Today Flitwick Moor is renowned for it's natural vegetation and wildlife but in the 1800s, it was the site of a small spa with springs that had medicinal qualities.
In around 1859, Henry King Stevens took over the tenancy of a house and nearly twenty-two acres of land known as 'The Folly', on the outskirts of Flitwick. He became convinced that the springs that flowed through his land possessed healing powers. He began to sell the water locally at 2d a bottle and was keen for the medical profession to acknowledge its potential. Locally, the water became increasingly popular with people travelling long distances to soak cloths in the springs. They would then apply these to sores and even cancerous growths.
In 1885, 'Flitwick Water' secured the highest award at the National Health Society Exhibition yet Mr Stevens still had to convince the doctors that he had discovered a valuable medicine. He continued to submit samples until in 1891, an article in the 'Lancet' journal brought complete success. In the article the water was described as having a clear sherry colour with a very high iron content and of having a temperature of 45 degrees at all times of the year.
Mt Stevens now developed his asset on a commercial scale. A London depot was established and advertisements were placed in magazines and the national press but sadly Mr Stevens died in 1898 before he could realise the full extent of his ambitions. The estate was sold to R.W. White & Company, a soft drinks manufacturer based in London.
The 'Flitwick Chalybeate Company' was formed and the fame of 'Flitwick Water' spread. However, as large manufacturing chemists began to develop more efficient substitutes, the appeal of 'Flitwick Water' gradually lessened and by the 1930s very little was being produced. In 1938, R.W. White & Company closed it's plant at Flitwick and the land was sold for farming. Today, the iron rich waters have produced a range of wet areas, supporting a wide variety of natural vegetation and wildlife including frogs, grass snakes and birds. It is owned and managed by 'The Wildlife Trust'.
- The Chalybeate springs at Flitwick by T R Key, in Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 11, pages 185-189
Flitwick Water by Bedfordshire Libraries, 2005
Page last updated: 28th January 2014