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The Song of the Swan

Cover  -  Introduction  -  Chapter 1  - Chapter 2  -  Chapter 3  -  Chapter 4 
Chapter 5   -   Chapter 6   -   Chapter 7   -   Pictures

Chapter 1

The road passed near the corner of an old enclosed park, Haywra (gate), three miles west of the two ancient hamlets in the Forest of Knaresborough, which were to become world famous as the centuries passed.

Hay represents the Anglo-Saxon Hege and the Anglo-French Haie means enclosure or park; wra is Anglo-Saxon and means a corner. Haywra is still there today and is known as Haverah; gate is the Scandinavian word meaning way or road *

The gate seems to have remained closed for many a century; westward the forest was protected by the backbone of England, The Pennines. The Vikings and the Norsemen, when first they came, approached from the West, but did not descend from the hills into the Vale of York.

The Norwegian Kings buried on the Western Isle of lona were brought there by sea round the North of Scotland. The Celtic crosses, a badge of the Northern Christians, which were found there, have a replica in the church of Ramsgill in Upper Nidderdale on the slopes of Great Whernside, but none have been found further East.

Until comparatively recent times, the Bishop of Tromso in Norway included all the Scottish Isles in his See, and passage was by way of the Hebrides.

The synod of Whitby (A.D. 664), Yorkshire's first successful conference, resulted in the Northern Christians agreeing with Rome upon the date of Easter in every year, and to joining the Roman Catholic Church. The Doomsday Book, that great inventory of Britain compiled for William the Conqueror (1086) lists Bilton, now part of Harrogate and Pannal, (in which parish Harrogate now is,) and Knaresborough, but no Haywra. Southward towards the Wharfe, we find Rougemont, the first stronghold of the present Harewood's ancestors. This original motte was similar to the one preserved in York and known as Clifford's Tower, but the 'red mound' was abandoned in favour of the safer ground on the hillside where they built their first castle, now but a ghostly ruin above Harewood bank. Here is where our history begins and Harrogate is proud to have maintained its royal patronage over all the years that followed.

King John (1199 - 1216), the bad King who was forced to sign Magna Carta and who is reputed to have lost the crown jewels of that time in the Wash, hunted the Forest of Knaresborough from Knaresborough Castle. He may have refreshed himself at the Tewit Well, but it was a more lowly subject, much later, in 1571, who discovered the remarkable properties of the spring in the forest where the lapwings always come - tewits as these birds are known in Yorkshire. William Slingsby of Knaresborough had travelled abroad and had benefited in health from continental spa waters and he became very interested in the similarity of the Tewit Well as he named it. (See Spadacrene Anglica by Edmund Deane, 1626). Sir William Slingsby, of Bilton Hall, a nephew, later walled in and paved the Tewit Well, and made his uncle's discovery known to the public. Thereupon physicians sent their patients to drink the waters and The English Spew, or The Glory of Knaresborough, was born, "springing from several famous fountains there called the Vitrioll, Sulphurous and dropping wells whence it is proved by Reason and Experience that the Vitrioline Fountain is equal (and not inferior) to the German Spaw". (John Taylor, apothecary, in York, 1649).

The legend of St Mungo (circa A.D. 512) may have stimulated belief in the water cure, for the saint was venerated in the district, and at Copgrove eight miles from Harrogate, he effected remarkable cures on children; a Well near Copgrove Hall still bears his name.

Harrogate, Arx Celebris Fontibus," the town noted for its springs, was indeed renowned, but fame was to follow with the subsequent discovery of more remarkable, more beneficial, and more varied waters, including Magnum donum Dei "Gods great gift" - strong sulphur, among others, to total no less than eighty-eight in all. Thirty-six are in the beautiful Valley Gardens created nearby the original 'Bogs Field'.

The variety of the springs in such a small area is the result of a geological fault, the Yoredale Shales, which, originally horizontal, became tilted into an upright position by the weight of overlying Millstone Grit. The various springs came up through the thin layers, some differing greatly from others; they are the ones the physicians analysed and prescribed in careful doses to effect the famous "Harrogate Cure" of the last century when the doctors virtually ruled the town and brought prosperity to the ever increasing population.

* The three Ridings of Yorkshire derive from the Scandinavian word meaning a third; Norwegian triplets are still "trilyings".




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