June 7 1913 saw the climax of 342 years continual development of Harrogate as a Spa.
One year before the catastrophe of 1914, Harrogate was at its zenith. Known as “the world’s greatest Spa” the town had an unrivalled international reputation thanks to its unique range of mineral waters, the fame of its hydrotherapeutic treatments, and the luxury of its facilities for the accommodation of visitors. The heart of the Harrogate “cure” was the Old Sulphur Well, which, far more than the Iron Water of the Tewit Well discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, was responsible for the town’s happy circumstances.
For at least 20 years before 1913, the council had been considering the annual problem of crowding at the Royal Pump Room, which regularly recorded more than one thousand visitors every morning. Many of these visitors arrived between the hours of 7am to 10am, when the roads around the building and neighbouring Crescent Gardens were fitted with barriers to prevent vehicular traffic from entering the area.
Some of the council believed a new Royal Pump Room should be built in the entrance to Valley Gardens, with the waters of the Old Sulphur Well being piped into it. Others believed that pumping would cause the precious water to deteriorate, and that for maximum effectiveness, it must be drunk fresh from the natural well-head. Elaborate plans were drawn up, competitions held, and the matter considered so important that both the Times and Guardian newspapers published a special edition to debate the question Advancement or Extinction - a great crisis in the history of Harrogate. Shall the old Pump Room be removed. Questions that require answers.
After postponing the matter for decades, and the erection of unsightly ticket offices and wooden extensions, the council finally decided in February 1912 to construct a £2,700 extension to the old building, from light-weight materials of iron and glass, with copper roof tiles. Despite fears that any new building would damage the geology of the site, and thus imperil the life blood of the town, work went ahead, and by the summer of 1913, the new extension was ready to be opened by Sir David Burnett, Lord Mayor of London.
Harrogate was en fete on June 7. The VIP guests included the Lord Mayors and Mayors of York, Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley, Beverley, Bridlington, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Hull, Keighley, Middlesborough, Morley, Ossett, Pontefract, Pudsey, Ripon, Todmorden and Wakefield, together with Harrogate Corporation, and leading members of the medical profession.
The distinguished guests were gathered at the Queen Hotel (today, the Cedar Court Hotel) where they awaited the arrival of the Lord Mayor of London, whose train steamed into Harrogate Station at 1.39pm precisely. They were met at the station by the Mayor, Coun Rowntree, and the High Sheriff of Yorkshire, the group being driven to the Queen Hotel in the state landau, which had been brought down from London specially for the occasion. After a splendid reception, a grand procession formed outside the hotel, headed by the band of the Yorkshire Hussars, which proceeded along York Place, Station Parade, James Street and Parliament Street to the Royal Baths Wintergardens, where the ceremony of opening the new extension to the Royal Pump Room was to take place.
This week’s photograph shows the Lord Mayor’s carriage arriving at the Royal Baths. After praising Harrogate Corporation for its enterprise, Sir David reminded guests that Harrogate was not a sea-side resort, and that despite the growing number of requests for a sea view, no matter how high the rooms were, Harrogate was clearly destined to be known as “the Queen of Inland Watering Places”. The same evening what was probably the most spectacular banquet ever held in the 20th century town was held, when 400 distinguished guests enjoyed the hospitality of the Hotel Majestic. The new annex to the Royal Pump Room proved its worth immediately, and although it never reconciled the factions in the town who had called for the building of a new Royal Pump Room in Valley Gardens, it certainly solved the long standing problem of crowding at the Old Sulphur Well.