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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 5

The first world war changed the fortunes of the town celebrated for its springs, the world depression of the 30's accelerated the decline in Spa treatment.

Came the second world war and Harrogate as a safe area, was requisitioned to its last five-star bedroom. The Ministry of Works, and other government departments evacuated from London, moved in; hotels were stripped of their furniture over-night, and permanent residents had alternative accommodation found for them by the doting doctors.

It was remarkable that when de-requisitioning and rehabilitation came about on 28th February 1947, there remained no fewer than thirty old ladies, (one, with a devoted middle-aged bachelor son, whose father had built the beautiful church of St. Wilfrid on the Duchy Estate) anxious to be re-introduced to the Hydro as permanent residents. The new management, recruited from the catering department of the new Westminster Hospital in London, received them and resumed business on the old pattern, but the revival was short lived. The old days had gone for ever; medical science had progressed enormously, and though the doctors re-appeared and tried to dominate, they were no longer willing to invest their own capital in hotel keeping, and whilst the National Health Service prescribed a respite of three years for the Harrogate Spa treatment with a subsidy of 30,000 per annum, more advanced treatment was becoming available in the new hospitals. The Queen Hotel re-opened, but soon closed to become the headquarters of the Leeds Regional Hospital Board. The Hydro re-claimed its moribund intoxicating liquor licence and changed its name back to the Swan - The Old Swan Hotel - as that latter day benefactor and Mayor, Alderman C Jack Simpson, Chairman of the company, whose father and grandfather before him had both been Mayors of Harrogate, proclaimed it must be.

Jack Simpson was also chairman of the Baths and Wells Committee of the Harrogate Corporation; he could not condone the re-opening of the Hydro's suite of medical baths to compete with those of the municipality. A shrewd decision, for they could not have been profitable, and a wise decision too, for subsequently the area was redeveloped for the operation of the modernised hotel.

C Jack Simpson became a Freeman of Harrogate before he died in 1973, but it was now Geoffrey Wright who was " licensed to sell intoxicating liquor" at the sign of the Old Swan at Harrogate from 1952 onwards. Alderman Simpson or Jack Simpson as he was known to his multitude of friends, was also a sportsman in the greatest sense of the word. He was President of the Harrogate Cricket Club, responsible for Yorkshire County matches coming to the Harrogate ground, and on the Committee of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club itself. The Simpson family tradition of public service to the town lives on at the Swan, where David Simpson now represents his family interests as a director.

For the Simpsons, life is sport. It is more important for them to run the race than to win it, and they are not only excellent players but also expert scorers to boot.

Jack Simpson loved telling the story of being stopped in boyhood by a "peeler" for speeding down Parliament Street - on his pony!

 

 

 
 
 

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