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History of Harrogate and Districts

History of Harrogate and Districts

Click Here to Find the History of Knaresborough

The History below is that I have researched on the internet and in libraries and hopefully correct, however, history sometimes differs in the views of different historians. Should you find any errors, anything I might have missed or indeed anything  I can include or research please email

History of Harrogate:

The history of Harrogate and its surrounding districts is a fascinating tale of origins and evolution. The etymology of the town’s name presents intriguing possibilities. It may have roots in Old Norse, where “hrgr” denotes a heap of stones or cairn, and “gata” signifies a street. In this context, the name might have originally meant “the road to the cairn.” Alternatively, some believe it could be linked to “the way to Harlow.” An earlier form, “Harlowgate,” appears in records dating back to 1518 during Edward II’s reign.

Medieval Harrogate found itself straddling the borders of the township of Bilton with Harrogate, within the ancient Parish of Knaresborough, and the parish of Pannal, also known as Beckwith with Rossett. Over time, the part within Bilton evolved into the community of High Harrogate, while the segment within Pannal became Low Harrogate. Both were nestled within the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. In 1372, King Edward III bestowed the Royal Forest upon his son, John, Duke of Lancaster (also known as John of Gaunt), making the Duchy of Lancaster the principal landowner in Harrogate.

The 17th century marked a significant turning point as Harrogate transformed from a quiet hamlet into a burgeoning Spa Town. It was toward the end of the 16th century when a traveller quenched their thirst from a well in Harrogate, noticing that the water tasted remarkably like the renowned spa waters. In those days, people believed that imbibing and bathing in spa water held curative powers, and this discovery led to the slow emergence of Harrogate as a spa town.

The first of these therapeutic wells to be uncovered was Tewitt Well. In 1596, a traveller by the name of Slingsby stumbled upon its waters, which were found on Stray, a common in Harrogate. These waters possessed properties similar to those in the Belgian Spa. Slingsby aptly named the well “Tewit” after a local term for the peewit or lapwing bird, which still frequents the Stray common. However, Tewitt Well saw fewer visitors than its counterparts in Low Harrogate and St John’s Well in High Harrogate, owing to its distance from Victorian hotels and lodging houses. In 1842, the structure enclosing the Royal Pump Room, situated over the Old Sulphur Well, was replaced by a new design by Isaac Shutt for the Improvement Commissioners. The original structure was then relocated to Tewitt Well, and it remains an iconic landmark, even inspiring the name of the local youth brass band, ‘The Tewit Youth Band.’

Harrogate’s expansion continued in the 1600s when Dr. Michael Stanhope unearthed a second well known as St John’s Well. Edmund Deane played a pivotal role in publicizing the medicinal qualities of these waters, and his book, “Spadacrene Anglica, or the English Spa Fountain,” was published in 1626.

As the 17th and 18th centuries unfolded, more chalybeate springs were discovered in High Harrogate, alongside chalybeate and sulphur springs in Low Harrogate. These developments attracted a multitude of visitors. To accommodate them, numerous inns were established in High Harrogate during the 17th century, including the Queen’s Head, the Granby, the Dragon, and the World’s End. In Low Harrogate, the Crown was already serving guests by the mid-18th century, if not earlier.

History of Harrogate and Districts

In the early 1700s, Harrogate was still a growing town, and its history is deeply intertwined with the development of its iconic landmarks and facilities. Initially, people bathed in a sulphur well that had a rather unflattering local nickname – the stinking well. Later in the 18th century, inns were constructed to provide accommodation for visitors. It was in the late 1800s that the Magnesia Well was discovered, and the Royal Baths opened their doors to the public in 1897.

Towards the end of the 1800s, significant changes occurred in Harrogate’s landscape. Initially, much of the public land was enclosed by local residents. However, around 200 acres were later designated as public land. This period saw a substantial population increase, with around 4,000 people living in the town by 1831.

Harrogate’s transformation was facilitated by the Enclosure Act of 1770, which was promoted by the Duchy of Lancaster. This act led to the enclosure of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. The subsequent enclosure award in 1778 clarified land ownership in the Harrogate area, and it set aside 200 acres of land, including the springs of the time, as a public common called The Stray, which remains a public open space today. This award encouraged development around The Stray.

During the 19th century, the areas of High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, which were once separate communities a mile apart, merged, forming the central area of modern-day Harrogate, situated on high ground overlooking Low Harrogate. To the north of the town, land reserved for the Duchy of Lancaster was developed for residential buildings.

