Goldsmid had the misfortune to lose three children in infancy and when the fourth appeared a learned Rabbi living in the house insisted he should be named Isaac. He predicted that Isaac would live to manhood and became a person of note. Isaac became a prominent merchant banker specialising in foreign loans and in particular to Portugal, Brazil and the Ottoman Empire. A significant success was his work in sorting out the complicated Portuguese and Brazilian debts left behind after Brazil had gained its independence. It was in honour of this achievement that the Queen of Portugal created him a Knight of the Tower and the Sword of Portugal and later on he was granted the title Baron da Palmeira. However, he preferred to be known as Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, having received an English baronetcy in 1841, the first Jew to be thus honoured.

Goldsmid was also a railway entrepreneur and a director of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. He was one of the founders of University College, London, and he was involved in many benevolent schemes. He was a prime mover in the cause of Jewish emancipation. He and his wife Isabel had twelve children but it was through Rachel (fifth daughter and ninth child) that the estate passed down – she married Count Solomon Henry d’Avigdor. The Goldsmids lived in St John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park, and at Hove Decimus Burton designed Furze Hill (later called Wick Hall) for him although it seems he preferred to stay in Wick House when in the area. He donated the site where St John’s Church was later built and it was the Bishop of Chichester who reminded his people of Goldsmid’s generosity because there were some who grumbled about the gift and wanted a different site. 


 copyright © J. Middleton.
This view was posted on 7 September 1904. You can just make out the lettering ‘Chalybeate (Spring?) Water’
The spring was known in the early days as the chalybeate and its health-giving properties were much resorted to by Society, including Mrs Fitzherbert, Queen Adelaide and Princess Augusta, daughter of George III. Dr Russell (1687-1759) who put Brighton on the map by recommending sea-water as a cure-all, had something to do with bringing the chalybeate to public notice by sending his patients to drink the waters. Sickelmore in Epitome of Brighton (1815) wrote that the spring issued forth from the ‘declining part of a little hill covered with furze’. He recounted the story of how the virtues of the water were first recognised by a man ‘who was labouring under a severe complaint in the stomach, and for the relief of which he was preparing to journey to a foreign water, tried its efficacy on himself and was presently re-established in health’. Many more people would have used the water ‘had not the uninviting manner in which the spring was kept, disgusted them’. At length the proprietor enclosed the spring ‘with a brick wall, sunk an iron pot pierced with two holes for the water to flow in at, and covered it with a wooden top that locks down, to secure it from injuries of dirt etc leaving a free passage for the overflowing water to empty itself into the reservoir’.
Drawn from the original by J Middleton
J.Edward's revised map of 1819, showing the location of the mineral spring of St Ann's Well near Week Farm
The water was ‘soft, not unpleasingly martial and temperate in point of heat’. The water looked as though two or three drops of milk had been distilled into it and it was at its most pellucid after dry weather. This account was repeated verbatim in Relham’s History of Brighthelmstone (re-edited in 1829 but originally printed in 1761). It is unclear who was copying whom. The water contained lime and iron and exuded the ‘smell that is always perceptible in ferruginous waters’ while its taste was likened to ‘something like that upon a knife after it had been used in cutting lemons’. It is amusing to note that old-time shepherds were well aware of the virtues of the chalybeate because of the fecundity of the sheep that drank its waters. Whether or not this fact was made known to the well’s polite clientèle is not clear.

It appears the authorities differed as to the exact contents of the water.

Dr Anthony Relham’s Anaylsis 1761
Sulphur of iron 21.2 grains
Muriat of lime 48.2 grains
Sulphur of Soda 18. grains
Muriat of magnesia 8.9 grains
Silicous earth 2. grains
Loss 2.

Dr Alexander Marcet’s Analysis 1805
Carbonic acid gas 2 ½ grains
Sulphur of iron 1.80 grains
Sulphur of lime 4.09 grains
Muriat of soda 1.53 grains
Muriat of magnesia .75 grains
Calcareous earth .14
Loss .19

copyright © J. Middleton.
The stream and pond in St Ann's Well Gardens 
About seven feet below St Ann’s Well there is a strata of lignite (coal) the seam being around 4 to 5 feet thick. The locals called the product strombolo and some used to be washed up onto the beach. When the poor people used it as fuel it gave off an evil, sulphurous smell. It was most probably the lignite that gave the spring its distinctive, pungent taste.

In Excursions in the County of Sussex (1822) it was noted that the chalybeate ‘finds a pretty considerable number of visitors during the season; its qualities are tonic, and have been found efficacious in cases of debility etc. A neat building encloses the spring’. The Brighton Gazette (17 June 1824) wrote that the chalybeate was ‘surrounded on the northern and western sides by a plantation of firs and open on the east and south, it 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’.

On 30 September 1830 Mrs Fitzherbert, as a satisfied customer of the chalybeate, wrote a letter to her adopted daughter, Mrs Dawson-Damer, ‘I certainly was very unwell the first two or three days when I came here but I am wonderfully improved both in health and strength. I drink the chalybeate waters every day, similar to those of Tunbridge. They fortunately agree with me in every respect’. In September 1831 it was announced that invalids who wished to use the chalybeate ‘but to whom the expense is an object’ could be admitted free on the production of a medical recommendation.

In 1841 AB Granville wrote in Spas of England ‘most people know that … there is at Brighton a natural mineral spring – a chalybeate … that it has been recently analysed by Professor Daniel and commented upon by Dr Paris in terms of approbation are sufficient reasons why I should mention … the Wick chalybeate’.

The Brighton Gazette (9th March 1882) described the chalybeate spring as one of the finest in Europe. ‘Pleasantly shaded in summer time by trees, and rendered additionally delightful by the carolling of birds, the eye is agreeably surprised by the sight of a real thatched cottage.’ The Hove Courier (13 May 1882) made a surprising claim. It said that the nightingales introduced into the gardens were now in full song.

In the 1880s an attempt was made to revive the old-time glories of the gardens by Dr Bayes who had retired from his West End practice and lived at Lansdowne Place. He renovated the Pump House, improved the gardens, trimmed the wooded grounds and redirected the public’s attention to the medicinal value of the water. A musical tea launched the revamped gardens and an imaginative lady wrote a fanciful legend about the origins of St Ann’s Well, as it was now called. Perhaps she knew a little bit about traditions as ancient healing springs were often called after St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, whose traditional home was supposed to be near the healing pool of Bethesda. However, the legend never referred to this saint but related the story of the Lady Annefrida. (The legend is recounted in full further down this page).

Unfortunately, Dr Bayes died suddenly and Isaac Wilkinson took the helm. He had been manager of the Crystal Palace for many years; then he became manager of the Brighton Aquarium, followed by the management of the West Pier. He converted the gardens into a pleasure resort and a superior type of playground for children. All this time the land continued to belong to the Wick Estate.

copyright © J. Middleton.
The young lady with the enormous hat 
evokes the time when females wished to 
be pale and interesting and they 
certainly did not want a suntan.
The following description was printed in the 1893 Directory. ‘A natural chalybeate whose medicinal properties are similar to the waters of Tunbridge Wells but in greater strength. The spring is enclosed within several acres of ornamental garden and woodland (much enlarged and improved during the winter of 1884) in the midst of which is a comfortably furnished reading room and conservatory, well warmed during winter months, forming a secluded resort for invalids and lovers of quiet repose. Open daily till sunset. Admission 3d’.

The Hove Echo (19 June 1897) carried the following advertisement. ‘St Ann’s Well and Wild Garden, Furze Hill. Six acres of refreshing foliage and shady walks. Afternoon tea under the trees / plenty of free swings / Mrs Lee, celebrated Gypsy fortune-teller / chalybeate water free / ferns, flowers and grapes for sale from the glasshouses. Admission 3d on weekdays 6d on Sundays.’ An old guidebook mentioned that a monkey house was among the attractions plus a ‘lively representation of the death and burial of Cock Robin, which will not fail to delight young folks.’ (It would be interesting to know if the Cock Robin was in fact one of the famous exhibits later shown at Potter’s Museum at Bramber. The collection spent some time at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor before being dispersed at auction in September 2003).

In July 1898 George Augustus Sala, the famous Victorian writer who lived at Hove, described the gardens as ‘one of the most charming retreats in Brighton’.
JW Lister, Librarian of Hove from 1892-1935, described the gardens as a ‘pleasant, umbrageous retreat where music and games may be enjoyed’.


There were many depictions of the chalybeate from the 1820s to the 1840s, which appeared in various guidebooks of the time. At least eighteen examples are recorded in Ford & Ford’s Images of Brighton. However, with one exception they are all views of the exterior. James Rouse produced a lithograph of the interior, which appeared in his book Beauties and Antiquities of Sussex. (Hove Museum has two prints of the chalybeate by James Rouse, including the interior).

There is a wood engraving showing Swiss Cottage, which appeared in the Pocket Guide to Brighton. In the Henry Smith Collection there is a coloured lithograph of Swiss Cottage by WH Mason, which also shows Wick Hall in the distance.

In the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, there is painting by John Constable (1776-1837) entitled Shoreham Bay: walk to the Chalybeate Wells. It is dated 20 July 1824 and it certainly looks like Furze Hill on the right. Constable executed another painting of the same view later in the day although he did not date it. This painting is to be found in the Castle Museum, Norwich. Although Constable did not particularly like Brighton because he thought it too crowded, he believed that the climate was beneficial for his wife’s health. For this reason he took lodgings in Regency Square, Brighton in 1824, 1825 and 1828. On 6th November 1825 he painted the windmill at West Blatchington. He produced at least two scenes of Hove beach, one in 1828.

Averil Burleigh (1883-1949) painted a scene entitled St Ann’s Well Gardens and it is in Hove Museum. She studied at Brighton College of Art where one of her tutors was the well-known artist Charles Knight. In around 1903 she married Charles HH Burleigh, a flower and landscape painter. The couple lived at 7 Wilbury Crescent where they had a studio constructed jutting out to catch as much natural light as possible. She exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy every year for some 20 years. She was a founder member of the Sussex Women’s Art Club. Their daughter Veronica Burleigh (1909-1999) was also an artist. 


