Earliest depictions of the ponds
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence
While one medieval map mentioned Peel Waters in the vicinity of Spa Ponds, we are not aware of any actual ponds being clearly depicted on any map until the 1830’s. Many of the older maps showing the area of Spa Ponds were not very detailed and so not too much can be read into the omission.
The Ellis Map of 1824-25 (published in 1831) was in sufficient detail to show both the pond above the warren and Packman’s Road, yet does not depict any ponds to the east of Packman’s Road. On the other hand, we are aware of instances where Ellis glosses over elements such as minor paths contained in more detailed mapping.* As such, while Ellis provides some indication that there were not clearly visible ponds at Spa Ponds in 1824-1825, on its own this is not strong evidence.
However, as discussed later there are reasons to think that the first iteration of the modern ponds at Spa Ponds were constructed or reconstructed shortly after the Ellis map was surveyed as part of the creation of the Duke of Portland’s water meadows and flood dykes, and this increases the possibility of Ellis being right not to show ponds at Spa Ponds in 1824-25.
Clear evidence of ponds at Spa Ponds from 1830-1834 survey
As shown above, the ponds at Spa Ponds appear on George Sanderson’s map of Mansfield published in 1835 which would have been based on surveys from 1830-1834 and the first detailed Ordnance Survey map of the area from a survey from 1824-1840. They also show the Spa Lane bridge over the flood dykes to the north of Spa Ponds. Two ponds are shown at Spa Ponds to the east of Packman’s Road where one would expect.
Clipstone Water Meadows and Flood Dykes
If you look at the above maps you will see they refer to Water Meadows and a flood dyke. These would have been brand new at the time, as they were constructed for the Duke of Portland around that time.
John Evelyn Dennis, Esq. wrote about the Water Meadows at Clipstone Park in 1840, stating:
“The eye, after wandering through the glades of the forest, and resting on the brown carpeting of fern and heather with which it is clothed, is amazed on coming suddenly in view of the rich green of the meadows, extended for miles before it, laid in gentle slopes and artificial terraces, and preserved in perpetual verdure by supplies of water continually thrown over their surface. The land immediately occupied by these meadows was in its wild state a line of hill-sides, covered with gorse and heather, -a rabbit-warren, over which a few sheep wandered,- and a swampy valley below, thick set with hassocks and rushes, the favourite haunt of wild ducks and snipes through which the little stream, the Maun, wound its way in its descent from the town of Mansfield.”
The whole track, both upland and lowland, was of very little value. The valley was in many parts from 9 to 10 feet deep in bog, and almost worthless; the hill-sides varied in quality… In the year 1819 it occurred to the Duke of Portland that by following the stream up towards its source, and tapping it at a high level, the water might be carried over the surface of the dry and sterile hills, its course through the valley might be straightened, and the bog drained.”
Maps of the area prior to 1835 do not show any ponds at Spa Ponds.
Notes, sources and further readig:
- * For example, if one compares the detailed 1791 Crown Survey map of Birklands and Bilhaugh to the south-east of Spa Ponds with both the Ellis map and the detailed 1840 OS Map one can see many features such as minor paths and the centre tree which appear on those more detailed maps but are absent from the Ellis map).