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History of Harrogate

History of Harrogate

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 name Harrogate has a rich history, with its first recorded appearances in the 1330s as Harwegate, Harougat, and Harrowgate. The origins of the name are somewhat uncertain, but there are a couple of theories. It might have its roots in Old Norse, with “hrgr” meaning ‘a heap of stones or cairn,’ and “gata” meaning ‘street.’ In this case, the name could have meant ‘road to the cairn.’ Another possibility is that it signifies “the way to Harlow.” The form “Harlowgate” is known from 1518 and appeared in the court rolls of Edward II.

During medieval times, Harrogate was situated on the borders of the township of Bilton with Harrogate in the ancient Parish of Knaresborough, as well as the parish of Pannal, also known as Beckwith with Rossett. The area within the township of Bilton evolved into High Harrogate, while the part within Pannal developed into Low Harrogate. Both of these communities were situated within the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. In 1372, King Edward III granted the Royal Forest to his son John, Duke of Lancaster (also known as John of Gaunt), making the Duchy of Lancaster the primary landowner in Harrogate.

The transformation of Harrogate into a Spa Town began in the 17th century. It was towards the end of the 16th century when a traveller had a sip of water from a well in Harrogate. This traveller, who had visited many other spas, noticed that the water from this well had similar properties to spa water. In those days, people believed that drinking and bathing in spa water had healing qualities. The word about this special water quickly spread, marking the gradual transformation of Harrogate into a spa town.

History of Harrogate

The first well to be discovered was Tewitt Well. In 1596, a traveller named Slingsby found that the water from Stray, a common area in Harrogate, had similar properties to the famous Spa in Belgium. He named this well “Tewit,” which referred to a local word for a peewit or lapwing, a bird that is still commonly seen on the Stray common. Tewit Well received fewer visitors compared to the wells in Low Harrogate or St John’s Well in High Harrogate because of 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 structure designed by Isaac Shutt for the Improvement Commissioners. The old structure was then relocated to Tewitt Well, and it remains a notable landmark in the area. In fact

Harrogate’s growth and historical significance are truly remarkable. In the 1600s, the town’s expansion began with the discovery of a second well, St John’s Well, by Dr. Michael Stanhope. Edmund Deane played a pivotal role in publicizing the medicinal properties of the town’s waters, with the publication of his book “Spadacrene Anglica, or the English Spa Fountain” in 1626.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw the discovery of more chalybeate springs in High Harrogate, along with chalybeate and sulphur springs in Low Harrogate. This attracted numerous visitors, leading to the opening of inns such as the Queen’s Head, the Granby, the Dragon, and the World’s End in High Harrogate during the 17th century. In Low Harrogate, the Crown Inn was established by the mid-18th century, possibly even earlier.

In the early 1700s, Harrogate continued to grow, with people even bathing in a sulphur well known locally as the “stinking well.” Later in the century, inns were built to provide accommodations for visitors. The late 1800s brought the discovery of the Magnesia Well and the opening of the Royal Baths in 1897. While much of the public land was initially taken over by residents and enclosed, later, around 200 acres were returned to public use.

The Enclosure Act of 1770, promoted by the Duchy of Lancaster, led to the enclosure of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough, and in 1778, the ownership of land in the Harrogate area was clarified. A portion of land, including the springs known at the time, was reserved as a public common known as The Stray, which remains a public open space today. This award paved the way for development around The Stray.

During the 19th century, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, which had previously been separate communities, were integrated, leading to the development of what is now the central area of Harrogate on high ground overlooking Low Harrogate. An area to the north of the town was reserved for the Duchy of Lancaster and was developed for residential buildings.

To provide entertainment for the growing number of visitors, the Georgian Theatre was constructed in 1788, followed by the building of Bath Hospital (later the Royal Bath Hospital) in 1826 and the Royal Pump Room in 1842. Tewit Well’s site is now 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

The town made significant progress in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the introduction of piped water in 1846, gas lighting in 1847, and the construction of a Railway Station in 1848, which greatly increased the number of visitors. In 1884, Harrogate had its first Mayor, and in 1887, a Public Library was established. Electricity was delivered to Harrogate in 1897. Dr. George Oliver, a Harrogate doctor, made an important medical observation in 1893 when he was the first to study the effects of adrenaline on circulation.

