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Abstract:

In around 1670 purging mineral waters were discovered on the western slopes of Shooter’s Hill near Woolwich, to the east of London. They were promoted through an anonymous broadsheet, a single copy of which is held by the British Library. The probable author of this has been identified as Nathaniel Hodges, a physician who remained in London treating the sick during the plague year of 1665. Epsom Salts were produced at Shooter’s Hill around 1700 and undercut in price those from Epsom and Acton to the west of London. The waters continued to be used by local people for the following 200 years but never achieved national fame, and the source had disappeared by the 1920s. The waters were derived from thin sandy horizons within the London Clay Formation and were characterized by high concentrations of Mg and SO4. The mineralogy of the clays suggests that pyrite oxidation in the weathered zone forms acid solutions leading to the dissolution of carbonates, particularly dolomite. Varying concentrations of dolomite account for variations in the Mg content of London Clay groundwaters and for the distribution of a number of historic purging waters around London.

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