Praise for secret heroes who 'saved' Harrogate's treasured Sun Pavilion from going to rack and ruin

Harrogate may be basking in the glory of the Sun Pavilion winning listed status in celebration of this weekend’s Platinum Jubilee but is it forgetting to pay tribute to two people some say were its saviours?

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 3rd June 2022, 10:44 am
Updated Friday, 3rd June 2022, 10:51 am

That’s the question being asked after the Government announced that the jewel in the crown of the town’s Valley Gardens had become one of only six locations nationwide to be recognised to mark the Queen’s 70th anniversary.

Now, nearly 25 years after the Queen visited Harrogate to reopen the stunningly refurbished Art Deco style building, Coun Pat Marsh said it was important to recognise the people who had “saved the Sun Pavilion” in its hour of need 25 years ago.

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The Queen in Harrogate - Flashback to 1998 when the Queen officially opened the refurbished Sun Pavilion. Coun Pat Marsh is pictured second from right.

“When the Lib Dems took control of the Council in 1990 a lot of Harrogate’s important buildings had been neglected for many years,” said the leader of Harrogate’s Lib Dems.

“Places like the Sun Pavilion were closed to the public because it was unsafe.

“We can only enjoy this magnificent facility today because of two amazing officers at Harrogate Borough Council, Pat Fitzgerald who did a brilliant job on all the technical work and Kevin Douglas the council’s then director of Leisure and Amenities who made a very successful Lottery Grant bid, without which nothing could have happened.”

“They were saviours of Sun Pavilion.”

Royal nostalgia - The Queen arrives to open the refurbished Sun Pavilion in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate on 10th December 1998.

Originally constructed in 1933 to designs by Leonard Clarke - Harrogate Borough Council’s then-surveyor - the new facility was part of a £60,000 spa development scheme intended to be one of the finest in Europe.

Once a favourite of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, as Harrogate’s spa days waned in changing times, the Sun Pavilion went into steep decline.

By the 1980s the site was in trouble, until a campaign to restore it was launched led by passionate local citizen Anne Smith and supported by notable names such as author James Herriot.

Job done, in 1998, the Sun Pavilion was officially re-opened by Queen Elizabeth.

It’s a day still remembered by many in Harrogate, including Coun Marsh who had the honour of introducing the monarch to some of the players in that restoration bid.

“Helping to host the Queen at the opening of the refurbished Sun Pavilion, was a real honour and privilege ,” said Coun Marsh.

“She was such good company and very funny. It was brilliant news about the listing of the Sun Pavilion but I do think that reference should be made to those who made the refurbishment happen.

“There had been a fire at the Sun Pavilion followed by water damage caused putting the fire out. Without them it’s not impossible that they would have had to pull down the whole building.”