The Australia House in London, also called the High Commission of Australia, houses an ancient well underneath. Laboratory tests have showed that the water taken from the well is actually fit enough to drink.

Harry Potter fans would recognize the Australia House in London as the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. But instead of housing enchanted items and wizarding money in its basements, the Australia House actually conceals a 900-year-old "holy well" below.

The so-called "holy well" is a restricted area that is accessible through a manhole. Australian high commissioner to Britain Alexander Downer said the well was very crucial in the past centuries, particularly in the middle ages.

"They were used for ceremonial purposes and plays were performed around the well," said Downer. Due to the past activities surrounding the well, the areas surrounding Australia House developed into commercial spaces where theatres are widespread.

The Australia House in London was built during World War I. Since 1918, Australia has been operating its diplomatic mission at the Australia House in London, which is included in the Commonwealth heritage list.

Laboratory Tests

Water sample from the Australia House's holy well was put to the test. Scientist Richard Lawson from the Latis Scientific laboratory tested the water sample for Clostridium perfringens, Enterococci, E. coli and overall viable count. The results came back negative and Lawson announced the water was drinkable.

Confessions From A Medieval Monk

Downer said a medieval monk wrote about the holy well and described the waters within as clear, sweet and wholesome.

According to Downer, the water in Australia House's "holy well" had come from the River Fleet, London's biggest subterranean rivers. The River Fleet is now covered by roads and Fleet Street in London was named after the concealed creek.

The River Fleet had been a substantial body of water during the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods, but had gotten more and more polluted as the country developed. Experts believe there are approximately 20 wells across London, and Australia House's hidden holy well is the most accessible by far.

Duncan Howitt, an Australian public servant, drank a cup of water from the holy well seven years ago. Howitt was hosting a group from the Canadian High Commission. Five people, including Howitt, went down to the holy well and each drank the water as part of their hospitality.

"It was fresh and clear. Better than tap water," said Howitt.

Photo: Elliott Brown | Flickr

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