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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 2

King Harold Godwinson fought and beat the last Norseman Invasion sent by King Hardrada of Norway at Stamford Bridge on 25th September, 1066. It speaks well for the bracing Yorkshire air that he then should have been fit enough to march south to defend England against the invading Normans under William the Conqueror and to put up a reasonable show at the Battle of Hastings, nineteen days later on 14th October, before an arrow blinded him and the battle was lost. The heritage that ensued was a gain indeed.

The Norman knights built their castles in the hills - Ripley, Harewood, Richmond, Snape, and mighty Skipton. Later generations built their historic houses; just as the castles were to take in the overlords' dependents in time of need, for protection, so do the custodian families to this day receive and welcome visitors and take them in - Harewood - Castle Howard - Nostell Priory - Newby Hall, and Ripley to name but a few.

The monks chose the dales in which to build their abbeys and their monasteries. They cultivated the land, gave hospitality to the traveller and sanctuary to the oppressed. Fountains, one of the most beautiful and important monasteries in Britain, Rievaulx, Bolton, and Jervaulx, where the first Wensleydale cheeses were made, were dissolved and ruined, but they are enchanting ruins where we can feast our imagination against the unchanging backcloth of the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep grazed the hillsides and provided wool as England's staple, from which good cloth was made. Later the loom stimulated the need for power, out of which came the great industrial revolution, the canals and the railway system.

Pack horses and drovers passed over the green roads of the Yorkshire Moors but hard roads began to be developed. Blind Jack Metcalf of Knaresborough (1717 - 1810) discovered that to endure, roads had to be well drained. Once the turnpikes were made, four-in-hand coaches could move with greater speed and reliability and posting houses were established. But even by 1700, stage coaches and later mail coaches plied the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, via York and Leeds, whence the Harrogate coaches staged to the Black Swan in High Harrogate and the Wellington in Low Harrogate.

High Harrogate was at first the more favoured of the two hamlets and visitors were received at The Marquis of Granby, at the Queen's Head, at The County and in the lodgings there.

The popularity of Low Harrogate rose to pre-eminence when the old Sulphur Well was discovered and its waters were found to be even more beneficial than those of the Tewit Well.

About this time (circa 1700) Jonathan Shutt the 1st began to receive his share of visitors at the sign of the Swan in Low Harrogate and in the adjacent cottages known as Swan Lodgings. Succeeding generations of the family applied themselves diligently to the needs of the visitors, and with the traditional warmth of Yorkshire hospitality, developed the old inn in such a manner that before 1840 the Swan Inn had become The Swan Hotel, a gracious building in four acres of gardens overlooking the heart of the spa area. The old cottages had been pulled down and a fine Georgian house,(1835) built in their place.

In 1821, the landlord of the Swan Inn was Jonathan Shutt junior, his father having retired to the lesser responsibilities of owning a nearby lodging house, but the elder's old brew house and wine cellars can still be visited below the present reception hall at the entrance to the Tudor Bar.

This Jonathan Shutt (1779 - 1840) earned himself a place in Harrogate's history; apart from being one of the pioneers of the town's fame for hospitality, he discovered what amounted to an act of piracy on the part of Joseph Thackwray, owner of the Crown Hotel which adjoined the famous Sulphur Well. These wells were among several in both Low and High Harrogate which were public property. They were available to all corners, and since the community relied for its prosperity on the wells being available to the public, the leading inhabitants had in 1770, at the time of the Enclosure Act for the Forest of Knaresborough, ensured that the public wells would remain accessible by persuading Parliament to leave 200 acres of the Forest unenclosed, constituting a great horseshoe of land embracing the principal springs. This area, known as The Stray, remains, as always, an open space and an invaluable asset to Harrogate. Joseph Thackwray of the Crown Hotel also owned the adjoining estate known by reason of the quality of its medicinal springs as "Montpellier ". The Spa waters were not only drunk as medicine; they were bathed in. Inns and lodging houses alike provided bathing facilities and the water for these baths was drawn from the public wells. Thackwray, having medicinal springs on his own estate, had built a suite of baths.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan Shutt Junior was incensed one winter's morning in 1835 to discover that just within a building attached to the Crown Hotel, and within a matter of yards of the public sulphur wells, Thackwrays workmen were digging a well which not only yielded sulphur water but which manifestly and markedly reduced the flow of the public well. Here, in short, was one hotelier already fortunate enough to own private wells and a private bathing establishment, actually seeking to siphon off the sacrosanct water of the public wells on whose flow everybody relied who did not possess a private well!

Jonathan Shutt Junior raised the alarm and became one of the five deponents who brought a successful prosecution against Thackwray at considerable cost to themselves. It was this case which finally convinced the people of the two Harrogates that they needed to protect their environment and, particularly, the public springs and The Stray which were their greatest assets. Jonathan Shutt Junior died in 1840, but he would surely have approved of the Harrogate Improvement Act of 1841, for it established the form of local government by Improvement Commissioners which in 43 years was to turn the two Harrogate "villages" into a united, progressive, and highly prosperous spa town.

 

 

 
 
 

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