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
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
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
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
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.