In terms of providing entertainment for the growing number of visitors, the Georgian Theatre was constructed in 1788. Bath Hospital (later known as the Royal Bath Hospital) was built in 1826, and the Royal Pump Room followed in 1842. The Tewit Well site is marked by a dome on The Stray, and other wells can be found in the Valley Gardens and the Royal Pump Room museum.

History of Harrogate and Districts

Harrogate reached several important milestones in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Piped water was introduced in 1846, followed by gas lighting in 1847. In 1848, the town saw the establishment of its Railway Station, significantly increasing the number of visitors. In 1884, Harrogate appointed its first Mayor, and in 1887, a Public Library was established. Electricity was delivered to Harrogate in 1897. Notably, in 1893, Harrogate doctor George Oliver was the first to observe the effect of adrenaline on circulation.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Harrogate became a popular destination for the English elite and European nobility. However, its popularity waned after the First World War. In the Second World War, Harrogate’s large hotels accommodated government offices evacuated from London, paving the way for the town to evolve into a commercial, conference, and exhibition centre.

Harrogate’s industrial landscape also saw the presence of significant employers, including the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), the Milk Marketing Board, and ICI, which had offices and laboratories at Hornbeam Park, where the synthetic fabric Crimplene was invented in the 1950s, named after the nearby Crimple Valley and beck.

In 2007, a remarkable archaeological discovery occurred when two metal detectorists found the Harrogate hoard, a 10th-century Viking treasure, near Harrogate. This hoard contains nearly 700 coins and other items from as far away as Afghanistan, making it a significant find.

Harrogate’s cultural scene also thrived during this period. Harrogate Theatre opened its doors in 1900, and a War Memorial was built in 1923. The Sun Pavilion and colonnade were constructed in 1933. The Royal Pump Room was transformed into a museum in 1953, and for a brief period, the NHS sent people to the Royal Baths for treatments.

Today, Harrogate retains its charm and historical significance. Central Harrogate serves as a district centre for retail, housing major chains, and features pedestrianized shopping streets like Cambridge Street and Oxford Street. Designer boutiques and upmarket department stores can be found on Parliament Street, Montpellier, and James Street. The town boasts a variety of entertainment options, from bars and restaurants on Cheltenham Crescent and John Street to the bustling nightlife around the Royal Baths and Parliament Street.

History of Harrogate and Districts

The southern end of central Harrogate is mainly characterized by converted detached houses used for offices. Notable institutions like Harrogate Magistrates’ Court and Harrogate Central Library can be found on Victoria Avenue. In the central southern part of Harrogate, some upmarket boutiques line The Stray.

Beyond the central area, Harrogate encompasses various neighbourhoods, each with its unique character. Woodlands in the southeast is home to Harrogate Town F.C., schools, and supermarkets. Bilton, with its numerous churches, stores, and schools, has a rich history dating back to the Domesday Book in 1086. It is known for its poetic street names and upscale housing.

This is just a glimpse of Harrogate’s rich history and vibrant present, showcasing how it has evolved from a modest spa town to a diverse and thriving community with a global reputation.

Jennyfields: Jennyfields is a modern, expansive neighbourhood located in the northwest of Harrogate. It is home to two schools, Saltergate Infant School and Saltergate Primary School. Additionally, the town’s primary public swimming pool is situated on the outskirts of Jennyfield, providing residents with recreational opportunities.

The Duchy Estate: The Duchy estate is an upscale area in proximity to central Harrogate. The predominant housing consists of spacious detached homes, some of which have been converted into flats. This area is home to several private schools, notably Harrogate Ladies’ College. Residents can also enjoy a golf club and the nearby open countryside, ideal for leisurely walks.

Starbeck: Positioned to the east of Harrogate, Starbeck features a railway station with connections to Harrogate, Leeds, Knaresborough, and York. A frequent bus service links Starbeck to Harrogate and Knaresborough, making it accessible for commuters. The area is well-equipped with schools, churches, and shops.

History of Harrogate and Districts

Pannal: To the south of Harrogate, off the A61 road, lies Pannal. This area retains much of its village charm. Commuters can make use of a nearby station that connects Pannal to Harrogate, York, Knaresborough, and Leeds.

