Harrogate Civic Society's tribute to Malcolm Neesam who passed away this week

Harrogate Civic Society said it will be keeping Malcolm Neesam's name alive in a tribute to the town's greatest historian after he passed away on his 76th birthday.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 30th June 2022, 11:39 am

Stuart Holland, chair of Harrogate Civic Society, said:

"Harrogate Civic Society mourn the loss of one of their founder members and an inspirational source of knowledge about the history of Harrogate which he described as a “handsome town”.

Flashback to 1996 - Harrogate Civic Society said it will be keeping Malcolm Neesam's name alive.

Always a gentleman in manner and appearance, Malcolm had an amazing way of recounting our history as a simple story.

In his 50 years of work with the Civic Society (originally the Harrogate Society), Malcolm was instrumental in establishing the listing of many buildings in the town and in establishing the first Conservation Area.

He had an encyclopaedic memory of facts, people and places which made his presentations at meetings fascinating, always illustrated by photographs or prints from the Walker Neesam archive.

He spoke fondly of his work following in the footsteps of Harold Walker, Historian and one time editor of the Harrogate Herald. Indeed, it was Malcolm who completed the “History of Harrogate under the Improvement Commissioners, 1841 – 1884”, largely compiled by H Walker. Both gentlemen set up the Walker-Neesam archive, ensuring their collective research could stay for ever within the town.

Flashback to 2001 - The late Malcolm Neesam, right, with actor Edward Fox at The Majestic Hotel. Also pictured are Mayoress of Harrogate Pat Nash, Mayor of Harrogate Bob Nash, Chairman of The Royal Hall Restoration Trust Lilian Mina.

Malcolm went on to write and publish many books including Harrogate Great Chronical 1332 - 1841.

It is the Chronicle, Wells and Swells, covering the Golden Age of Harrogate, 1842 to 1923, that he will more recently be remembered for, launched just two months ago to an audience of 150 townsfolk.

Malcolm knew at that stage that he would not be with us for much longer but nonetheless, gave an inspiring talk about the Golden Years of Harrogate.

Alongside his research and writing, Malcolm, as a Civic Society member, was the founder historian of the Harrogate Brown Plaque scheme, presenting plaques on the Tewitt Well and Magnesia Well in 1975 followed by a few each year until we have a staggering 92 plaques around the town today.

He has even left research notes for a number of future plaques.

His final gift to the Civic Society is the research for a “Time Line” covering the period 800 BC to 2023 when the Borough of Harrogate ceases to exist.

Harrogate Civic Society will keep Malcolm’s name alive by continuing in his footsteps, celebrating and recording our rich heritage and past and sharing it widely throughout the town."

The books of Malcolm Neesam

As well as being a columnist for the Harrogate Advertiser for many years, Malcolm Neesam wrote many books on the town.

Painstakingly researched in almost forensic detail, often with the help of the Advertiser’s back copies going back to 1836, among the five most significant of his books were:

1 Wells & Swells: The Golden Age of Harrogate Spa 1842-1923.

The second instalment of Malcolm Neesam’s mammoth history of Harrogate was published in April, 2022.

2 Harrogate Great Chronicle, 1332-1841.

The first part of the story of Harrogate was published in 2005.

3 Music Over The Waters - How Music at Harrogate Spa Led to the Establishment of the International Festival, and Its Fifty Year History to 2016.

4 Bygone Harrogate.

Publishing in 1999, this 200-page book was inspired by Malcolm Neesam’s column in the Harrogate Advertiser.

5 Harrogate (Tempus History & Guide).

Published in 2001, the book charted the decline of the spa business in the 20th century.