In 1858 the Guardians of Brighton planned to cut the cost of transporting water to the proposed local workhouse (now Brighton General Hospital) and a school for juveniles (Warren Farm) from the waterworks in Lewes Road (now Saunders Park). The Guardians decided they would construct a single well for both properties.
Digging took place 24 hours a day just by candle light in appalling conditions- for within the confines of a circle 4 feet (approx 1.2m) wide teams of men had to dig, load buckets and lay bricks.
The final break through
At the change of the evening shifts on Sunday 16th March 1862, the bricklayer noticed that the thin crust of earth he was standing on was being slowly pushed upwards like a giant piston. Scrambling up the numerous ladders to each winchman's platform, he and the others quickly vacated the shaft. It must have been a difficult task for the well had now been sunk to such an amazing depth their successful exit took some 45 minutes. Suddenly with a roar, the piston head crumbled and tools, buckets and ladders flooded up the shaft. Water had at last been found. It had taken over 4 years backbreaking work for a labour force which included many Brighton paupers, to hand dig a shaft some 1285 feet deep (850 of which were below sea level) without the aid of machines.
The result of this amazing effort was a world record. The deepest 'hand dug' well in the world. It's depth into the earth is greater than height of the Empire State Building.
All the above is of course true. The actual location of the well is often argued about but the most popular theory is that it lay beneath the metal work /woodwork rooms at the back of the old Fitzherbert School in Warren Road. We now know this as the site of the Nuffield Hospital. Other wells were dug first in the area but were stopped when the contractors feared they had missed the supply. One of these was 438 feet deep and was cut several feet south of the record breaker, and some seveal hundred feet eastward. Next time you go 'down the ground' take a look at the dip on the right hand side at the far end of the seven a side pitch next to the 'complex'!
You've had the facts. Now for the legend.
Rabbits, as we know, live in a a network of interconnecting burrows called warrens. It would follow then that lots of rabbits would reside in places called Warren Farm and Warren Road. Millions probably. Millions of little cute brown rabbits with white bushy tails. You've seen loads of them - possibly more than you can a shake a football pole at. But have you ever seen a blue one?
Some old people have been told the story of the first well - the 438 feet deep one mentioned above - by their parents and their parent's parents. The tale goes that digging on this well was not stopped by any contractor at all but by the appearance of a mysterious blue bunny, who it is said lived 460 feet beneath the ground. Now he may have been blue because it was cold or something but he was hot on stopping any digger holding thoughts of smashing through the roof of his burrow, or 'crib' as he liked to call it. Every day the men would dig the hole near to his home and every night the blue rabbit would fill it in again
Every person connected with the digging of this well was sworn to secrecy as to why it was really filled back in again, but the truth has protected the grounds ever since. The blue rabbit made the men promise to never ever build in, or indeed on the ground that we now know as the Nuffield Playing Fields, home to Woodingdean Youth Football Club. And until this day no-one ever has.
But what was his name ?
The blue rabbit never told anyone his name but could always be heard to shout out the word 'Scamp' at oncoming diggers. Given his 19th century Sussex accent this would probably would have been interpreted as "Stop !" Therefore in all the stories he is known as Scamp.
Do the club celebrate Scamp's legend at all ?
One day in 2005 when we came down to set up for training we found a small blue cuddly rabbit toy near the site of the first well. We thought it was weird, as we had never found one there before, but decided to put it to use. It was felt that because the blue bunny in the legend had never left the playing fields he protected so bravely it would be fitting if this little toy went on adventures to honour him.
Any player who would like to take Nuffy on an adventure to a sports event (football match etc) or on holiday, and have a photo taken to prove they were there (to be published on the upcoming Adventures of Scamp page) please contact the chairman for details and availability.
Scamp can be found in 'Scamps' Tea and Tuck Shop down at the ground.