The word spa (along with its variations spaw, spau and spawe) comes from the town of Spa in Belgium, which was well known for its several springs. In the 18th century, visiting spas became a popular past-time for people from all levels of society. The mineral waters were believed to have healing properties that could cure diseases such as gout, scurvy and consumption. As well as the supposed health benefits, people visited spas to socialise and enjoy the various forms of entertainment that were provided such as theatrical performances, music and dancing.
Spas could be found across London and in what are now the surrounding suburbs but were, at the time, rural countryside. The most popular London spas included Bagnigge Wells, Islington Spa, and Sadler's Wells, the site of which was both a spa and place of entertainment and has been home to six different theatre buildings since 1683.