Harrogate’s popularity peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attracting the English elite and nobility from mainland Europe. However, its popularity waned after the First World War. During the Second World War, Harrogate’s large hotels were repurposed to accommodate government offices evacuated from London, marking the town’s transition into a commercial, conference, and exhibition centre. The town’s history is a testament to its evolution from a spa destination to a multifaceted hub of activity.

Historical Connections:

Harrogate has a rich history with notable former employers in the town. The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), the Milk Marketing Board, and ICI once had offices and laboratories at Hornbeam Park. It was here that the revolutionary fabric, Crimplene, was invented in the 1950s, taking its name from the nearby Crimple Valley and beck.

Archaeological Discovery:

In 2007, a significant historical discovery occurred near Harrogate when two metal detectorists stumbled upon the Harrogate hoard, a treasure trove from the 10th century Viking era. This extraordinary find comprises nearly 700 coins and various items originating from as far away as Afghanistan. The British Museum hailed it as the most significant discovery of its kind in Britain in the last 150 years.

Cultural Landmarks:

Harrogate boasts several cultural landmarks. The Harrogate Theatre opened its doors in 1900, becoming a centre for the performing arts. In 1923, a War Memorial was erected to honour those who served. The Sun Pavilion and colonnade, completed in 1933, added a touch of architectural elegance to the town. The Royal Pump Room, converted into a museum in 1953, preserves the history of Harrogate’s spa heritage. At one time, the NHS sent individuals to the Royal Baths for therapeutic purposes.

Modern-Day Harrogate:

Today, central Harrogate is a thriving hub, bounded by the picturesque ‘the Stray’ to the south and west. It extends to High Harrogate and the Duchy estate to the east and north. Central Harrogate serves as a retail district, with the Victoria Shopping Centre hosting several major retail chains. The main high streets, pedestrianized Cambridge Street and Oxford Street, showcase local shopping, while designer boutiques and upscale department stores can be found along Parliament Street, Montpellier, and James Street. For entertainment, an Odeon cinema is located on the outskirts of central Harrogate. Supermarkets like Asda and Waitrose are within easy reach, and Marks and Spencer offers a large food hall at its store on Oxford Street.

Harrogate’s nightlife is centred around Cheltenham Crescent and John Street, with the Royal Baths and Parliament Street serving as focal points. The southern end of central Harrogate primarily consists of converted detached houses, with notable institutions like Harrogate Magistrates’ Court and Harrogate Central Library situated on Victoria Avenue. Upmarket boutiques dot the Stray in central southern Harrogate.

South-East Harrogate, specifically the Woodlands area adjacent to Starbeck/Knaresborough Road, is home to various amenities. It hosts Harrogate Town F.C., Willow Tree Primary School, and major supermarkets like Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, as well as the popular Woodlands pub.

Harrogate continues to bridge its rich history with a vibrant and contemporary lifestyle, offering something for everyone.

Bilton is a significant part of Harrogate with a rich history and a mix of amenities. This area boasts numerous churches, stores, and schools, including Richard Taylor School, Woodfield, and Bilton Grange. One unique feature is Poets’ Corner, known for its ‘poetic’ street names and upscale housing.

Historically, Bilton dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was first recorded as “Billeton.” The name has Old English origins and means “farmstead of a man named Billa.” Originally part of the parish of Knaresborough in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Bilton eventually formed a township with Harrogate. In 1866, the township of Bilton with Harrogate became a civil parish. However, when Harrogate gained municipal borough status in 1894, Bilton remained independent and became a separate civil parish. In 1938, the civil parish was abolished, and most of Bilton was incorporated into Harrogate.