Mrs Lee was a celebrated Gypsy fortune-teller who in the 1890s held court in a genuine Gypsy caravan in St Ann’s Well Gardens and there she remained for some fifteen years. The caravan had an interesting history. The story goes that in 1882 a Gypsy boy fell in love with a Gorgio (non-Gypsy girl) and before their marriage she said that if she were to spend the rest of her life on the road, the wagon would have to look as much like her old home as possible. The young man ordered the finest ‘Vardo’ to be made, which was decorated with carvings and there were portraits of the blonde bride and her Gypsy husband on either side of the door. The van was much heavier, wider and longer than the customary Reading van, the dimensions being 14 feet 6 inches in length, 5 feet 8 inches wide and 11 feet 9 inches high; it weighed two tons. It is not known what happened to the young couple. It could be that they split up because if the boy owner had died, Gypsy tradition decreed that the caravan be burnt together with all his belongings. The van was found at Brighton in a derelict state and purchased in 1890. It was restored and painted olive green while the panels and carvings were painted in different, bright colours. The caravan was taken to the gardens in the summer of 1891. George Albert Smith, the celebrated film pioneer and lessee of the gardens, later came to own the caravan. In 1906 the Wick Estate requested that the caravan be moved but it had been there for fifteen years and the wheels had rotted while trees overshadowed it. The Wick Estate also proved to be difficult about trimming some branches in order to be able to get at the van. But in 1907 Ernest Westlake removed it to his house Oaklands, Fordingbridge. Its final resting place was Sandy Balls, Avon Valley. In 1967 the caravan was completely restored.

Meanwhile, Gypsy Lee was still at St Ann’s Well in 1901 and there was something of a sensation when she claimed that Edward’s coronation would not take place. The ceremony was supposed to take place on 9th July 1902 but the King developed acute appendicitis and he was not crowned until 9th August 1902. It is interesting to speculate as to whether she specified which Edward would not be crowned as her prophecy would certainly apply to King Edward VIII. She later moved her scene of operations to Devil’s Dyke. EV Lucas wrote an evocative description of her. She was ‘a swarthy ringletted lady of peculiarly comfortable exterior who, splendid (yet a little sinister) in a scarlet shawl and ponderous gold jewels, used to emerge from a tent beside the Dyke inn and allot husbands fair or dark. She was an astute reader of her fellows, with an eye too searching to be deceived by the removal of tell-tale rings. A lucky shot in respect to a future ducal husband of a young lady now a duchess, of the accuracy of which she was careful to remind you, increased her reputation tenfold in recent years. Her name is Lee and of her title Queen of the Gypsies there is, I believe, some justification.’ It was not just the ordinary folk who sought consultations with Gypsy Lee but well-known personalities such as Lillie Langtry and it was rumoured that Mr Rothschild and WE Gladstone beat a path to her door. Rajahs and members of the royal family were not immune to her powers either. Indeed she made such a comfortable living that she was able to send her grand-daughter to be educated as a lady at a private school called Elmshurst in Burgess Hill. Such was Gypsy Lee’s reputation, no doubt compounded of awe and fear, that when she descended upon the establishment to visit the girl she was treated royally as befitted a Queen of the Gypsies. Her end was rather sad because she died in 1911 while resident in St Francis Hospital, Haywards Heath, which catered for patients with mental disorders.


He was born in London on 4th January 1864 but the family moved to Brighton after his father died so that Mrs Smith could run a boarding house on Grand Parade. In his youth Smith seems to have followed a variety of callings starting off with being a hypnotist in 1881, then he became an illusionist and a portrait photographer. He was also interested in spiritualism and astronomy and he gave lectures on the latter illustrated with lantern slides, which led to his fascination with the camera. Smith had unruly, curly hair, clear eyes and an extravagant moustache. At a comparatively young age he married Laura Eugenia Bayley at Ramsgate in 1888.

copyright © J. Middleton.
British Film Institute's plaque at the entrance
 of St Ann's Well Garden to the memory of
George Albert Smith
A turning point in his life came in March 1896 when he saw an exhibition of films by the French brothers Lumière at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square. From then onwards his main preoccupation was animated photography and he soon became involved in their production. He leased St Ann’s Well Gardens, Hove, from 1892 until 1904 and there he based his film-making activities. At that time St Ann’s Well was still private gardens. In the spring of 1897 Smith turned part of the Pump House into a laboratory. He built his first movie camera in 1896 and produced 31 short films in 1897 including the comedies Weary Willie, Hanging out the Clothes and Making Sausages. The subject of the latter film was by no means an original idea as there was an American film on the same theme, which was most probably copied from Lumière’s similar film. Smith’s film showed live cats and dogs being fed into a machine and emerging at the other end as sausages. Apparently, it was very popular and the Victorians found it hilarious. Today such a film would go down like a lead balloon. Smith’s cashbook is now in the National Film Archive and some idea of his activities can be gauged from it. For instance on 7th January 1897 he purchased four square ruby and four orange pieces of glass for £1-1-2d, four wooden developing trays for £2-3-6d and six brass wire developing frames for £2-5-0d, besides nails, screws and bolts.

In May 1897 a reporter from the Hove Echo went to St Ann’s Well to interview Smith on the subject of ‘Animated Photographs’. The reporter wrote, ‘Mr Smith was discovered near his laboratory, and on learning his visitor’s errand, immediately asked him into that mysterious chamber. A glance around the apartment was quite sufficient to impress one with the fact that the various appliances were there for practical use and not for show. The mechanical contrivances, baths containing solutions etc all served to impress the uninitiated with a certain awe inseparable from that which is not understood’. Smith explained to the reporter that the easiest rate for taking photographs was 20 per second, which came to around 1,200 a minute, the standard rate at which they worked. The films were mostly shot in spring or summer as strong sunlight was essential. Every complete film was composed of around 25 yards of film with the photographs measuring about one inch across (the size of a postage stamp) with perforations on either side. It cost one sovereign every time a negative was taken and of course there were yards of wasted material. The images were thrown upon a sheet in the same way as a magic lantern operated. Smith explained how difficult it was to film a football match because the players soon ran beyond the range of the camera but he had just produced the first one ever exhibited. It starred his friend Tubby Edlin who later became a well-known comedian.

Smith’s workforce consisted of two people – an assistant Axel Holst, and Lizzie Shaw who cleaned and polished his films in 1897 and 1898. Axel Holst was paid £3 a week for his efforts, which was indeed a handsome wage for those days. But Smith relied heavily on family and friends, and his wife and children appeared in many films. Then there was his sister, Mrs WH Attwick (wife of the former proprietor of the Brighton and Hove Herald) whom he filmed attempting to ride a bicycle and falling off unexpectedly. Although this film was not publicly released, Smith included it in a private viewing for Queen Victoria, who was amused. Tom Green, who was the resident comedian at the Hippodrome, appeared in many films including Comic Shaving, The X Rays and Love on the Pier while the stars of Hanging out the Clothes and Weary Willie were none other than Mr and Mrs Tom Green.
 copyright © J. Middleton.
This view is one of the rarest postcards associated 
with St Ann's Well; it also dates from the
 time before it became a public park.

Besides using St Ann’s Well Gardens for filming, Smith also utilised the gardens to raise revenue for his activities and arranged special events for sightseers. For instance in June 1894 almost 4,000 spectators flocked to the gardens to watch Neil Campbell’s balloon ascent. While the balloon was slowly inflated, the crowd were entertained by music from a band. Naturally, there was always the chance of events not going according to plan. In September 1894 a model balloon escaped from the gardens and nothing was heard of it for a week. Then Smith received a letter from a village near Faversham where the balloon had landed giving the agricultural labourers such a fright that nobody would venture near it for days. In May 1895 a model balloon was again up to ‘its entertaining pranks’. It was calmly sailing over the town on the end of its thousand feet of line when a sudden squall gave it a severe buffeting. The balloon burst and fell at great speed onto The Level where its descent was watched by hundreds of people with great interest.

Eustace Short made several balloon ascents from the gardens in 1901, the first one being on 22nd June. The three brothers Eustace, Oswald and Harold Short were involved with the Memlo Laboratories in Hove (location unknown, unfortunately). Horace was an inventor and was sponsored by no less a person than Thomas Edison. Horace was not into ballooning but he allowed Eustace and Oswald to construct their first balloon in a loft on the premises. The balloon was finished by May 1901 and it was capable of holding 38,000 cubic feet of gas. These balloon ascents from St Ann’s Well attracted a great deal of attention – for example here is a report from the Brighton Gazette (6 July 1901). ‘The balloon, keeping in the lower air current, was carried eastward and not far inland. Sailing along gallantly – a conspicuous object over our town – for somewhat over an hour and a half, the balloon was carefully brought to terra firma at Willingdon, near Eastbourne about half-past seven … it may be added that the grounds of St Ann’s Well are open all day, so visitors may witness the interesting process of inflating the balloon’. Sometimes the balloon ascended high enough for one of the occupants to make a parachute descent to the fascination of the watching crowds.   

In around 1900 Smith joined the Warwick Trading Company (the largest film producing company in Britain) headed by the American Charles Urban. Smith’s title was the Manager, Brighton Studio and Film Works. It was the company that built the glass film studio in St Ann’s Well Gardens on a slope facing towards the Furze Hill approach. The exterior of the building resembled a Greek temple but it was constructed of glass to admit as much light as possible. There was a conventional stage but at floor level there were railway lines to enable Smith to move his camera closer to the actors as smoothly as possible. This was only the second film studio in the whole country.  In 1903 Urban left the company and he and Smith collaborated to produce Kinemacolor – the first commercial colour film process, which was patented in 1906.

Smith has been credited with a number of firsts. In 1897 he made a film with the alternative titles Comic Face or Man Drinking, which showed a study of Tom Green drinking a glass of beer and it was in fact the first close-up. In the film Mary Jane’s Mishap or Don’t Fool with the Paraffin Smith produced the earliest known wipe. By this device a line moved across the screen wiping away poor Mary Jane who was being blown out of the chimney and substituting it with a shot of her grave. Two other Smith firsts were the earliest British example of a double exposure in The Corsican Brothers and the earliest known multi-shot scene in The Little Doctors where within a single scene different camera positions were used.

Many of Smith’s films have a particular local interest. These include Brighton Sea-Going Electric Car (popularly known as Daddy Long-Legs) and Passenger Train in which people were filmed alighting from a train at Hove Station, followed by other people boarding. Walking the Greasy Pole was shot at Southwick while The Miller and the Sweep was filmed at Race Hill, Brighton, featuring a windmill that was blown down on 16th May 1913. During the course of the latter film, the sweep becomes covered with flour while the miller is doused with soot.
Although Smith concentrated on comic films, he also recorded historic events such as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Procession in 1897, Edward VII’s funeral procession entering St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and the Prince of Wales’s tour of India.
Belated recognition came in old age when at the age of 91 the British Film Academy awarded him a Fellowship. He lived at 18 Chanctonbury Road, Hove, from 1940 until his death in 1959. In May 1992 the Mayor of Hove, Audrey Buttimer, unveiled a plaque on the house, which read ‘George Albert Smith 1864-1959 cinematograph pioneer lived here’. In 1996 the Centenary of the Cinema was celebrated and a special plaque was erected on one of the four redbrick entrance piers at Somerhill Road. The inscription reads, ‘St Ann’s Well Gardens Site of the Film Studio 1897-1903 created by George Albert Smith’. Many of Smith’s films can be viewed at the refurbished Hove Museum, which reopened in February 2003.

