A Brief History of Harrogate

The Harrogate name can be found as far back as 1332 according to surviving documentary evidence. By 1399 Harrogate became Royal property when the possessions of the Duchy of Lancaster merged with the English Royal Crown.

Harrogate sprang from two hamlets, only known for their relation to the historic town of Knaresborough. William Slingsby discovered the first Harrogate mineral well in 1571. Believing it to possess the same qualities as spa water, Tewit Well was likened to Belgium spa waters and was said to have health properties. Dr Bright dubbed Harrogate “The English Spa” in 1596.



By 1660, the town of Harrogate was expanding rapidly. Public bathing houses soon sprang up around the town. Doctors wrote about Harrogate waters and their health benefits, driving more people to seek medical cures in the town. People came from far and wide to bathe and drink the waters.

Already well-established as a spa town, The Enclosure Act for the Forest of Knaresborough saw the protection of 200 acres of land, including the springs and The Stray parkland visitors came for the waters and enjoyed countless walks through the parks which was a breath of fresh air compared to inner city smog.

Between 1830 and 1841, local businessmen and hoteliers tried to profit from the wells by siphoning the precious waters into their own wells for visitors. As a result of this vandalism, locals petitioned for an Act of Parliament to protect the wells that were so instrumental to the town’s survival.



In 1897 The Royal Baths was opened to offer spa treatments and hydrotherapy to visitors. Today, the Turkish Baths is all that is left of the working spa. Many similar institutions follower but as 1914 brought the First World War, a decline in spa treatments caused many to suffer.



By the 1940s, Harrogate had reinvented itself as a conference town. The Old Swan Hotel secured the International Toy Fair for the town in the 1960’s, cementing Harrogate as a place for business and congregation. Today the town hosts many internationally renowned fairs and meetings at the International Conference Centre.



All photo's are kindly provided by Francis Frith.com.