* a citadel noted for its springs.
In Georgian England a sure way for a town to become prosperous was if it benefited from natural springs whose mineral waters had healing properties.
Bath has traded on this for centuries of course, the Romans having constructed a bath house and temple at the site of a hot water spring and naming the place Aquae Sulis (The Waters of Sulis). Its more prosaic though perfectly descriptive modern name is probably the work of the Anglo Saxons. Nevertheless the town can still justify the nomenclature, for the Thermae Bath Spa combines one of the 18th Century hot baths with more modern treatments in a piece of contemporary architecture.
Some spa towns were so popular with Royalty that their names were changed too; Royal Tunbridge Wells, and Royal Leamington Spa for example.
Further north, one beneficiary of this trend was Harrogate, whose town motto forms the title of this post; its waters are “chalybeate” meaning rich in iron and derived from the Latin word for steel. Originally discovered in the 16th Century the waters drew the wealthy sick in increasing numbers from the 17th Century onwards and Harrogate benefited. Whether the consumers did or not is another matter.
Unlike Bath, Harrogate hasn’t invested so heavily in maintaining the spa experience, and the town’s heyday has now passed. The huge hotels that once served a myriad of visitors (and in one case gave refuge to an Agatha Christie fleeing the glare of publicity) are tired and desperate for the sort of refurbishment that current visitor levels don’t justify.
Nowadays the main attractions are the huge conference and exhibition centre, the exclusive boutiques, and the cafés and restaurants that of course include the famous Betty’s Tea Room.
I stopped off here on my way to Bootle last Sunday and struggled to find a place to park. It seemed that a different Spring was the attraction this time.