Extract from: The Gentleman’s Journal, 15th November 1898, Health Resorts: Harrogate

‘To the number of things which, according to Lord Dundreary, “no fellah can understand”, must be added the fact that a nation which has Harrogate within its borders largely persists in frequenting Homburg, Baden, and Spa when recommended by its physicians to take the waters. The fact is gross as a mountain open palpable, and the devil’s advocate himself could not provide an explanation which would stand looking into. For characteristic English beauty the surroundings of Harrogate have hardly any rival.

Patelay Bridge – The How Stear, Nydd Valley – the Strid – Bolton Abbey Woods – Knaresborough village, bridge and stream – the whole Vale of the Nydd – where else will you find within so narrow a compass such a collection of lovely spots; lovely not with the overpowering grandeur of the Vosges, the Tyrol, or the Sierras; the gloomy beauty of the Black Forest, or the wild romance of the Rhine; but with the quiet, soothing influences of the English landscape? To the antiquary or the student of history Bolton Abbey is a source of infinite inspiration: within the shades of its stately ruins the illusion of time rolls away and the lie of our early England becomes a something to be understood and sympathised with, instead of a philosophic abstraction or a series of statements in a school book. There may be heard again the clash of arms, the noise of the captains, and the shouting in the long struggle between the white rose and the red; over the grey and hollow stones shall glide the ghost of “old John of Gaunt time honoured Lancaster.”

For those who love not the memories of the past – who find no charm in ruins – objecting to roofless abbeys and vacant windows because they let in the wind and rain – seeing no beauty in anything which has no utility – who would rather have a solid bridge and a weather-proof church to all the moss-grown fabrics in the world – for those and such as these Harrogate has ample provision. The Royal Baths Hospital is a noble modern structure, admirably representative of the architecture and the building and the passionate care for sanitation and comfort which are typical of the latter part of the nineteenth century. The municipal offices, with their elegant, if somewhat nondescript, portico, are effective in appearance, convenient in arrangement, and carried out in a spirit of liberality winch speaks well for the public spirit of the people. The Royal Spa Concert Room, with its massive columned front and wide steps, is attractive enough, and would be stately were it not for the aggressive inscription which “rears ist shameless head“ above the fluted pillars.

Of the churches, St. Mary’s has a style which recalls the sweet old houses of God which are to be found in our remote villlages. Trinity boasts an exceedingly graceful spire, and St. Peter’s, albeit the funds ran short before the no doubt excellent intentions of its promoters could be carried out, gives promise of being a beautiful church when finished.

It is not a pleasant feature in our religious life that the tower or spire of a church the part which is perpetually pointing the thoughts of men to the everlasting God – which, more than any other part, is a monument to His glory – is that which is first to be sacrificed to financial considerations.

The general appearance of the town of Harrogate is picturesque in the extreme. Looked at from the Observatory, it seems embowered in trees, whilst its wide and exquisitcly clean streets, its sweeping crescents, and the variety of design in its buildings give it an individuality both rare and charming. In “Humphrey Clinker”, that work in which the genius of Smollet has preserved for us the very soul of the life of the last century, Harrogate is described as “A wild common, bare and bleak, without tree or shrub, or the least sign of cultivation.” How the keen-eyed old Tobias would stare if he could see the Harrogate of to-day, and how it falsifies his description. In the same work he insisted that whereas there was an ebb and flow in the popularity of all other watering places, the glory of Bath was above the changes of time. Oh, Tobias! the glory that was Bath’s has been transferred to that despised wild common in Yorkshire. […]’

This site has been conceived in conjunction with the HERA-funded research project The European Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor. Conception: Astrid Köhler, Text © Astrid Köhler and Karen Southworth, Design © Jana Riedel.