Thetford Chalybeate Spa


Thetford Chalybeate Spa. A Poem by a Parishioner of St. Peters* 

'The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants—were all forgot.
Cold diffidence—and age's frost
In the full tide of song—were lost.'

Lay of the Last Minstrel.


THE Author of the following attempt at a Poem, respectfully intreats the worthy Inhabitants of the place which furnishes its Title, to refer it neither to personal vanity, nor to consciousness of literary merit. He wishes them to consider it as (what in reality it is) the simple effusion of attachment, gratitude, and respect.

Fifty years ago he came to reside at Thetford, and there remained a considerable time. The scenes in and about the Town had peculiar charms for him, were imprinted deeply in his youthful heart, and recent events have recalled, and invested them with additional importance. Hence the origin of his little Work.

His humble rank and condition in life, he is aware may lay him open to the charge of presumption, in thus obtruding himself on the notice of the public; and presumptuous he should deem himself to be, could he not sincerely declare, that he appears in print solely in obedience to the wishes of several generous patrons and friends, to whose opinions and commendations, he could not but justly give the force of commands. He would further shelter his unlettered Muse against the terrors and severity of criticism, by believing that unprejudiced and candid minds will make due allowance for his want of education.


February 1820.



Now verging on to threescore years and ten,
With buoyant spirits gay, I take my pen.
As Allan Ramsey said, so I might say,
'Tis time to lay by song and learn to pray;'
But touch the chord, that thrills the feeling mind,
Fresh raptures pour, new incidents we find.
The Bard thus warm'd, then more inventive speaks,
His thoughts express'd, the mind a respite takes.
The poets, one and all, were wont to choose,
Some fabled, fav'rite Goddess, as their Muse.
But gratitude alone my mind inspires,
No other Muse, my simple pen requires.
When erst in youth's gay prime, and uncontrol'd,
O THETFORD! round thy flow'ry fields I've stroll'd,
From Tutt-Hill's [1]  eminence and Croxton's [2]  height,
Have view'd thy antient ruins with delight,
Thy sloping hills and wooded vallies gay,
Where silv'ry Ouse meand'ring winds his way;
Though then, each lofty mound, each ruin'd tower,
Told but of war, and time's destructive power;
And thou, thy pristine grandeur long had'st lost,
Nor more of Kings, or mighty chiefs, could'st boast;
Yet heartfelt joys beneath thy roofs I found,
And peace, with all the social blessings crown'd.

To tune his reed, and sing thy healing streams,
Then enter'd not the Bard's enraptur'd dreams;
But now the Muse exultingly may sing,
The well attested virtues of thy Spring;
Since erudition and clear truth unite
To chase all fear, and set the judgment right.
Since Accum's [3]  skill has ev'ry doubt remov'd,
And ev'ry virtue chemically prov'd.

But who can trace this treasure hid in earth,
Or tell what various strata give it worth?
The Sage, who scientific paths has trod,
Will join the Clown, and yield the praise to GOD.

Still let the Poet, in his artless lay;
With thankful heart, a cheerful tribute pay,
And under Providence allow that claim,
Which Thetford justly owes to MANNING'S [4]  name.

He first proclaim'd thee, healthful as the well,
And hallow'd streams, of which the Scriptures tell.
Their arid skins th' afflicted seek to cool;
And Cripples wait thee, as Bethesda's pool.
And oft the dim, his vision hopes to clear,
As if the pow'r of Siloam rested here.

And when pale sickness preys on beauty's cheek,
The drooping Fair, thy healing waters seek,
Soft to thy brink they glide, as if by stealth,
And from thy virtues catch the glow of health
Feel the warm blush reanimate the face,
And o'er each feature throw it's wonted grace.

Up the rich meadow carpeted with green,
Oft have, I stray'd to view the charming scene;
Fan'd by soft zephyr, 'neath luxuriant trees,
In ruminating mood, inhal'd the breeze;
The cooling breeze, for here, on either side
Silent and slow, the placid rivers [5]  glide,
Bright and pellucid as that glassy stream
(Of Eden) where fair Eve, as from a dream,
Awoke! when fill'd with wonder she descried,
Her peerless form reflected [6]  in the tide:
So bright, so clear, do our twin rivers spread
Their glitt'ring mirrors down the verdant mead.
Embosom'd here, with nature's beauties crown'd,
The Baths refreshing, and the Springs are found.

For some with gen'rous zeal have foremost stood;
And Rooms erected for the public good:
With care advanc'd the plan in various ways,
And fairly won the meed of public praise.
Hither the great and noble have repair'd,
Their approbation cordially declar'd :
A Prince [7]  benevolent of BRUNSWICK'S line
Encourag'd and commended the design.
And this shall be our boast, as time rolls on,
Illustrious GRAFTON [8]  laid the corner-stone.

Now promenades and rural walks invite,
Where scenes abound productive of delight;
And to the mind contemplatively wise,
Sublimely grand the objects that arise;
Each ruin'd tow'r, each broken pile will shew
The end of human grandeur here below.
These nodding pillars now with ivy crown'd,
These scatter'd fragments that bestrew the ground,
Tho' silent, seem with solemn voice to cry,
Man's works, like him, must vanish all, and die.
Thus, wealthy Cities flourish and decay,
As Time, swift-footed, sweeps their domes away.
E'en pow'rful empires share the common lot,
They rise, decline, expire, and are forgot:
Rich food for contemplation here we find,
A reverential fear pervades the mind.
Awful the thought, we in our progress tread
Beneath our feet, the great, the mighty [9]  dead.