High Harrogate: High Harrogate, an inner section to the east of the town centre, centres around Westmoreland Street and the A59 Skipton Road. This area boasts various shops and cafés. Along the Stray, you’ll find expensive terraced houses, adding a touch of elegance to the neighbourhood.

Low Harrogate: Located to the west of the town centre, Low Harrogate is a hub for tourists in the town. Attractions such as the Royal Pump Room, Mercer Art Gallery, and the Valley Gardens draw visitors to this area. Harlow Hill: Situated to the west of Harrogate, Harlow Hill can be accessed via Otley Road. This district features a mix of new developments and an office park. Notable for RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, it is also home to the Harrogate Spa bottling plant and a water treatment centre.

New Park: New Park, a small area to the north of Harrogate, accommodates a primary school and a mix of terraced houses and light industrial and commercial premises.

Wheatlands: Wheatlands, a affluent district south of the Stray, is predominantly residential. It is home to two schools, St Aidan’s and St John Fisher’s, contributing to its family-friendly atmosphere.

Killinghall: Killinghall is a commuter village located approximately 3 miles north of Harrogate. It stretches south from the bridges on the A61 road over the River Nidd. This village connects Harrogate to Ripon and features a regular bus service between these locations. Killinghall also boasts several amenities, including a primary school, places of worship, a children’s day nursery, a doctor’s office, and a garden centre with a nursery. The village’s proximity to open countryside provides a pleasant rural aspect.

The village’s historical roots extend far back in time, even predating the Norman conquest of England. In fact, there’s compelling evidence that its origins can be traced to Celtic times. This ancient settlement, mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chenihalle or Kennelhall, likely served as a place for housing the hounds owned by the Lord of the Manor.

Notably, a nobleman in Yorkshire held the privilege, granted by one of the Saxon kings, to maintain Mastiff dogs specifically for the purpose of warding off wolves from their territory. Additionally, the village’s name has been associated with Chillingehal, signifying “the place of Cylla’s people” in Old English. Moving forward to the 17th century, early settlers secured land in the Hollins Hall region along Lund Lane. This historical information is credited to Alan Gould and the Bilton Historical Society.

The name “Knox” likely finds its roots in Old English, where “cnocc” or the Scots Gaelic “cnoc” referred to a round-topped hill, hillock, or hump. Thus, Knox Hill, a wooded and quarried summit situated between the A61 Ripon Road and Knox Lane.

Before 1850, Knox boasted little more than a cornmill, a packhorse bridge, and a couple of dwellings. The corn mill, located on Knox Mill Lane, which still preserves its waterwheel, likely dates back to the early 18th century, as indicated by an inscription of the year 1745 on the mill house fireplace. The mill clearly prospered, as John Oliver, the owner towards the end of the 18th century, also owned land at Church Square.

Spruisty Bridge, constructed in the 17th century, served as an essential route for packhorse traffic across Oak Beck. The ford, possibly older than the bridge, might have been used by the Cistercian monks of Fountains Abbey. This path ran from Killinghall through the ford, along Knox Lane, and onwards to the south of Bilton, where the Abbey owned more granges. This route was historically significant, making it plausible that either James I or Charles I crossed the bridge during their respective journeys south. If the bridge was built only in the 17th century, Charles I’s visit in 1646 seems more likely than James I’s in 1603.

History of Harrogate and Districts

By 1850, Knox included the corn mill, a couple of houses on the north side of Knox Mill Lane, small quarries, and the bridge keeper’s residence, which was later demolished around 1900. Knox Lane, originally known as Old Trough Lane, had only one building as you ascended away from the river, eventually reaching Knox House Farm, now the Knox pub. Knox Hill Farm, overlooking the Ripon Road, is the sole surviving farm from that era. Knox Farm and Hill Top (or Red Cat) Farm were demolished in the latter half of the 20th century to make way for housing developments. They were situated at the eastern ends of Knox Grove and Redhill Close, respectively.

The late Victorian period brought further developments, such as the construction of rows of cottages on the northern side of Knox Lane near the river, and William Woods’ bleachworks. Woods found himself in a protracted legal dispute with the Harrogate Improvement Commissioners between 1867 and 1876, seeking damages and compensation due to the adverse impact of sewage-contaminated Oak Beck waters on his bleached linen. Eventually, Woods prevailed in his case, but by that time, he had closed his bleach yard, and Harrogate had improved its sewage treatment facilities. The land between the cottages and the bleach yard later transformed into Pettinger’s market garden.

History of Harrogate and Districts

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