The next lessee of St Ann’s Well was Archie H Tee who was certainly there in 1905. It seems he must have been a friend or acquaintance of GA Smith because Tee’s publicity material recorded him as a ‘Lanternist and Bioscope Picture operator and expert’. Previously, Tee had been in business with Charles B Tee as photographic artists, firstly at Preston Park Studio, 33 Clyde Road, Brighton, and then at 45A London Road, Brighton. After Archie Tee took over at St Ann’s Well, Charles Tee set himself up in the Silverdale Studio at High Street, Henfield. It was Archie’s daughter who donated two large and fragile scrapbooks concerning events staged at St Ann’s Well to Hove Library.


 copyright © J. Middleton.
Perhaps this colourful Edwardian postcard was a best seller of its day. Note the splendid baby carriage on the right.
In 1885 Hove Commissioners wanted to purchase the gardens but the price quoted by the Wick Estate was £35,000. This was much too expensive and although the price was quickly lowered to £15,000 nothing came of it. Then in 1906 Mr d’Avigdor Goldsmid offered the gardens to Hove Council on a 100-year lease with an option to purchase for £20,000. Again Hove Council was not interested and besides they wanted the freehold. Finally on 14th February 1907 the council purchased the gardens, consisting of 11 acres and 32 poles for £10,000 freehold. But the Wick Estate kept hold of the Lodge at the Furze Hill entrance for a time.

It was a generous gesture on the part of Mr d’Avigdor Goldsmid to accept such a low price as he could have made much more money out of the transaction. A number of gentlemen had offered him £26,000 to purchase the land for building purposes but he was happy for the gardens to become a public pleasure ground.

Before the sale went ahead the Borough Surveyor produced a very comprehensive report dated 19th April 1906. He said that the gardens consisted of 3 acres and 3 roods occupied by St Ann’s Well / 2 acres occupied by the Grasshoppers’ Tennis Club / a garden of 1 rood and 22 poles in the occupation of Mr S Copestake / grassland of 3 acres, 1 rood and 39 poles adjoining Messrs Parker & Watts’ Laundry / 2 roods and 36 poles of allotment gardens / and 3 roods in the occupation of JJ Clark. The land was bounded on the south side by the gardens of The Wick School (by then occupying Wick House) and other houses in Furze Hill, on the north by a proposed new road running parallel with and 200 feet southwards of Davigdor Road (Nizell’s Avenue) on the east by a line 100 feet west of York Avenue and on the west by a line 100 feet east of Somerhill Road, except for a length of 60 feet where land abuts onto Somerhill Road for the purpose of an entrance. The current tenancy of St Ann’s Well expired at Michaelmas (29th September) 1906, the Grasshoppers were subject to three months’ notice, Mr Copestake was an annual tenant dating from Lady Day (25 March) and the land occupied by JJ Clark, Parker & Watts and the allotments were subject to one month’s notice. There were three dwelling houses at St Ann’s Well – the Pump House, the Lodge at the Furze Hill entrance, and Grasshopper Cottage. There was also a lecture hall measuring 75 feet by 17 feet, the east and north walls being of brick or flint-work, the south and west walls of wood framing and corrugated iron on brick and flint-work foundations. The roof was corrugated iron. There were four green-houses, two of them still in use but somewhat dilapidated. The Borough Surveyor put the cost of removing walls, fences and greenhouses, making new paths, repairing old ones, cleaning and levelling some ground, sowing grass seed, planting trees and shrubs, repairing buildings and erecting entrance gates and fencing at £1,150.
 copyright © J. Middleton.
This view of the Pump House was posted in 1905.
Not all Hove councillors were in favour of acquiring the gardens and indeed Councillor Lewonski described it as nothing more than a ‘boghole and quagmire’. At the council meeting held on 13th December 1906, the vote was 23 in favour of the purchase and fifteen against. But Hove Council always had a battle in providing parks and recreation grounds with councillors afraid of incurring too much expense.  

Contractors for the iron railings and gate
for St Ann's Well 'new gardens'
Page's Directory 1884
Samuel Thomas Lewonski was a well-known Hove character. He was thought to be of Polish origin and in the 1890s was described as having a mane of black hair and a fierce handlebar moustache. He had his fingers in many a pie – in the 1890s he was proprietor of ‘funeral horses, open cars, glass cars or closed hearses’ while by 1910 he was an auctioneer and valuer. He was also an upholsterer and his furniture warehouse at 4 Shirley Street was dramatically destroyed by fire in April 1909. In 1928 he ran the cinema in George Street called the Hove Electric Empire. His wife was a cousin of James Coe who had a fish shop in George Street.

In April 1908 the designs were chosen for the entrance to St Ann’s Well and the gates and piers. The piers were pressed brickwork and terracotta and on 7th May CG Reed & Sons were given the contract to erect the dwarf wall, iron fence and west gate for £215-15s. The cost of the Somerhill Road entrance as a whole came to £764. Mr H Cresswell of 9/11 Davigdor Road cut the inscription in the granite tablet, which he also donated, to commemorate the opening. 
copyright © J. Middleton.
Plaque at the entrance of
St Ann's Well Gardens
The official opening took place on Empire Day 1908 and a large number of people gathered at Furze Hill. The front carriage contained the Mayor of Hove (Captain ABS Fraser) the Mayoress, Mr Endacott, Town Clerk, and the Revd Prebendary Peacey, vicar of Hove. Mr Fox, the macebearer, sat on the box seat. Councillor Bull, as chairman of the works and improvements committee, handed the Mayor a gold key and asked him to open the gardens. The official party then proceeded to the Pump House in front of which a platform had been raised for speeches. A prominent place on the platform was reserved for Mr Howlett, Father of Hove. The mayor said the gardens had a long history as a health resort and contained the only piece of naturally wooded land in Hove. After the speeches, the mayor planted an evergreen oak in front of the Pump House. The ceremony came to a close with the singing of the National Anthem – Miss Annie Fox taking the solo. Then the children were allowed to discover a paradise in the north-east part where they could pick buttercups and daisies to their hearts’ content.
 copyright © R. Jeeves
The opening of St Ann's Well Gardens took place on Empire Day 1908 and the event was well attended by a fashionable throng as well as crowds of ordinary folk.

The Mayor of Hove
(Captain ABS Fraser)
from the Brighton Season
Magazine 1907
It may help to bring the occasion to life by knowing something about the major participants. Captain Alexander Bruce Siddons Fraser had already been Mayor of Worthing in 1896 before he moved to Hove. He was Mayor of Hove for three years. No doubt he took a particular interest in St Ann’s Well because he and his brother, Major Campbell Fraser, were keen gardeners – although their noted garden at Withdean was of the intensive kind fashionable in France. Edward VII once spent an hour or so inspecting the garden.

Henry Endacott had the distinction of being Town Clerk of Hove for over forty years and he was still holding the post when he died in 1914.

James Bull had spent some 30 years in Spain as a civil engineer constructing railways and developing mines before he retired to Hove. He lived in Eaton Gardens in Valverde House, a name that has been preserved although the house has not. It was named after Valverde del Camino (Huelva). His engineering experience was a great asset in his work as a Hove councillor.

James Warnes Howlett (1828-1911) was a solicitor and he joined a legal firm that later became known as Attree, Clarke and Howlett. He was in the forefront of the battle to keep Hove independent of Brighton and was honoured by being asked to lay the foundation stone of the new Hove Town Hall as well as formally opening it in 1882. His name was inscribed on the hour bell, which weighed 35 cwt, and he devised the motto Floreat Hova. A popular jingle went ‘Howlett and Hove / Names almost synonymous / Since Howlett’s sharp move / Made Hove autonomous’. He donated £105 towards the cost of the Edward VII memorial (now known as the Peace Statue) and it was the highest individual contribution. He lived in Brunswick Place where he kept a fine cellar and even in old age could produce between 50 or 60 different wines.  
 copyright © J.Middleton
The Pump House was insured for £300 in 1908.
In 1908 insurance was taken out on the buildings in the park. The Pump House was insured for £300, the Woodland Concert Hall for £100, two dressing sheds for £50 and two cottages for £300. In April 1908 the Grasshoppers’ Tennis Club was refused exclusive use of the three west tennis courts and in June 1908 it was decided to employ a park-keeper during the current season. He would wear a uniform and earn one guinea a week. In 1908 Basil Bolton was appointed gardener and later lived rent-free in the Lodge where he also enjoyed free gas. His wages were 35/- a week. In August 1913 he was appointed head gardener and earned £2-5s a week. During the First World War he also received 16/- per week war bonus. Evidently he did not consider this enough and in 1918 asked for a rise and his wages were increased by 10/-.


copyright © J.Middleton
Pump House in St Ann's Well Gardens
In 1900 HG Daniels wrote that the ‘private laundry of the Wick House, an extensive building in the style of a classic temple, was built over the spring to protect it, and one of the basement rooms was made into the well-chamber. The chalybeate water bubbled up through a fissure in the rock and flowed into a big bowl…all around the mouth of the spring is crated with a layer of rusty deposit, left there by the action of the water’.

In 1906 the Pump House was described as measuring 60 feet by 40 feet containing the pump room, sitting room, kitchen, scullery and well room on the ground floor and two bedrooms on the upper floor.  
In 1908 the Borough Surveyor examined the west wall of the Pump House and dated his report 3rd December. He found the west wall was built of rubble about 14 inches thick and battened on the inside; the foundations extended down to 4 feet below the plinth level but there were no footings. The wall bulged outwards in the centre, it was not upright and in some places the rubble-work was quite loose. The joists were rotten and consequently the floor had dropped. He recommended the wall should be taken down and rebuilt at a cost of £50.

In March 1909 the councillors decided that some surplus objects from the Museum should be displayed in the Pump House. .

A most regrettable event took place in 1935 and that was the destruction of the historic Pump House.  The 1930s were not a happy time for Hove in heritage matters because it also saw the demolition of Hove Manor, Wick Hall and Wick House. Those were the days before conservation was considered a public issue. The well was also covered up at the same time. By this time the spring had more or less ceased to flow because of the construction of an artesian well nearby.


 copyright © J.Middleton
Grasshopper Cottage.
In 1906 the cottage was described as a one-storey structure 58 feet by 14 feet containing sitting room, kitchen, scullery, two bedrooms and a cloakroom used by the tennis club.

