At all times of the day and at all times of the year, the sound of water rushing under Packenham Road, Monkstown can be heard. It is a small reminder of the existence since time immemorial of a series of springs which flowed from the vicinity of Newtowncastlebyrne and Monkstown Castle and which the Cistercian Monks of that stronghold would have been well familiar with in the Fifteenth Century.
Included in this local bounty was the ancient well of Juggy, located at the end of Packenham Road on what used to be the perimeter of the old Monkstown Hospital, (now Monkstown Gate). Juggy’s Well was one of a number of well-known wells in the neighbourhood, including the now defunct Toberbawn at nearby Kill of the Grange. Unlike the latter it appears not to have had any sacred significance, so there were no votive offerings, idols or rags hanging from the surrounding trees at Monkstown. In the Nineteenth Century, Juggy’s Well was as much a landmark in the area as the Forty Foot and it probably caused just as much controversy to the local town commissioners in its day.
Married within the Year
The watering hole was known as Juggy’s Well since at least the time of the first Ordnance Survey in the 1830s, as it is identified on the maps of the time as such. Writing in 1893, the Vicar of All Saints, Newtown Park, G.T. Stokes, suggested that the well was named after a woman at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century who sold whiskey there mixed with the well water. (1)
But it was also known as “Jockey’s Well”, (2) perhaps in reference to its use as a water source by the riders who came to the Eighteenth Century race course on the nearby plain of Racefield . A well of identical name is to be found at Killinagh Parish, Cavan, where its origin is generally regarded as deriving from “deoch” : an explanation that also makes sense. The antiquarian William F. Wakeman (1822-1900), who wrote extensively about Irish wells in the Nineteenth Century and who was a resident of Dun Laoghaire for a time , identified it as “Jacob’s Well” and went on to link its waters to the existence of a mysterious trout that was both immortal and indestructible. (3) One firm piece of folklore attached to Juggy’s Well was that if any young man or woman drank from it they would be married within the year. (4)
Drought of 1868
No superlatives were too gushing for Juggy’s Well. It was described by its admirers as “Inexhaustible”, and with a reputed yield of twelve gallons a minute, (5) who could argue! It was said to discharge more delicious water in a year into natural conduits to the sea than would supply the population of Peking in a season. (6) It was also recognised as the “most beautiful spring in the country” but with the caution that it suffered from the “vilest pollution”. (7) Juggy's Well was reported to have dried up only once in living memory, during the drought summer of 1868. (8)
As it was located so near to the old village of Dunleary, Juggy's Well would undoubtedly have supplied the settlement with all its fresh water needs. With the building of the East Pier in the 1820s and the coming of the railway in the 1830s , the area’s population expanded rapidly to the east . Juggy’s Well became one of the principal water sources for Kingstown Township .When a location was decided for Monkstown Hospital, founded in 1834, it was no accident that Juggy’s Well was right on its doorstep and met the hospital’s water requirements in full. For much of the Nineteenth Century, drivers with donkeys and carts assembled at the well each morning to fill their barrels , and to shouts of “Well Waat” , “Well- Waat” , the water was conveyed and sold around Kingstown. (9)
In times of natural drought Juggy’s Well kept the parched local residents from dehydration.From the 1850s Juggy also supplied the Dublin Steam Packet ships at Kingstown Harbour with their on-board water requirements .When fire broke out at 12, Longford Terrace in August 1861, the well water was usefully employed in dousing the flames, although it failed to save the house from being thoroughly gutted. (10)
Inspector of Nuisances
But it was a victim of its popularity. Through the 1850s and 60s, complaints about the state of the well were numerous and various attempts to improve it came and went. Concerned locals wondered why its abundant surplus wasn’t contained in some sort of reservoir specially built for the purpose. Others fretted about the way users were free to dip all manner of “not very cleanly” water carriers into its depths. (11)
It wasn’t just the potential pollution of the source that had so many people up in arms. It was also the noise and boisterous behaviour around the well at all times of the day and night , as the over-worked local Inspector of Nuisances, Daniel Lumney, knew only too well. In the Summer of 1860, a ten year old child, Murtagh Doyle, was severely injured at the mouth of the well when he was thrown from his cart and trampled by hooves. (12)
During these decades Juggy’s Well was frequently described as neglected. The state of the well reflected how undecided the town commissioners were about its place and future in the neighbourhood. Some like John Crosthwaite were bitterly opposed to its continued use and any improvements would be likely to prolong its existence. Others like John Reilly opposed any interference with the well because of its ancient character and the fact that it had always been freely available to the poor of the area.
