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Later History and Development of Harrogate


It was in the period of which we have just spoken that Smollett wrote of Harrogate as "a wild common, bare and bleak, without tree or shrub, or the least signs of cultivation." The latter stage of Harrogate's progress presents another aspect. Formerly Harrogate was divided in two distinct portions, separated by wide verdant fields, interlaced with sandy walks, fairly sheltered by rugged timber, and furnished with rough yet comfortable benches. This was when the railway approached no nearer than Starbeck, about midway between Harrogate and Knaresborough, 'buses plying the journey to and from the railway station. 

One of the earlier movements of Harrogate's later progress was the transference of the Old Sulphur Well covering or structure to the Tewit Well, where it now does duty, and the erection of the present substantial building over the Old Sulphur. The architect was the late Mr. I. T. Shutt, of the then Swan Hotel (now the Harrogate Hydropathic), in the hands of whose family the popular house remained for many years. Mr. Shutt's work was symmetrical and creditable, especially so long as it was surmounted by the massive dolphins, which the light replacement in iron has not improved, though age and uncertainty necessitated the change. The introduction of a railway station into the centre of the town, and consequent direct communication with the outer world, marks the period of Harrogate's progress by leaps and bounds. 

The authors of this scheme were Mr. Richard Carter, Mr. Richard Ellis, and the late Mr. John Richardson. Mr. Nicholas Carter, who has been largely associated with Harrogate's enterprise, had no active part in the venture, as he was from home most of the time, but he doubtless took some financial interest in the development of at least a portion of the scheme. The idea of a railway invading Harrogate was howled down in one of those old-fashioned town's meetings where noise, bluster, and irresponsibility made itself known; and received the support of a few generally intelligent, but timid people. The scheme was carried through, with the encouragement of the progressive Harrogate residents, by Messrs. R. Carter and R. Ellis in face of opposition, though we believe Mr. Richardson withdrew, left the train which was conveying the above gentlemen to the scene of the final negotiations, and retired from the syndicate. The railway company selected the land they needed at their own price from the vendors, Messrs. Carter and Ellis, the latter of whom retained much of that extending from the south side of James Street to the far limits of Victoria Park. The development of this estate stamped the Harrogate of the future, for Victoria Park, with its broad imposing avenue, its stately villas, and well-wooded grounds, its clean, wide roads fringed with verdant sward and shaded by graceful foliage, has served as a model for the numerous enterprises which have followed in such rapid profusion. The acquisition of the railway and the central station has had the effect of welding together the once detached portions of the town, and little trace remains of the former distinction.

Another important undertaking, the West End Park Company's estate, originated in 1867. The area, seventy acres, had a situation which could hardly fail to recommend it for superior sites. The handsome villas on Leeds Road, facing Harrogate, with their expansive Stray view, were soon monopolised, and Harlow Road, from the Prince of Wales corner, with their picturesque mansions and grounds raised Harrogate to an important architectural standard. The Leeds Road villas arrest the eye of the visitor as the train from the south reaches the open, whilst from Parliament Street and the vicinity of the Prospect Hotel, the Harlow Road residences, with their softly wooded surroundings bathed in the green foreground of the Stray, afford an impressive glimpse of modern Harrogate. The tapering spire of Trinity Wesley an Chapel adds a pleasant relief to this picture.

The neighbourhood of West End Park, which includes the Otley and Leeds Road villas and Royal Crescent, forms one of the most charming residential parts of Harrogate. From the taste and enterprise of the late Mr. Joseph Stephenson much of the architecture in this and other parts of the town derived its character. Mr. Stephenson built " Dunorlan," one of our finest mansions ; the Congregational and United Free Methodist Churches, the Victoria Baths, Westminster Terrace, the buildings on Westminster Bridge, as well as other important property in Harrogate.

The late Alderman George Dawson also added materially to the architecture of the town. He built the Post Office buildings, known as Prospect Crescent, Cambridge Crescent, rebuilt the Crown Hotel, the Crown block, and some of the finest residences.

Whilst this builder was operating in various parts of the town, the late Messrs. G. and J. Exelby were opening out the fair district known as Alexandra Park, the beautifully arranged estate which commands the lower grounds of the Spa. The late Mr. H. E. Bown, just at this time, had secured the Franklin estate and erected most of the series of early English villas which grace one of the most artistic suburbs of the town. Neither the Victoria, Alexandra, or Franklin properties now afford many building sites, and steadily the wave of progress is encroaching upon vacant spaces in all directions. The West End Park has a splendid future in prospect, and Harrogate looks in this direction for its early series of speculative surprises. Had the late Mr. Joseph Stephenson lived we should not have waited even thus long for a fulfillment that is inevitable and a mere question of time. Mr. R. Ellis, the Messrs. Carter, Exelby, Bown, Alderman Simpson, the late Mr. James Simpson (and many others, but in a lesser have been active builders of Harrogate, and their enterprise has largely contributed to the dignity and structural substance of the town as we now see it. 