Basil Bolton lived in Grasshopper Cottage, while his daughter and son-in-law occupied The Lodge at the Furze Hill entrance. Bolton was Hove’s first Parks Superintendent, and he held the post from 1908 until his retirement in 1945. Bolton was credited with turning St Ann’s Well Gardens into one of Hove’s most beautiful parks, and Mr Middleton, the well-known gardener of broadcasting fame, mentioned the gardens on more than one occasion. Bolton was a member of St Ann’s Well Bowls Club. He died aged 84 in 1961.

In 1962 Grasshopper Cottage was found to be unfit for human habitation. It was said to be well over 100 years old. The council could not demolish it until a relative of a former parks superintendent vacated it. Part of the premises were used as storage by the Parks department but even that use was limited due to extreme dampness. The cottage was finally demolished on 19th October 1967.

The Grasshoppers Tennis Club was no doubt named after the adjacent Grasshopper Cottage. It is interesting to note that according to the All England Tennis Association there is a mention of the Grasshoppers in 1895, which makes it one of the earliest known tennis clubs. In around 1916 the Grasshoppers Tennis Club moved to a new site in The Drive, leased initially from the Clark family. The club remains there to this day although reduced in size because the frontage to The Drive was sold to developers and a block of flats built on it.


copyright © J.Middleton
The 1905 postcard St Ann's Well Garden's 'Swiss Cottage'
There does not seem to be any particular reason why the structure at the Furze Hill entrance was known as Swiss Cottage. But the word ‘Swiss’ was in vogue in the 19th century and it was used to conjure up the idea of something different and picturesque. JB Balley opened the Swiss Gardens pleasure grounds at Shoreham in 1838 while the 1891 census recorded two dwellings called Swiss Cottages at Portslade. These cottages overlooked the village and had steeply gabled roofs.

The census for both 1851 and 1861 note that George Tester, gardener, lived at Swiss Cottage with his wife Jane, her sister, niece and brother-in-law who was also a gardener. The house was known as the Lodge, both before and after its time as Swiss Cottage. Indeed Antony Dale considered it to be the original lodge for Wick House.

The house was either rebuilt or re-structured in the 1880s. Henry Porter writing in 1897 had this to say. ‘The chalybete (sic) has of late years been greatly beautified; the old fashioned cottage at the entrance (where the conical shaped thatched roof used to glory in its mossy exterior) has been replaced by a handsome tiled covering’.

copyright © J.Middleton
St Ann's Well Gardens entrance in 1912
Postcards dating from around 1905 depict a single-storey structure. However, by 1906 the house had acquired a second storey. It is obvious from the shape of the chimney and ground floor window that the second storey was added to the existing cottage. In 1906 it was described as a two-storey building with tiled roof, measuring around 23 feet by 18 feet, containing a sitting room and kitchen on the ground floor and two small bedrooms on the upper floor.  For reasons unknown the house was not included in the sale of St Ann’s Well Gardens and Hove Corporation must have acquired it at a later date.
The house was demolished in around 1963.  


She belonged to the well-known Sassoon family and she was a generous benefactor to St Ann’s Well.
Her husband Solomon died in 1894 when they were living in Bombay and she took the reins of his business affairs into her own capable hands. She spoke English, French, German, Hebrew, Arabic and Hindustani and when she came to England the Chief Rabbi referred to her as a ‘living well of Torah and piety’. She lived at 37 Adelaide Crescent from 1894 to 1919 and at dinner parties she habitually wore her fabulous seven-strand pearl necklace. Her brothers-in-law Reuben and Arthur Sassoon also had houses in Hove and were part of Edward’s VII’s close circle of friends. Her small neat figure dressed in black was often to be seen walking along the promenade carrying an ornate parasol. On one such walk she encountered two small children and upon finding out that one child’s father was out of work, managed to arrange for him to be taken on as a gardener at St Ann’s Well. On another occasion she observed a perspiring policeman on traffic duty on a hot day. She felt there was nothing better to cool a person down than a good melon. Next day six dozen of the best melons were despatched to Hove Police Station.
copyright © J. Middleton.
Plaque at the entrance to
St Ann's Well Gardens recording
Mrs Flora Sassoon's gift to
Hove Borough Council

At a council meeting in June 1912 there was a letter from a solicitor dated 20th May 1912, which stated ‘a Lady in Hove has arranged to purchase certain land from the Goldsmid (Wick) Estate to make a gift of it to the Town of Hove on condition that it is thrown into St Ann’s Well Gardens’. The council accepted with alacrity because they had been unable to afford the land fronting Somerhill Road at the time the gardens were purchased. The land was turned into two croquet lawns and Mrs Sassoon paid the cost of digging out the lawns, the Cumberland turf to go on top and the construction of a retaining wall at the south end. Today at the Somerhill Road entrance there are still two rose-pink granite tablets set into the gate piers – one records that St Ann’s Well Gardens were opened on 23rd May 1908 by ABS Fraser / HH Scott, surveyor / H Endacott, town clerk and the other records, ‘The plots of land comprising two croquet lawns with frontages north and south were presented by Mrs Flora Sassoon and opened to the public 1st May 1913’. Alderman B Marks was Mayor of Hove at the time.

In 1908 Mrs Flora Sassoon presented a 20-inch dial clock for the gardens and it was fixed to the front of the Pump House. By 1912 she had donated some items for use in the Pump House such as an anthracite stove, two ink-stands and blotting cases, pedestals and vases, and electric lights. To decorate the Lodge she gave two pairs of horns, a stag’s head, a pair of ibex antlers, two fox heads, two ornamental flower stands, a rustic oak table and two chairs. In 1913 she donated a 5-foot terracotta statue of the goddess Polyhymnia (one of the nine Greek muses) a new flag-staff to go at the Somerhill entrance, two rustic summer houses to go by the croquet lawns together with eight rustic chairs and two croquet sets. She also donated 39 decorated vases and to commemorate George V’s accession, a fine and large ship’s figurehead. The figurehead was painted white and was the bust of an elegant lady with well-coiffed hair. She held court as the centrepiece of a flowerbed near Grasshopper Cottage. These statues and urns certainly added to the elegance of the surroundings. It is not known what became of them all but they certainly survived for many years and were relatively safe as long as there was a resident park-keeper to keep an eye on things.
copyright © J. Middleton.
The photographer concentrated on the pond but in the background you can see the decorative urns donated by Mrs Flora Sassoon.


 copyright © J. Middleton.
This splendid group of people enjoying their stroll dates from 1908. The structure on the left was a folly called the Hermit’s Cave.
In 1908 Alderman JW Howlett presented a drinking fountain. It was in the shape of a cast-iron pillar and pressure on the button caused water to flow through the grotesque faces on either side. In September 1908 it was decided to erect a new greenhouse at a cost of £74. It was to be put up by Wenban, Smith & Co of Worthing.

On 11th February 1909 the Hove councillors discussed the future of the orchard. Councillor Nye wanted to know if the works committee intended to cut down the orchard in order to make a bowling green. Eventually, it was agreed that no further action should be taken except for pruning the trees. However, in January 1910 it was resolved that a sufficient number of old fruit trees should be removed in order to create a lawn 40 yards square and that the ground should be levelled and planted with grass seed. RJ Goddard sold refreshments from the Pump House from May to September 1909 and he paid the council £2 a month rent.
 copyright © J. Middleton.
One can only imagine the colours and scents 
arising from this planting of hyacinths. 
The child in the perambulator certainly looks 
interested. On the right stands a 
bowler-hatted man who is almost 
totally obscured by the shadow of the trees.

In 1910 the Sussex County Cricket Club held an Evening Fête at the gardens in connection with Brighton and Hove cricket week. In January 1911 the Hove Branch of the Ancient Order of Druids was
given permission to plant an oak sapling in memory of the late King. In December 1911 it was decided that an additional greenhouse should be erected, the same as the one already there. It was to be 40 feet in length and 15 feet wide.
In February 1912 it was decided to provide a four-stall urinal for £35. On 24th July 1912 A Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed to raise money for the Brighton, Hove & District Teachers’ Association Benevolent and Orphan Fund.  In October 1912 some 11 ratepayers signed a petition asking the council to provide a bowling green since provision had already been made for tennis and croquet.

In July 1913 it was reported that Mrs Stuart Watkins had given a successful garden ‘At Home’ in St Ann’s Well. The good lady wore a gown of black brocade, the bodice trimmed with ciel blue, and over this a coat tunic of black lace guipure. In August 1913 the councillors gave the go-ahead for a additional entrance to be made from Nizell’s Avenue, opposite the footpath on the east side of St Thomas’s Church, at a cost of £10.


copyright © J.Middleton
St Ann's Well Gardens Bandstand
 From old photographs it is evident that a temporary bandstand was erected during the summer months. But in 1912 the design for a permanent bandstand was chosen. It was design number 279 in a catalogue submitted by W Macfarlane & Co and cost £120. Band performances were already become a feature at St Ann’s Well and the 4th Dragoon Guards gave a concert in July 1909. In 1910 the 4th Dragoon Guards gave 24 concerts and the amount taken from tickets for chairs came to £60-1-9d while in 1911 the same band provided 29 concerts and receipts for the council of £89-13-3d. In August 1911 the council approved the expenditure of £24 on electric lighting at the lawn where band concerts were held. This probably took the form of festoons of lights. In the summer of 1912 the Band of the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards was back again. In 1914 it was decided to erect three electric lamps between the grandstand and Nizell’s Avenue at a cost of around £10.
copyright © J.Middleton
St Ann's Well Gardens Bandstand
copyright © J.Middleton  
The 1937 Band Season at both Western Lawns and St Ann's Well Gardens


copyright © J.Middleton
Mr Bernhard Baron entertaining troops at St Ann's Well Gardens in 1915
On 21st July 1915 Mr Bernhard Baron was given exclusive use of St Ann’s Well Gardens so that he could give a garden party for wounded officers and soldiers. The men were fetched in motorcars and carriages between 2 and 3pm and upon arrival presented with tobacco, cigarettes and chocolate. A band played and there was tea and refreshments but no intoxicants were allowed. Amongst the guests were several turbaned soldiers from the Indian Hospital in Brighton, and there were some Australian soldiers too.  Bernhard Baron is visible in the photograph dressed in a dark suit with a white wing collar and bowler hat and a goatee beard. He was the wealthy manufacturer of such popular cigarettes as Craven A, Black Cat and Turf and lived at 64 The Drive in a house called Elim.

In June 1916 during Allies Week, the band of the 12th Battalion Canadian Infantry gave some concerts, which included an exceptionally fine bugle band. There was another Allies Week in 1917.

In the summer of 1917 as part of National Baby Week, the Mayor and Mayoress of Hove held a garden party on 7th July to which every infant born in Hove during 1916 and 1917 was invited with their mothers. There were over 1,200 guests and a band provided the music.

