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History of Ash and Ridley from Earliest Records to 1957
Compiled by Dorothy G. Meager on behalf of Ash and Ridley Women's Institute           Page 111

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The Well, Ridley
The Well
   At the roadside, near St. Peter’s Church, in the tiny but ancient parish of Ridley, stands a mute testimony to a 150 years old tragedy. It is Bowdler’s Well which was sunk by the Rector of Ridley, the Rev. Thomas Bowdler, after he and his wife had lost four young children, who were taken ill after drinking stagnant water.
   It is said locally that the well was 350 feet deep, but this may be an exaggeration. At any rate, the parishioners of Ridley were assured of fresh water until modern plumbing made the well unnecessary and it was concreted over. The super structure with a thatched roof was added by Mr Raoul H. Foa when he acquired the Holywell Park Estate in 1902.
   The Rector was the nephew of Dr Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) the philanthropist, who added a new word to the English language – "bowdlerize". In 1818, Dr  BOWLDER published his "Family Shakespeare", a work

 in ten volumes in which he has effectively censored all words and expressions that he considered unfit to be read aloud in a family. He was vigorously attacked by the critics and the word "bowdlerize" which was coined at the time, came to be associated with false squeamishness. Dr Thomas Bowdler was living in Ash for a time, but there is no record to tell us which house he occupied.
   His nephew, the Rector of Ridley, helped him while he was preparing his expurgated Shakespeare and his similarly treated version of Gibbons "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" – so the old well at Ridley, the cover of which was re-thatched in 1954, the bi-centenary year of Dr Bowdler, takes us quite a long way back into history.
   The Rev. T. Bowdler, who had charge of the adjoining parish of Ash and also of Addington, as well as Ridley, later became Rector of Sydenham and a Prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral.

The Well, Ridley - watercolour

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