No more charming growth can be found in Harrogate than the Duchy property, abutting on Queen and Lancaster roads. Here are villas substantial, quaint, and novel, all stamped with the impress of architectural taste, accessible by broad, richly wooded roads, constantly acquiring new charms. This property, we believe, has been fully appropriated by the builder, and no longer offers available sites. The Lancaster Park lands, bordering upon Wetherby and Starbeck roads, have as yet made little progress, though the prospect is not without hope. Plans, we believe, are in existence for the development of the Duchy lands extending from Ripon Road along the north side of the town, due west, taking in the north side of Cornwall Road as far as the reservoirs. A number of pleasant semi-detached villas have recently been erected at the Ripon Road end of the estate, and others are in prospect. Starbeck, even, is rapidly growing, and where once Harrogate was recognised as " near Knaresborough," so speedily is the dividing space becoming eliminated that this order of things bids fair to be reversed.

In attempting to follow the course of building enterprise in its consecutive order, we have passed away from the purely public development of the town, and therefore return to the erection of the new Victoria Baths by the then Improvement Commissioners and Local Board of Health, as illustrating another stage of the town's advancement. The new Victoria Baths stand near the site of the original baths, a little in the rear of the Crescent Hotel, and are a prominent feature of the square in which the Spa Concert Room and the George Hotel are prominent objects. The new Victoria Baths, were originally built at a cost of about 30,000, in 1871. The old Victoria Baths were built in 1832, and though restored somewhat, still may be seen in the lower portion of the Town Hall gardens, facing Promenade Terrace, Low Harrogate. In 1835, Mr. Thackwray, of the Crown Hotel, laid out the Montpellier Gardens, and erected the original baths therein. 

Even earlier than this - in 1824 - the old Bath Hospital was founded for the relief of the afflicted poor from all parts of the country, whose ailments could be benefited by a course of waters. The results achieved by this institution bear eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the Harrogate waters. The erection of the Public Market in Cambridge Street and nearly opposite the railway station, in 1874, aroused once more the old spirit of opposition to improvement. The enterprise, however, has proved an excellent investment to the public authority of the town. It was built by the Improvement Commissioners then in power.

Harrogate has been pronounced by the most eminent authorities to be the "best sewered town in the kingdom." About the time the market was erected the Improvement Commissioners purchased the jenny Plain farm from the Duchy of Lancaster, and constructed a sewage system which is the admiration of all experts in such matters who visit it, and these are numberless. The land, 310 acres in extent, lies in the outskirts of the town, along Ripon road on one side and Skipton road on the other. The sewage of the town and surface water are conveyed in separate sewers to the farm on Ripon road and to other fields in Wetherby Lane. The sewage is deodorised by passing over the land, which is rendered prolific of luxuriant crops. A large and complete scheme of flagging was carried out some years ago by the Improvement Commissioners, and asphalting rapidly followed where flagging became undesirable, with the result that Harrogate is completely furnished with dry walks. 

The acquisition by the town of Harlow Moor, leased by the Earl of Harewood to our local authority, was welcomed by the residents and visitors generally. The uncertain walks then existing were broadened and rendered dry in almost all weathers, seats placed at convenient intervals, and the passage even of bath chairs rendered more comfortable. From the moor fine stretches of attractive landscape and new panoramic views of Harrogate were opened out, and now the walk through the Bogs Valley Gardens, across the Bogs fields (where the wealth of Harrogate's mineral waters abounds), and over Harlow Moor has become one of the most popular promenades in the district. Next in order of improvements comes the acquisition of the Bogs Valley, which has been picturesquely laid out by the town, and presents one of the most charming resorts in all Harrogate, and being free, is largely frequented by those who delight to read under the grateful shade of its shrubbery, its graceful timber, and inhale the sweet perfumes of its wealth of bloom. Another great public work realized about this time was the gigantic storage reservoirs in the field beyond the Hydropathic. In the winter huge quantities of sulphur waters ran to waste, but the reservoirs, fitted with floating covers, now obviate to some extent this loss, for they contain the enormous supply of about 365,000 gallons always available at a convenient pressure. The future demand, however it may increase, can thus be adequately and liberally met. The crowning achievement of our public authority has been the purchase, for 29,500, of the Montpellier Gardens, where new baths are being erected at an additional cost of something like 60,000. The Sulphur Well and the whole of the medicinal waters and bathing systems are now in the hands of the Corporation, by whom an Inspector has been appointed for their efficient administration. In 1884 the Improvement Commissioners gave place to a Municipal Corporation, and since that date, the various public works have been conceived and carried out by that authority.



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