As part of the war effort to provide as much food locally as possible, the council directed in 1917 that the flowerbeds in the gardens should be dug up and potatoes planted instead. It is interesting to note that the same sort of thing happened in the Second World War. In 1941 it was recorded that there was a brilliant show of pink thorns along what was now the open roadway (the railings had departed as part of the salvage drive) and the long border, which the previous year had been filled with annuals, was now home to a crop of potatoes and onions.

On 4th August 1918 a Day of Remembrance was held at St Ann’s Well Gardens. On 29th June 1918 there was an entertainment for discharged and disabled soldiers from Brighton and Hove and on 25th September 1918 the War Hospital Supply Depot held a fund-raising Country Fair. On 6th July 1919 there were two services of solemn thanksgiving, one in the morning at All Saints, the other in the afternoon at St Ann’s Well Gardens, which was also the last of the united services held during the First World War. The Mayor of Hove, the vicar of Hove, the Bishop of Lewes and the Revd H Ross Williamson were among the thousands of people present. The band of the 2nd Battalion Suffolk Regiment led the singing.


copyright © J.Middleton
Edwardian postcard of St Ann's Well Gardens
In 1919 Herbert James Penny, 48, of Highdown Road paid the council £15 a year for ‘the exclusive privilege of selling refreshments in the garden’. In 1921 Mr Nash of 83 Livingstone Road was the refreshment provider but the fee had risen to £20 a year, which had to be paid in equal monthly instalments. The following year Mr Penny was back and he paid £25 a year. His refreshments were dispensed from a corrugated iron building. In 1925 McKellar & Westerman erected a new pavilion in the gardens, which contained dressing rooms and lavatories, for £1,272. By June of that year it was near completion and Mr Penny was asked to move from his old premises to the new pavilion – his three-year agreement was due to expire in September. Mr Penny said that fitting-up and furnishing new premises would cost him at least £80 but if the council would grant him a four-year lease, he would agree to pay £40 a year rent. The rent at that time was £32-10s. It was mentioned in Council Minutes that Mr Penny had also paid in advance for exclusive rights to provide refreshments in Hove Park when the new pavilion was completed there. 

In 1920 the Borough Surveyor stated that the electric light installations at the Bandstand needed to be overhauled because the lighting was abandoned during the war. The estimated cost was put at £20. In February 1926 it was decided to provide additional lighting around the band enclosure, which would take the form of a string of coloured lights in watertight holders supported by trees. The lights were to be spaced at intervals of 36 inches and the cost was estimated at £70. In November 1925 a decision was taken not to proceed with a rustic shelter ‘for the convenience of persons attending at Band Concerts’ because it would involve the removal of several trees. However, by the time the 1927 band concert season was over, it had to be admitted that there had been poor attendances, except for the Sunday evening concerts. It was said that Brunswick Lawns and Western Lawns were more popular venues. It was decided that for the 1928 season there would be no concerts in the gardens except for Sunday evenings. But the decision was overturned at a quarterly meeting and concerts were to be held on Wednesdays as well.

In 1920 a group of bowlers started to play as the St Ann’s Well Bowling Club and Tom Olley was the president for the first 22 years. In 1921 it was decided to erect a pavilion for the exclusive use of bowls players, providing that the Bowling Club contributed 10% per annum of the cost. In 1926 it was stated that there was no bowling green available that year as the green was being devoted to lawn tennis. Bowling Club members could play on Cumberland turf greens at Western Lawns and a new bowling green was in the pipeline. It would be covered with Cumberland turf at a cost of £780 as opposed to £400 for ordinary grass seed.
copyright © J.Middleton
St Ann's Well Bowling Club in 1922
In February 1922 it was reported that a sub-committee had carried out an inspection and advised that the north croquet lawn could accommodate six additional lawn tennis courts. The project could be undertaken as relief work for the unemployed at an estimated cost of around £60. Tennis was more remunerative than croquet for which there was adequate provision on the southern lawn. In January 1925 a petition signed by 64 regular tennis players was handed to the council asking for the provision of some hard tennis courts. Apparently the lawn courts were sometimes so worn as to make them unfit for playing on. The council agreed to mull over the matter after the summer and by September had agreed to a hard court being laid out on the site of the current north-east court of the eight adjoining Somerhill Road. It cost approximately £200. It must have been a huge success because in 1927 it was announced that three new ‘tarred Macadam tennis courts’ would be provided next to the one already in place at a cost of £571-3-4d. Today there are still hard tennis courts there.

In 1920 Parson & Sons erected a children’s lavatory for £196. The gardens were still used for garden parties. For example, on 23rd July 1920 the gardens were for the exclusive use of the Mayor of Hove so that he could hold his garden party.

copyright © J. Middleton.
This is a wonderfully clear postcard from Wardell's and the people seem quite happy to have a camera pointed at them.
In September 1927 there were celebrations when Hove’s boundaries were enlarged and a party of French dignitaries visited the area. Part of their itinerary included a visit to St Ann’s Well where the chalybeate still flowed strongly and was pointed out to them. The party also watched tennis and bowls being played, and as they approached the Bandstand the band of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, struck up with the Marseillaise.

Leonard Goldman remembered playing as a child in St Ann’s Well Gardens during the 1920s when it was still surrounded by a high palisade fence. He played cricket with the stumps marked in chalk on a convenient tree and played pirates in an old hollow tree. An autumn pastime was throwing missiles up into the branches of a horse chestnut tree to bring down conkers. If the children were seen doing this, the park keepers would chase them – the older one was nicknamed Bonzo and the younger one Felix. But Felix could run fast and if he caught a conker-seeking boy, he would not hesitate to give him a hiding. 

copyright © J. Middleton.
This unusual view depicts the north side of the gardens with its colourful bed of flowers; it was posted in the 1930s.


 copyright © J. Middleton.
This is quite a rare view of St Ann’s Well Gardens and it dates from the 1950s; it shows the newly created Brocke Scented Garden for the Blind.
In December 1953 Hove Council decided to construct a garden for the blind on the site of the old south croquet lawn. It was named the Brocke Scented Garden for the Blind after the Mayor of Hove at that time – Councillor AE Brocke. He persuaded fellow councillors to provide £500 from the rates, and various businesses, societies and private people donated £1,537. Alderman Arthur Brocke was Mayor of Hove in Coronation Year and there is a famous photograph of him laughing uproariously at a street party in Findon Close. The reason for his mirth did not emerge until many years later. Apparently when he asked 7-year-old Georgina if she was going to take some cakes home with her, she replied, ‘Yes, I’ll stuff them up my knicker leg!’ (In those days knickers were provided with a pocket in which to keep a handkerchief). But Georgina’s mother smacked her for being disrespectful to the mayor. Brocke had a number of interests – he was deputy chairman of the Alliance Building Society and a director of the Theatre Royal; he was chairman of Sussex County Cricket Club for ten years, president of Hove Rugby Club, which he helped to form, and president of Hove Amateur Boxing Club.  
copyright © J. Middleton.
St Ann's Brocke Scented Garden for the Blind
The Brocke Scented gardens took the shape of a large rectangular lawn surrounded by a path laid with loose Chichester grit while around the perimeter were beds of aromatic shrubs and plants. Seats were provided in bays of the path and in the shelter there was a plaque with the quotation,

‘How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckon’d but with herbs and flowers.’

The plants included eleven varieties of roses and three varieties of honeysuckle while the shrubs included wistaria, mock orange, lilac, Spanish broom, rosemary, lavender, Chinese witch-hazel, Jerusalem sage and vanilla flower. There was a selection of herbs including balm, hyssop, sage, chives, camphor, camomile, pennyroyal, catmint, sweet cicely, tansy and fifteen varieties of thyme and eight of mint. Other plants had been raised in the nursery and later transplanted. These included sweet tobacco, night-scented stock, sweet pea, heliotrope and mignonette. The garden opened on 15th May 1954.     

copyright © J. Middleton.
St Ann's dovecote
There was a brick and stone Dovecote, which by July 1955 was home to a pair of Barbary doves, as well as a pergola and a Lychgate built of Sussex oak. The bricks used in the buildings were ‘Dorking midgets’ and were recycled from old premises in Hove while the tiles on the Lychgate and shelter came from an old barn that was once part of the West Blatchington Windmill complex. The cast-lead sundial came from Syon House. Today the doves have long since gone while the shelter remains locked-up because it became a haven for drug-takers.

However, one splendid feature today is a beautiful willow tree in the shadow of whose trailing leaves one or two people can be observed going through their tai-chi exercises on fine mornings. 

On 26th April 2000 the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Jenny Langston, dedicated a trough of scented herbs for the Blind Garden. The Hove Women’s Institute provided it as a Millennium Project.
copyright © J. Middleton.


In 1962 Hove’s Chief Librarian was looking for a suitable site for a new branch library. The crypt of St Thomas’s Church was one suggested venue but the idea did not come to fruition and there was nothing suitable in Cromwell Road. By 1965 the proposed site was east of the bowling green and plans were drawn up for a combined branch library and pavilion. However, there was a great deal of opposition to the loss of valuable park land and Hove Civic Society opposed the scheme while Dr Rex Binning formed the St Ann’s Well Preservation Society to protest. In the event nothing came of it. Dr Binning lived in Nizell’s Avenue and during his professional career he specialised in anaesthetics. During World War II he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and held the rank of Major. He was a founder member of Hove Civic Society and merged the St Ann’s Well Preservation Society with it. Among his other interests were sailing and photography. 

A café was constructed in 1973 as part of a new pavilion / toilet complex. The councillors, in a burst of civic pride, decided that a large mural featuring the Hove coat-of-arms should be placed there too. It is a colourful sight but its position could hardly be described as dignified, caught as it is between the ladies and the gents. 

The major event of the 1980s at the gardens was the Great Gale of 16th / 17th October 1987 when at least 50 mature trees were lost. Staff at the Legal & General HQ in Montefiore Road, accustomed to spending their lunch break in the gardens, collected £227 for replanting. The management matched this figure and so a cheque for £455 was sent to the Hove Parks department. The money paid for twelve trees including horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and elder. In 1989 the pond was given a face-lift.

Miss Vera Clarke lived in Denmark Villas and worked for Seeboard for nearly 30 years. She died aged 71 leaving around £4,500 to Hove Council to spend on St Ann’s Well Gardens where she loved to feed the squirrels. The money was used to re-landscape part of the gardens, build a new retaining wall around the well, lay new paving and buy shrubs and a bench. The Mayor and Mayoress of Hove, Mr and Mrs Dupre, officially opened the revamped garden in March 1991.

