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The Rise and Fall of Whittle Springs Brewery
A brief history of the rise and fall of the Spa and Brewery at Whittle Springs.
by J. Jackson.


The story of Whittle Springs, for it was at Whittle that the spring was discovered, has its own fascination and begins in the year 1836

The Discovery
of the Spring

The Cure The Growth
of the Spa
The Rise of
The Brewery
The Decline
of the Spa
Continued success of
Whittle Springs Brewery
The Decline of
the Brewery

Whittle Springs

The Future

The Discovery of the Spring

At that time (1836) a certain John Heyes was boring for coal on the land he owned alongside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal on Lower Lane Whittle (Lower Lane has since been named Dark Lane). He was an astute and wealthy business man the son of a calico manufacturer. His residence, Gorse Hall, on the old Chorley to Blackburn road, was a typical 18th Century gentleman's residence, stone built with three floors. Sadly, apart from an old archway within a broken wall, nothing is left for the house was demolished in 1970. There is however a wonderful contemporary description: "Gorse Hall is pleasantly situated, commanding one of the most extensive, beautiful and picturesque views in the county. To any Gentleman fond of field-sports it is most centrical, encompassing hunting, coursing and fishing in its immediate neighbourhood."

Before long the boring in Lower Lane had reached the depth of 90 yds. A silver Denarius of Roman origin had been discovered, with Hygeia on the obverse of the coin - a singular   find   in   the circumstances, denoting not only a Roman past but portending somehow, in the figure of Hygeia goddess of health, the Spa that was to come. At this point in time, water started to gather in the workings and, following an accident of some sort, the project was abandoned.

In 1841, an effort was made to clear the blockage in the borings, but this resulted in an even greater flow of water. When it was realised that the workmen had accidentally tapped a spring, the borings were once again abandoned - and there the story might have ended.

Legend has it however, that some years later, in December 1845, John Heyes was out for a days walking in the Whittle area with William Brigham of Foxley House Lymm. The two friends stopped and drank from the spring water still bubbling from the old coal workings. Brigham, who happened to be an F.R.C.S, noticed the strange medical taste of the water and offered to have it analysed. It must be borne in mind that at this time, spas and healing springs were all the rage. It would have been a dull man indeed who did not realise the potential of a medicinal spring and, as has already been noted John Heyes was nobody's fool.

A Mr. Davies, a lecturer in Chemistry at Manchester University, duly analysed the water sample sent to him by Mr. Brigham. He confirmed its alkaline content, much to the delight of the two men involved, for the springs containing carbonated alkali are rare and are almost entirely free of earthy substances.

John Heyes lost no time in enclosing the source of the spring water with a circular stone building topped by a dome shaped roof- a structure much resembling that surrounding the Teewit well in Harrogate. Inside three steps, wide enough to sit on ran all round the inside of the building and led down into the water.. The latter bubbled from a 9" pipe in the centre of the floor at 50 gallons a minute before being drained, initially into a horse trough on Lower Lane and from there into the canal.

Judicious publicity and word of mouth brought several thousand visitors, to taste the spring water, in the first two weeks of the spring being open to the public. To the poorest the water was free, the rest paid a penny. By the September of 1846, only nine months after the springs discovery, news of its beneficial nature had reached as far as Liverpool. A gentleman writing in the Liverpool Journal extolled the spring saying he preferred it to either Cheltenham or Harrogate, he likened the water to that found at Baden-Baden and recommended it those, "afflicted by bilious complaints, rheumatism, ulcers of the lower extremities, scrofula or to those who have acquired a relaxed system by residence in the Indies." Apparently the water, whether taken internally or applied externally, was equally beneficial.

A further spring was found "some 100yds away" a chalybeate spring this time. Unfortunately there is now no means of telling the exact location of this spring and in case, it was the alkaline spring that received all the attention.

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