One of the local gripes was that the well was always so dark at night. So in October 1861, a lamp was supplied to light the surrounding area. Sir James Dombrain of the Royal Navy and Commissioner of Irish Lights, took a keen interest in the well’s improvement , as did architect William F. Caldbeck who had property interests on nearby “The Hill”. In 1864, Caldbeck put forward plans to the commissioners for a statue to be erected overhead and the entrance to the well itself to be set in bronze or marble . These plans were rejected on the grounds that public money could not be used for this purpose. Eventually a private subscription raised twenty shillings to carry out basic improvements, especially the repair of the stone steps approaching the well . This however led to a charge of one penny being levied on those who took the water, and the well’s long era as a free source of water was at an end.
In 1866, Juggy was blamed for an outbreak of cholera on the Kingstown to Holyhead mail steamers who used the well as a water supply . The report of the government’s medical officer provided a detailed picture of the well from that time. It was in a recess formed by three walls and was approached by steps over which the water was known to flow, especially in the morning when daily use had not reduced its depth. It was described again as being badly lit at night time. (13) Whether Juggy’s Well was responsible for the outbreak or not, the decision was taken to source the ships’ water from mountain springs at Holyhead in future.
The irony of reviving the Rathdown Fever Hospital as a cholera centre during the fresh outbreak of 1866, when it was right on Juggy’s doorstep, wasn’t lost on some of citizens of the area. The least drain of any choleraic discharges from the hospital, argued Henry Oldham, of Egremont “The Hill”, would risk poisoning the entire neighbourhood. (14)
The Sanitary Act of 1866 gave the commissioners more powers to carry out well inspections and to deal with nuisances . Further repairs were carried out on the well in 1868 as a result, and the following year the Inspector of the Sanitary Board was able to declare that its water quality was “quite good”. (15) Interestingly, it was the only well in the district to pass the inspection.
By 1871 the Vartry Reservoir had been connected to supply the Kingstown area with water, and the significance of Juggy’s Well decreased dramatically. Its waters were still made available free of charge to travellers going to and from Dunleary park grounds in the following few years. The well was closed to the public in the early 1890s (16) and its waters were diverted into local sewers, so ending centuries of tradition. Interest in Juggy’s Well was revived briefly in the Summer of 1914, when a writer to the papers, a Monkstown local in the 1860s and 70s, expressed disappointment that he was unable to find any trace of the well on a recent visit. It evoked a nostalgic response from several readers of the newspaper including one signing themselves “ well-wisher”.
Juggy’s Well’s ancient hospitality is remembered today in a popular restaurant of the same name at nearby Glasthule.
1. The Rev. G.T. Stokes, The Antiquities from Kingstown to Dublin , Part 4, Vol. IIL, 1893. , Page 356-7.
2. The Irish Times, 24 Mar, 1862, page 4.
3. Patrick Logan, Holy Wells of Ireland, page 123. Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross, 1980.
4. The Irish Times, 25th of Dec., 1914, page 9.
5. John O’Sullivan & Seamus Cannon, editors, The Book of Dun Laoghaire, page 50. Blackrock Teacher’s Centre. 1987.
6. James J. Gaskin, Varieties of Irish History: from ancient and modern sources and original documents.
W.B. Kelly, 1869. Page 131. Googlebooks.
7. The Irish Times, Oct 23, 1863.
8. Seamus Cannon & Carole Cullen, Monkstown A Victorian Village. Page 19.
9. The Irish Times, 6th Sep. 1870, page 5.
10. The Freeman’s Journal, Aug 21, 1861, page 4.
11. The Irish Times, 10 Aug, 1861, page 4.
12. The Irish Times, Aug 7, 1860.
13. Reports of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council and Local Government Board Great Britain. 1866.
Page 254-5. H.M. Stationery Office, 1867.
14. The Irish Times, 29 June 1866, page 3.
15. The Freeman’s Journal, April 23, 1869.
16. The Rev. G.T. Stokes, The Antiquities from Kingstown to Dublin , Part 4, Vol. IIL, 1893 , page 356-7.