On 23rd May 1992 Nigel Ryan organised a Party in the Park in aid of the Royal Alexandra Hospital and research into sickle cell anaemia. The party was free but the organisers hoped to raise £10,000 for each project. Local groups provided music, there was international food, a crèche and a bouncy castle. In June 1992 the Mayor of Hove, Arlene Rowe, opened the refurbished play area, which had the usual swings and also a commando-style aerial runway. Each piece of equipment had been made safer and the area fenced to keep out dogs.
copyright © J. Middleton.
2010 Spring Festival in St Ann's Well Gardens
In August 1993 there was a jazz concert in the gardens as part of the Brunswick Community Festival. In December 1993 it was stated that a tree was to be planted to mark the 60th anniversary of Hove Rotary Club.

In August 1995 a large elm tree near the entrance had to be felled because it was a victim of Dutch elm disease. In August 1998 it was announced that St Ann’s Well Gardens was one of only sixteen winners of the Green Flag Award throughout the whole country. Parks staff needed to demonstrate they protected and enhanced the environment, and were concerned with safety, accessibility and community use. Environment Minister Alan Meal presented Hove Council with the green flag and plaque at Liverpool on 11th September 1998. In August 1999 the gardens were awarded the green flag for the second year running.

In May 2000 the world’s first solar-powered cinema under canvas was set up on a site once used by George Albert Smith for his early films. Derbyshire-based Groovy Movie ran it and there were three days during which people could see some of Smith’s important films.

In July 2000 there were photographs of a new bridge crossing the small stream. The wooden floor was made from disused benches while blacksmith Glenn Doney designed and made the wrought-iron supports, which featured a squirrel and pigeon. The bed of the stream was renovated and it is supposed to be fed by an underground spring and a powerful new pump but at times there seems very little water visible. The area around the bridge was part of a new conversation area, which was fenced to keep out dogs.

In October 2001 there was controversy at St Ann’s Well Bowling Club, which for over 70 years had been an all-male preserve. At the AGM a motion to drop the words ‘men only’ was carried by ten votes to nine. But club captain George Powell was unperturbed by the vote and maintained it did not mean women could join. He said it would never be a mixed club.
copyright © J. Middleton.
St Ann's Well Gardens crocus display in 2010
A feature of the gardens for many years has been the wonderful display of crocuses in the spring and 2003 was a particularly good year. But they were equally admired in the 1950s when there was a family outing especially to see them. Another aspect much appreciated by urban dwellers is the abundant wild life in the shape of squirrels and birds. An added bonus is that some of them seem quite tame so that you can observe them at close quarters. In the wooded part there is an illustrated board featuring the variety of birds to be seen from robins to rooks. In October 2001 it was reported that the rarely seen wasp spider had been spotted in a flowerbed at St Ann’s Well Gardens and others were seen in long grass in the area. The wasp spider is 2.5cm long and has black and yellow markings. It is not poisonous. It was claimed that a reduction in the use of pesticides in parks had led to a rise in more ‘interesting’ wildlife. 
The pond has been there many years too although it seems to have escaped being mentioned in the usual records. But old postcards show people walking by the pond, the ladies wearing large hats. Ponds are rare at Hove and particularly ones containing fish of such a substantial size. The little waterfall provides interest from the number of birds who delight to use it for drinking and for sprinkling their feathers.

Quite near the pond is a large flowerbed in the shape of a butterfly and it was provided to raise awareness of those people suffering from Lupus. Just across the path from the flowerbed, a metal sheet has been fixed to a wooden base and on it is inscribed a nostalgic poem about tennis players. At the foot appears the name Winifred Phillips 1913-2002.


It is pleasant to record that the important 100th anniversary of St Ann’s Well Gardens becoming a public park prompted the instigation of the Friends in 2007. At first there was the modest ambition of staging a celebratory festival in May; this proved to be such a success that it was decided to make it an annual event.

The Friends then grew into a more ambitious group. The Friends do not act as an independent unit but work with the Park Rangers, local councillors, and Brighton & Hove City Council, all with the ideal of maintaining and improving the amenities of such a vital open space. The Friends have a committee consisting of ten enthusiastic local residents with Pippa Smith in the Chair. There are also groups for those with special interests such as the Wildlife Group, Leave No Trace Group and the Playground Group. The Friends have managed to raise a considerable amount of money to go towards various projects.

In February 2022 there came news that the Friends were moving into the field of becoming Art Patrons by inviting artists to submit their designs for a kinetic sculpture. The chosen piece would then be placed in a new sensory garden. Moreover, the Friends were offering a prize of £5,000 to the winner. Pippa Smith anticipated many submissions because the city is full of creative people. There were some strictures on the new creation, for example it must not use man-made power, but must employ water, solar or wind power: the sculpture must also be made from sustainable materials.

An interesting innovation was installed later on in 2022, being described as ‘wildlife friendly lighting’ and was the result of collaboration between the Friends and Brighton & Hove City Council. The initiative seeks to balance the needs of people and resident wildlife. While people using the pathway might require a light when it is dusky, too much light can have a disastrous effect on bats that thrive in darkness. The compromise is a warm-toned low-energy lighting that switches off at 8 p.m. (Argus 29/10/22)


In Antony Dale’s opinion, Wick House was probably built for Thomas Scutt although he does not appear to have lived there. His father died in 1754 when he was only 8 years old. On 12th December 1796 Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster of Battle Abbey leased Wick House from John Thomson of Austin Friars, London, for a term of 8¾ years at a rent of £145 a year. The deal included the coach-house, stable and use of the road from the house to the sea, plus 7 acres, part of a field called Furze Field. Not included in the lease were the chalybeate spring and the barns, buildings and premises belonging to Wick Farm. Webster died on 3rd June 1800 and the remainder of the lease went to Richard, 2nd Earl of Lucan at £80 a year. On 24 December 1802 Lucan passed on the lease to Culling Smith of Harley Street.

Sicklemore in his Epitome of Brighton (1815) wrote about Wick House as follows. ‘This mansion, the property of Revd T Scutt, to whom the chalybeate also belongs, is situated near the spring, upon a rising ground, enclosed and surrounded by a lawn, garden, shrubbery etc and commanding a pleasing variety of land and sea views’. But as Daniels remarked, the house would have had an uninterrupted view of brick-kilns to the water’s edge. Daniels also referred to the ‘handsome new house built with red brick’.

The Revd Thomas Scutt continued to let the house and General Sir Edward Kerrison was in residence from 1818 to 1825. Kerrison was one of the Duke of Wellington’s officers during the Peninsular War as well as the Battle of Waterloo. He married his first wife Mary Martha in 1811. The year 1822 was a dreadful one for the Kerrisons as they lost two young daughters – Mary aged five and Ann aged four – within a week of each other. They were buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Old Church. Their next residence was at 27 Brunswick Terrace. Kerrison’s second wife was the daughter of the 3rd Earl and Countess of Ilchester.

The next resident at Wick House was General St John. In 1829 the Revd Edward Everard moved in and he ran an academy for young gentlemen there. George Basevi, the architect who restored St Andrew’s Old Church, wrote to Everard on 14th November 1836, ‘I hope having completed my labor (sic) of Hove Church I shall be considered worth my reward, I therefore enclose my account’. The letter was despatched from London by coach and Everard promptly sent it on to the churchwardens, heading his letter ‘The Wick’.

Isaac Lyon Goldsmid owned the house from 1830 when he purchased the Wick Estate but probably he was waiting for the lease to expire before moving in and he was there by the 1840s. He commissioned a new house called initially Furze Hill and later Wick Hall but it seems he never lived there, preferring to remain in the old house when he was resident in Hove. He had another property near Regent’s Park and he was probably there on census night 1841 as there was nobody at the Hove house except four servants, two male and two female. One of the latter was Alice King and it is fascinating to speculate whether this woman was the same Alice King who became the friend and companion of wealthy Hannah Brackenbury and eventually the owner of a substantial villa called Sellaby House at Portslade.
The 1861 census recorded Alice King as being housekeeper to Hannah Brackenbury at 13 Brunswick Terrace but later she was promoted to companion. (For further information, see under Brunswick Terrace’s Famous Residents).

When Goldsmid made his formal offer in 1848 to donate the site upon which St John’s Church was to be built, he also stated he wanted to endow a sitting to be attached to Wick House for his servants to attend services. In an engraving of Brunswick Town by Charles Augustin Busby, Wick House was shown directly north of Brunswick Square. According to Daniels, Goldsmid ‘turned the farmhouse into a country mansion and the grounds into a paradise’ The grounds were eventually to become St Ann’s Well Gardens.

Part of the property was Wick Garden House occupied in 1871 by the gardener and his family and Wick Stables occupied by James Cox, 40-year-old coachman, his wife Emma aged 32, their children James 13, Emma 10, Ann 7, Ada 5 and three-year-old Henry, his brother Thomas aged 24, a groom, his wife Eliza aged 24 and their one-year-old daughter Eliza, and Thomas Griffith, 60-year-old stableman. It is interesting to note that these stables are still in existence as a private dwelling house called Furze Hill Cottage.


This was the name of a boys’ prep school located at Wick House, Furze Hill. It is interesting to note that the building housed an academy for young gentlemen from 1829 until 1838 when it was nicknamed the young House of Lords and William IV came to inspect it in 1833. The Revd Edward Everard was the headmaster and he was also the proprietor of St Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street. Lewis Melville in his book about Brighton published in 1909 asserted that Charles Dickens parodied the school as Dr Blimber’s Academy in Dombey & Son. Not surprisingly there is a contender for the dubious distinction and Harrison Ainsworth stated that Dickens used a school at Chichester House, Brighton as his model. The Revd Dr George Proctor ran a young gentlemen’s academy at this address from 1832 until 1846. The ‘Brighton’ school say that because of Dickens’s description ‘The doctor’s house was a mighty fine house, fronting the sea’ that seals the case. On the other hand, Dickens could have heard stories about Everard’s establishment from friends at Hove. Dickens stayed at Brighton in 1837 and 1841. Probably Dr Blimber’s Academy was a composite picture of what contemporary academies were like and the portrait was not flattering.

Dr Blimber’s Academy was a scholastic hothouse where the unfortunate youths were force-fed liberal quantities of Greek and Latin with arithmetical problems for light relief. The hero of the book, Paul Dombey, was despatched to the Academy at the tender age of six. The regime was too much for his delicate health and later in the book there is a touching death-bed scene. However, at least Dr Blimber kept a good table with a variety of meat and vegetables eaten with silver cutlery. A butler attired in a splendid blue coat with bright buttons was on hand to pour out table beer for the young gentlemen. But the overall impression of the building was bleak and the following description aptly sums it up. ‘Not a joyful style of house within, but quite the contrary. Sad-coloured curtains whose proportions were sparse and lean, hid themselves despondently behind the windows. The tables and chairs were put away in rows, like figures in a sum; fires were so rarely lighted in the rooms of ceremony that they felt like wells and the visitor represented the bucket.’