The Bigods Mowbrays, Howards, high in fame,
'Left not a wreck behind'—except a name.
Here ancient Abbeys with each other vied,
In all the pomp of architect'ral pride;
Great in immunities, and rich in lands,
Their proud foundations laid by royal [10]  hands.

Here vestal Nuns, [11]  their pious vespers pour'd,
Renounc'd the tempting world, and God ador'd ;
Here the sad Maid, in secret oft has pin'd,
Tho' bless' d with all the virtues of the mind;
With all those sympathies that sweeten life,
If called to be a mother, friend, or wife,
To her could solitude a blessing prove—
Alike shut out from friendship, and from love?
Thus mental darkness drew its curtain round,
By the hard hand of Superstition bound;
Till the bright Sun of Truth, with potent ray,
Chas'd the thick mists of Ignorance away.

Here not content with moralizing rhyme,
The Muse should rise to pathos and sublime:
Inadequate her powers, what can she do?
She must desist, where glad she would pursue;
Or paint like Burns, a wise, though simple plan,
Accessible alike, to every man. [12] 

Let those with health renew'd, the Hill [13]  ascend,
Where still the Foss, and Rampires far extend,
View plains wide skirted, and from meadows fair
In gales salubrious breathe the ambient air;
See the rich valley like a garden grown,
And interspersed with trees behold the town;
Or midst the beauties which these scenes disclose,
There note the curving line of wand'ring Ouse,
And Kilverstone [14]  embowr'd in vernal green
No longer deem'd 'a bleak unwooded scene.'
Much it afflicts the tender feeling mind,
That savage War, the scourge of human kind,
Wasteful! sweeps myriads to untimely graves,
And in each age and clime his footmark leaves:
The hist'ry of the world doth but declare
Man's strong propensity to ruthless War.
This lofty mound which o'er the plain presides,
And lands adjacent, giant-like derides,
An emblem and memorial stands to tell
In human hearts what fatal passions dwell!

Up this proud rampart would the chieftain go,
And reconnoitre the advancing foe,
Whilst deep intrench'd his marshall'd bands in sight
Prepar'd to meet the horrors of the fight;
Roman and Dane here hostile legions led,
Here British youth for freedom nobly bled.

Return my vagrant Muse, nor more depart
From the glad theme, which animates my heart;
The warrior's hard-earn'd fame, no more pursue,
Scenes far more pleasing open to my view.

When of the Spring the thousand charms unfold,
And earth is deck'd in green emboss'd with gold,
In this blithe time the Invalid will find
Rural delights a cordial to the mind;
In healthful walks, or rides, enjoy pure air
O'er mossy hills—in sylvan vallies fair,—
May range those banks, where proud in days of yore
A Gothic structure, [15]  graced each verdant shore,
And many a ruin lingers still to tell
The cloister'd path,—the arch,—or gloomy cell.
—May launch his bark, on Ouse's crystal tide,
Along his stream, with some gay party glide,
Breathe music's sounds adown the liquid plain,
While echo sweetly vibrates ev'ry strain;
In concord thus, each kindred bosom glows,
'And health impregnates ev'ry breeze that blows;'
Delight and joy thus elevate the mind,
Unlike gross mirth, they leave no sting behind.

O THETFORD! still the Muse will hover round
Thy hills, thy vallies, as o'er fairy ground;
Fond fancy conjures up the days of youth,
And pictures all those scenes in simple truth;
Let the rapt poet paint ideal dreams,
I've trac'd with joy, thy hills, and dales, and streams:
But ah! the pressure of declining age
Has kindly warn 'd me soon to quit life's stage,
And this, Old Thetford, my last lay shall be
Sacred to truth, to gratitude, and, thee.

* Text and footnotes from [George Bloomfield], Thetford Chalybeate Spa. A Poem by a Parishioner of St. Peter's (Cambridge: printed by J. Smith; and sold by the booksellers in Thetford, Bury, and Norwich, 1820). BACK

[1] The principal Tumuli of the slain in a dreadful battle fought between Edmund, King of East Anglia, and the Danes. BACK

[2] A village near Thetford. BACK

[3] Mr. Accum, Chemist, of London analyzed the water in 1819, and published 'The Thetford Guide,' in which is exhibited a table of the constituent parts of the Chalybeate Spring. BACK

[4] Dr. Manning first analyzed and made the Spring known in 1746. BACK

[5] The River Thet flows on one side this spot, and on the other runs the Ouse. BACK

[6] Paradise Lost, Book IV line 461. BACK

[7] His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester visited the Spring in October 1819. BACK

[8] His Grace the Duke of Grafton laid the first stone of the Pump-Room on September 13, 1819. BACK

[9] Sweyne King of Denmark died at Thetford in 1014. Hugh Bigod (son of the Founder) first Earl of Norfolk, buried in the Abbey in 1178. John Duke of Norfolk slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field, buried in the Abbey here 1485. John Lord Mowbray, Earl Warren, buried in 1470, &c. BACK

[10] King Henry I, kept his Court at Thetford, and laid the first stone of the Abbey 1107. BACK

[11] The Nunnery was founded by Uvius, Abbot of Bury, in 1020. BACK


To make a happy fire-side clime
To wanes and wife,
That's the true pathos and sublime
Of human life.

[13] Called Castle-Hill, which with its ramparts are supposed to have been thrown up about the year 870. BACK

[14] Seat of John Wright, Esq. BACK

[15] The Abbey founded by Roger Bigod in the year 1107, stood on the Norfolk side of the Ouse.—The Canons founded by William Earl Warren, 1109, was erected at a corresponding distance on the Suffolk side, exactly opposite. BACK