Historically, there have been more than 20 sacred springs known to be in London.

One of the oldest is the Holywell. It was first mentioned by a medieval monk nearly 900 years ago, the longtime clerk for Saint Thomas Becket. He writes:

“There are also in the northern suburbs of London springs of high quality, with water that is sweet, wholesome, clear, and ‘whose runnels ripple amid pebbles bright.’ Among which Holywell, Clerkenwell and St. Clement’s Well have a particular reputation; they receive throngs of visitors and are especially frequented by students and young men of the city, who head out on summer evenings to take the country air. Truly, a good city – if it has a good lord.”

The Holywell survives today in the basement of the Australian embassy in London. The Australian ambassador to the UK said in 2016 that “these wells were of great significance, particularly back in the Middle Ages.”

“They were used for ceremonial purposes and plays were performed around the well. And as a result of that this part of London evolved as an area where theatres were built. Someone has drunk the water and there’s no record of them not surviving.

Lab tests actually showed the water was safe to drink, too.

The well is connected underground to the once-Catholic Church of Saint Clements Danes in Westminster, where Saint Clement’s Well once was. English historian John Stow:

“The fountain called Saint Clements Well, north from the parish church of Saint Clements, and near unto an Inn of Chancerie, called Clement’s Inne, is yet fair and curbed square with hard stone and is always kept clean for common use. It is always full and never wanted water.”

Map of the Holywell (red dot). Photo credit: David Furlong, Fair Use.

So how is the well connected to Harry Potter?

The 100-year-old building hiding the Holywell in it’s basement was featured as Gringotts in Harry Potter, the wizard’s bank run by goblins.

Photo credit: Lisa Millar via ABC News, Fair Use
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