Wick House remained school-less for some years until the arrival of Mr S Creak (a truly Dickensian-sounding name). Creak had already been running a school at 118 Lansdowne Place and according to Porter he leased Wick House for his school on 25th March 1864. Mr Creak remained at his post until around 1886 and by 1887 Charles Gilbert Allum was in charge. The 1891 census recorded Mr Allum living in the house with his wife, four sons, a daughter, three assistants and 21 pupils.

The Wick really rose to prominence under the headship of Laurence Thomas Thring, who was related to the famous Edward Thring, headmaster of Uppingham. In fact Edward Thring is credited with inventing the modern boarding school with its emphasis shifting from the priority previously allotted to athleticism and games, and with individual studies and separate houses governed by a housemaster. Laurence Thomas Thring was a figure to strike terror into the heart of any trembling schoolboy and the fact of having lost an eye through a cricket injury did not improve his appearance. He did not allow the accident to affect his life and enjoyed a game of golf twice a week with a spot of fishing now and again. His sister Mary assisted him in the running of the school and these could be called the golden years of the Wick. Although there were only around 50 boys, there was a remarkable amount of talent. Contemporaries were Evelyn Baring, Rab Butler, Lord David Cecil and the actor Robert Speaight.

Evelyn Baring arrived at the Wick in 1912 when he was aged eight. His nickname was Clydesdale or Bill because he was large for his age. He spent a happy time at the school and finished up as head boy. Thring wrote ‘as head of the school he has been a distinct success’. However, his scholastic achievements were not so marked. In 1914 he wrote home apologising for being bottom again. Indeed Thring did not put him down for a scholarship to Winchester because he felt his Greek was a little weak. But to Winchester he went in any case in September 1914. Later on Baring enjoyed a successful career as an administrator, becoming Governor of Southern Rhodesia in 1942 and Governor of Kenya in 1952.

Rab Butler (Lord Richard Austen Butler) was born in India in 1902 but he came home with his mother so that he could attend an English school. There was none of the quick dumping and off again as happened with Rudyard Kipling for instance. Instead, Mrs Butler took a house at Hove to be near her son and help him settle in. After all his education was now much more formal than anything he had known in India. Soon Ann Butler became a personal friend of the Thrings and was often to be found helping out at the school theatricals. She must have thought the Wick was a good school as her second son followed there some years later. A legacy of Rab’s time in India was a damaged right arm. When he was six years old he had fallen off his horse at Simla and broken his arm in three places. Although it was set in a military hospital, it never mended properly. In spite of this Rab played rugby and soccer at the Wick. Mary Thring made more of an impression on young Rab than her brother. He said she was very stern and she made sure the boys finished up all the food on their plates. A favourite dictum of hers (when catching sight of food left on plates) was ‘Captain Scott would have given his eyes for that’. Captain Scott was the great hero of the time, having just perished in the Antarctic in 1912 but the boys grew fed up with his hearing his name so often. Perhaps there was some relevance as according to Arthur Mee the school had donated a sleeping-bag to the last Scott expedition.
Rab left the Wick in July 1916 and went on to Marlborough and Cambridge. He enjoyed an eminent career in politics and will be forever associated with the 1944 Education Act, which reorganized secondary education. Twice he was tipped to be premier but lost out both times, first to Eden and then to Douglas-Home. He was once described as ‘both irreproachable and unapproachable’. In 1965 he became Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and was there when the Prince of Wales was a student.
Lord David Cecil was also born in 1902 and was at the Wick at the same time as Butler. Cecil went on to become professor of English Literature at Oxford and was well known for his biographies. But he does not seem to have left any details of his time at the Wick. He is still remembered as one of the regular contributors to BBC TV’s Brains Trust in the 1950s.

Robert Speaight was at the Wick when Baring was head boy and Butler was a year or two senior to Speaight. He can remember the stern matron Miss Rackstraw, and Tom Pattenden who lived in the porter’s lodge. Pattenden wore white tie and tails to preside over the young gentlemen’s school meals – shades of Dr Blimber’s Academy indeed. According to Speaight the headmaster’s garden adjoined St Ann’s Well Gardens and the gate from the asphalt playground led out into Somerhill Road with the playing fields on the other side of the road. The formal approach to the school was up a driveway past the porter’s lodge. Speaight described the regime as a ‘heavy dose of classics and character building’. Speaight was keen on reading the novels of Sir Walter Scott and nothing could dull his enthusiasm not even a fever. Once he was ill in bed and the school doctor Dr Uhthoff was summoned to examine him. The doctor threatened to prescribe leeches but so deep was Speaight in The Fair Maid of Perth that he hardly bothered to listen. The book was one of those small print editions and Mary Thring had lent it to him. Next day Dr Uhthoff gave his diagnosis as excessive reading of Scott. His remedy was ‘Put the boy on Conan Doyle’. Dr John Caldwell Uhthoff (1896-1921) lived in nearby Wavertree House where he was an enthusiastic gardener and had two greenhouses. His wife helped to establish the Queen’s Nurses at Brighton. Their son Roland King Uhthoff was also educated at the Wick. Speaight went on to Haileybury although most of the Wick boys went to Winchester with few venturing to Eton or Harrow. Later he became an actor who played most of the major Shakespearian roles at the Old Vic from 1930 onwards.

On 1st December 1917 a school concert was given at the Wick, which was notable for the help given by Edward Dent, the eminent musicologist. Dent came down to rehearse the performers and afterwards wrote about the concert in the school magazine. Perhaps he was an Old Boy. Professor Dent was born 16th July 1876 of Quaker origin and the youngest of a large family. One of his best-known acts was to bring Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte before the British public and his translation is still in use. Dent died on 22nd August 1957.

In March 1918 the names of ten Old Boys who had been awarded the Military Cross were published. They were Lieutenant Colonel RG Cherry / Captain HP Crosland / Major TW Daniel / Captain AS Gibbs / 2nd Lieutenant HN Irwin / Captain ARF Lucas / Major WN Mackenzie / Major JCT Moore-Brabazon / Captain FO Morris / Captain RK Uhthoff.

After 21 years at the Wick, Laurence Thomas Thring decided to call it a day. He sold the school for a profit and he and his sister went off to retire in Lyme Regis. He lived until his nineties. Meanwhile, back at Hove GS Leach was the new headmaster. In 1925 Hove Council gave planning permission for a chapel, the plans being submitted by J Seely on behalf of Mr Leach. Leach carried on until 1935 and then the school closed down. The house was demolished and replaced by a block of flats called Furze Croft.

School motto Lucerna Pedibus Meis.

1864-1886 S Creak
1887-1897 Charles Gilbert Allum
1898-1900 CG Allum & Laurence Thomas Thring
1901-1919 Laurence Thomas Thring
1920-1935 GS Leach


The Lady Annefrida was the only daughter of the Thane of Prestetune, who lived in a large castle near the little village by the sea known as Brighthelm. Many other Thanes occupied castles in the neighbourhood, and all were more or less strongly fortified, invasions at that time being frequent. Annefrida had been betrothed in childhood to Wolnoth, the son of the Thane of Hollingbury; and their marriage was arranged to take place on his return from the wars. He was expected every day, and the wedding preparations were nearly completed.

A beautiful maiden was Annefrida; idolized by her parents and by all who knew her, for she was kind and courteous to all, even to a neighbouring Thane whom she really hated. This Thane was Lord Harold of Patchame Castle; but he was also known as ‘Black Harold’ on account of his dark and terrible face – a true index of his character. He was for ever urging Annefrida to be his wife, though she constantly denied his suit, telling him her whole heart was given to Wolnoth.

The low hills round Prestetune extended for miles and Annefrida loved to wander over them, accompanied by her faithful nurse Cenneth, and also by her two blood-hounds Delph and Genner, whom she loved to see roaming hither and thither, and chasing each other round the gorse bushes, which grew so thickly upon the hills, and especially upon the hill known as Gorse (Furze) Hill.

One morning, messengers came to the castle of Prestetune to tell Annefrida that Wolnoth was crossing the Channel and would arrive soon after sundown. Slowly, very slowly, did the hours pass with the loving girl. At noon horses’ feet were heard clattering into the Court-yard. Annefrida rushed to her window, thinking it must be her lover. But alas! She saw only the hated form of Black Harold. He strode hastily into the castle, and asked for an interview with the Lady Annefrida before he started for the wars. The beautiful maiden descended to the hall with an aching heart, and found the dark Thane talking earnestly to her mother. He eagerly pressed forward to greet her, saying that he could not leave Sussex without once more asking her consent to be his wife when he returned from the wars. “Impossible,” she said; “Lord Harold, I beseech you not to ask that again; you know my heart is given to Wolnoth, and ere another week has passed I shall be his wife. May God bless you and protect you in the battlefield! Farewell!” “Farewell, Annefrida,” he replied and may you be happy in your decision.”

He left the hall with a dark and lowering face, which seemed to haunt the maiden, and ever and anon she involuntarily exclaimed, “Mother! Mother! Wolnoth and Harold will not – must not – meet!” “Oh, cease such wild talk, my child, their roads lie quite in opposite directions. God will watch over Wolnoth. Come now with me and Cenneth, and see how all the preparations are going on.” The hours dragged on. Sunset died away, and night came; but still Wolnoth did not come. Haunted by the most terrible fears, Annefrida retired silently to her chamber, attended be her faithful nurse Cenneth, who was always a comfort to her; for she had experienced a world of sorrow in her early life, and was ever ready to aid and sympathise with others in the hour of trouble and affliction.

How the night passed, no one was told; but at the first dawn of day messengers with Annefrida’s hounds were sent forth to meet the expected Thane. Two anxious hours were passed by Annefrida, when one only messenger returned to the Castle with grievous tidings. They had found the body of Wolnorth lying in some gorse on one of the low hills to the west of Brighthelm, about half-a-mile from the coast, and to all appearances he had been cruelly murdered. He had evidently been dead for hours. No sooner was the messenger in sight than Annefrida, followed by Cenneth, rushed from the postern gate to meet him. There was no need to tell her the sad intelligence, she knew it, as it were instinctively.

A litter was hastily prepared to take the hapless and grief-stricken maiden over the Downs to the sad spot where her murdered loved one lay. The shocking spectacle almost bereft her of her reason. She could not weep. She threw herself frantically beside the body of Wolnoth, and in the paroxysms of her grief exclaimed “Bury him here! Bury him here! And I will come daily and hourly to weep over his grave. Oh! My faithful, noble Wolnoth how much we loved each other! How hard to be thus parted; but ere long we will meet again.” She gave him one long, long kiss; and then turning to Cenneth, fainted in her arms. After a sad interval she slowly revived, and was conveyed, as soon as possible, home.

Watchers stayed by the corpse for two days; and then the brave and faithful Wolnoth was buried (as his betrothed wished) with holy rites, where he fell. A marble cross was placed at the head of the grave, and the contiguous ground, enclosed for some space was blessed by the good Bishop of St Nicholas.

Poor broken-hearted Annefrida kept her own chamber for days. Though dazed by the terrible shock, yet she could not weep! Her physician desired them as a means of relief, to take her to her lover’s grave ; tears might perhaps flow. The next morning she was conveyed thither. When Annefrida reached the sacred enclosure, and saw the pure marble cross, she gave one great sob, and, throwing herself upon the grave, burst forth into violent weeping. For hours her tears flowed continuously – sad, sad tears. Her faithful nurse tenderly raised her up, and gently led her to a little mound at the head of the grave, and there the poor girl sat weeping – weeping – as if  her tears could never cease. At sundown Annefrida was re-conveyed home; but as soon as they left the sad spot her tears ceased, and ere long, from exhaustion, she fell into a deep sleep.

For days and weeks after, the poor maiden daily visited the spot, and ever spent hours in weeping. The little bright-haired children of the shepherds who lived close by the Gorse Hill watched daily for Annefrida’s approach, and brought wild flowers for her to place on the grave, and milk and cakes for her to eat. Except looking thanks, and desiring Cenneth to reward them, she scarcely heeded their presence, though they stayed near her, and gazed wistfully at her whilst she wept, until she departed. But one day a little fair child came lovingly up to Annefrida, and said, in sweet accents, “Don’t cry, dear lady; do stop crying. It is sad; it makes us cry too.” Annefrida’s tears ceased for a moment as she listened to the child. She faintly smiled; but her grief overmastered her, and again her tears began to flow continuously as ever. The little one and her companions looked puzzled; but, taking courage, another said, “O lady, lady, do not cry so; help us to be good.” She looked at them and then at Cenneth, who was petting and talking to them, and again smiled, really smiled, and stooping, kissed the little one who had first spoken to her saying, “Yes, dear child, I will try not to cry, and will help you and your little friends all to be good.; tell your mothers the lady will try.”

Henceforth, more subdued in her grief, Annefrida’s lovely face wore not the same fixed, sad look; and when Cenneth spoke to her of the children, and of the wild flowers, which they had brought for the grave day after day, and of how long they had watched her, she smiled very sweetly, and a look of holy calm seemed to pass over her features. She said, “Cenneth, I will try and help the little ones; but not yet.” Grief still held the poor maiden in its thrall, her strength was well-nigh gone; for nightly, though sleep came, it was not such sleep as could refresh that poor wearied head and heart of hers. One night especially, dream after dream haunted her. She thought she heard a voice – her dear Wolnoth’s voice – calling to her, “Annefrida, my loved one, wake and listen to me!” She saw her lover in white robes – the dear face, which she knew so well, wore such a noble, kind expression – and by his side stood an angel.

“My beloved one,” said Wolnoth, “all your love and all your sorrows I have seen, and how you have daily watered my grave with tears. It was hard not to have met you once more on earth. Alas! You know whose cruel hand it was that prevented it; but we shall meet again! Till then, my loved one, for my sake, for your own, and for the sakes of those who love you on earth; let your grief and sorrow for me sleep. Yes! Sleep; keep it in your faithful loving heart, but let it not become a burden to others. Help those little ones! Help all you can, and God will surely bless your efforts. The tears, which you have shed on my grave shall not be lost; for where they fell, a HEALING SPRING SHALL RISE AND FLOW FOR EVERMORE. The blessing of God rest upon you.” With these words the vision passed away. Cenneth that morning found the sweet maiden in a sound slumber, which continued until the next day. Her physician said it was a restful slumber and would at length restore her. When Annefrida awoke she told Cenneth all her dream and bade her tell her parents.

More than ever desirous of pleasing their dear child Annefrida’s parents, at her persuasion, consented to go with her, to see if the spring had really risen on the Gorse Hill. She felt in her own mind that her dream was all so true and real, and quite sure that she would see water welling out of the ground. On the way thither Annefrida was very silent; but as they approached the spot they saw the children standing and looking at something, and at once she knew that her dream was fulfilled. When the little ones saw her coming, they ran to her saying, “Lady Ann, Lady Ann, the ground is crying, really crying; do come and look.” “Is it, little ones,” she said, “shew it me,” and taking her little favourite’s hand, went to the spot and there saw a clear spring bubbling out of the mound just above the head of her Wolnoth’s grave. The grave itself was covered with lovely wild flowers.

Annefrida involuntarily dropped upon her knees by the spring, and thanked God with all her heart for his many mercies, for the comfort she had received in her deep sorrow; and fervently vowed that henceforth her life should be wholly devoted to the good of others. On rising she turned to the little children and kissed them all. Little Eaditha kissed her in return, and said shyly, “Dear Lady Annefrida, are you one of the saints the good Bishop tell us of? You must be. May we call you Saint Ann, and may we call this ST ANN’S WELL?” “Yes, my child, you may if you like; but I am not a saint yet; but perhaps if we are good we all may be some day.”

That day, when at home, Annefrida begged her father to write down her story, which he did on a parchment roll; and placing it in a silver casket, gave it to his daughter.

                                        *     *     *     *     *
Faithfully and earnestly did Annefrida keep her vow her whole life being spent in doing good. She was beloved and revered by all. But the terrible shock, which she had sustained proved too much for her frail frame; and her sunken and wan features – though still retaining traces of their former beauty – told alas! Too truly, to those who knew her, that she was fading away. One morning – exactly three years after Wolnoth’s death – she was found to have died, in her sleep apparently; for a look of holy calm and peace was on her sweet face. They buried her (the silver casket being placed in her coffin, as she desired) beside her Wolnoth; the good Bishop of St Nicholas, when performing the funeral rites “Truly our departed one is now a Saint in Heaven, and henceforth let her be known amongst you as St Ann; and the holy well on the mound beyond – the offspring of her tears – as ST ANN’S WELL.”
                                        *     *     *     *     *
Many years after, a troop of soldiers, riding across the hills to Patchame, came near Brighthelm; and seeing the spring, dismounted to drink of the water. Most of them went on to the castle of their lord, but two, more reckless, and having no feeling of reverence, stayed behind to open the graves, hoping to find treasure. Just as one had taken the silver casket from that of Annefrida – Lord Harold – for the men were part of the troop with whom he had just returned from the wars – came riding by; but seeing the broken crosses and disturbed graves, and the thieves with their spoil, he at once turned his horse’s head and dashed furiously upon them, exclaiming, “Ye knaves! What do ye here? Have you no respect for the dead? Give me that casket?” Dismounting, he opened it, and, quickly scanning the contents of the parchment roll, a ghastly pallor overspread his face, and he fell as one dead. When, after some time, he revived, he seemed to be altogether a changed man; and in a voice of unwonted calm, said to the soldiers who had awaited his recovery, “Cover up the graves. We will rest here tonight.” The men did as they were bidden, and soon lay down to sleep. How Black Harold passed the night, none – save One – ever knew! On the morrow dismissing his men, he sought an interview with the venerable Bishop of St Nicholas, and showing him the parchment roll said, “Do you remember me?” “No,” replied the aged prelate. “I am he whom you all once knew and dreaded, Black Harold. I was the cause of all this sorrow. If you will give me your blessing, good Father, I, with God’s help, vow from henceforth to atone for all my misdeeds.” The good old Bishop blessed him as he knelt before him, and offered a fervent prayer. Lord Harold retired to his castle at Patchame, and faithfully kept his vow. Many wondered why he had become so changed a man; but none knew the real cause but the Bishop of St Nicholas.

The coffins of Annefrida and Wolnoth were subsequently removed to Prestetune; but at the spot whence the spring gurgled from the mound on Gorse (Furze)Hill , Lord Harold built a beautiful stone Well, and this and the Wild Garden of the enclosure were his especial care all his life.
                                             *     *     *     *     *

This legend was printed in a small booklet measuring around 3 ½ inches by 5 inches and sold for one penny at St Ann’s Well Gardens. It was put about that the legend originated from a Saxon manuscript but the style of language used in the above was most certainly Victorian. It was fashionable in the 19th century to publicize legends and stories associated with popular beauty spots. There was a famous case in point not too far distant at Devil’s Dyke. The first version of the legend of Devil’s Dyke was reputedly printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1810 but it appeared as a separate souvenir booklet in 1876. No doubt encouraged by that venture’s success, the promoters of St Ann’s Well must have considered a booklet of their own a necessity.

The following preamble was printed in the booklet before the legend. ‘The legend associated with the famous Brighton Chalybeate Spring, which nominally forms the chief feature in the pretty and fashionable resort now known as St Ann’s Well and Wild Garden has been published from time to time with more or less important variations. The following account, which originally appeared in the Brighton Herald, in July 1882, may, or may not be a correct translation from the Saxon MSS referred to by the Editor, but it has the merit of being more complete than some of the other versions, and the story will perhaps be allowed to take rank among the most graceful and pleasing of our local legends.’

It seems likely that the booklet was first published in the late 19th century and at any rate it was while George Albert Smith was the lessee as his name appears on the cover.
copyright © J. Middleton.
Picnic in the park St Ann's Well Gardens July 2012


Brighton Gazette
Butler, Lord The Art of the Possible (1971)
Census Records
Dale, Antony Fashionable Brighton 1829-1860 (1824)
Daniels, HG Hove with its Surroundings (1900)
Early Film-makers of the South Coast pamphlet
Excursions to the County of Sussex (1822)
Ford, John & Ford, Jill Images of Brighton (1981)
Goldman, Leonard Oh What a Lovely Shore (1997)
Granville, AB Spas of England (1841)
Gray, Frank, editor Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema (1996)
Gray, Frank and Cushan, Ewan Hove to Hollywood (ND)
Hove Courier
Hove Echo
Lucas, EV Highways and Byways in Sussex (1904 reprinted 1921)
Pocket Companion to Brighton (1838)
Proceedings of Committees (stored at Hove Reference Library)
Relham, Anthony History of Brighthelmstone re-edited 1829)
Rouse, James Beauties and Antiquities of Sussex (1825)
Scrap Books about St Ann’s Well relating to events mostly in 1906 and it includes the legend
Sickelmore, R Epitome of Brighton (1815)
Speaight, Robert The Property Basket (1970)
Westlake, Jean Gipsy Caravan ; a 100 Years’ Story (1982)

Thanks to Robert Jeeves of Step Back in Time, 36  Queen’s Road, Brighton BN1 3XB. for allowing the reproduction of the Empire Day 1908 photograph

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
page layout by D.Sharp