In 1848, the Leeds and Thirsk Railway was introduced to Bilton, though it didn’t have its own station. The railway crossed the River Nidd on the northern boundary of Bilton via a stone viaduct. In 1908, a narrow gauge railway was constructed to transport coal to the gas works near the Little Wonder roundabout. This line ceased operations in 1956, but remnants such as walls and tunnels can still be found. The nearby New Park School houses a small museum known as “The Secret Railway Garden,” dedicated to the railway’s history.

The western part of Bilton saw significant development during the 19th and 20th centuries, including the construction of the Grade II* listed St John’s parish church, designed by Gilbert Scott, between 1851 and 1857. On the other hand, the eastern part, known as Old Bilton, has retained a rural character with scattered houses. Bilton Hall, east of Old Bilton, which originally served as a hunting lodge commissioned by John O’Gaunt in 1380, was later owned by William Slingsby, credited with discovering the first spa well in Harrogate. The building was reconstructed in 1853 and now operates as a care home, overlooking Knaresborough.

History of Harrogate

The main railway line through Bilton was closed in 1969 but was later reopened in 2013 as the Nidderdale Greenway, a popular cycleway and bridleway.

Each year, on the first May bank holiday, the Bilton Gala is celebrated, with its origins dating back to 1977. This event serves as a fundraiser for various local groups and organizations.

Jennyfields, located in the north-western part of Harrogate, is a modern area featuring two schools, Saltergate Infant School and Saltergate Primary School. Additionally, the town’s primary public swimming pool is situated on the edge of Jennyfield.

The Duchy Estate: Located near central Harrogate, The Duchy Estate is an upscale residential area. It predominantly features large detached homes, some of which have been converted into flats. This neighbourhood boasts several prestigious private schools, most notably Harrogate Ladies’ College. Residents can enjoy the lush surroundings with a golf club and open countryside for leisurely walks.

Starbeck: Positioned to the east of Harrogate, Starbeck offers excellent connectivity with its railway station providing access to Harrogate, Leeds, Knaresborough, and York. A frequent bus service conveniently links Starbeck to Harrogate and Knaresborough. The area is home to various schools, churches, and shops.

Pannal: Situated to the south of Harrogate, off the A61 road, Pannal has retained much of its charming village character. Commuters benefit from a train station that connects Pannal to Harrogate, York, Knaresborough, and Leeds.

High Harrogate: Located in the eastern section near the town centre, High Harrogate is centred around Westmoreland Street and the A59 Skipton Road. It’s a hub of activity with numerous shops and cafés. This area is known for its elegant terraced houses that line the Stray, a picturesque park that extends into High Harrogate.

Low Harrogate: Found in the western section of the town centre, Low Harrogate is a hotspot for tourist attractions. Visitors can explore the Royal Pump Room, Mercer Art Gallery, and the scenic Valley Gardens. It’s a vibrant area with a lot of cultural and recreational activities.

Harlow Hill: Situated to the west of Harrogate, accessible via Otley Road, Harlow Hill features a mix of new developments and an office park. Notable for RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, this district is also home to the Harrogate Spa bottling plant and a water treatment centre.

History of Harrogate

New Park: Located to the north of Harrogate, New Park is a small neighbourhood with a primary school. It consists of a mix of terraced houses and light industrial and commercial premises.

Wheatlands: This affluent district lies to the south of the Stray. It’s primarily residential and boasts two prominent schools, St Aidan’s and St John Fisher’s.

Killinghall: Positioned approximately 3 miles north of Harrogate, Killinghall extends south from the A61 road bridges over the River Nidd. The undeveloped area between Killinghall and Harrogate is known as Killinghall Moor, with some portions transformed into the Jenny Fields Estate. A regular bus service connects Ripon, Harrogate, and Leeds, making it convenient for residents to commute to these areas. The village of Ripley is located 1 mile to the north, and Hampsthwaite is 2 miles to the west.Killinghall is primarily a commuter village, with one public house, the Three Horseshoes. The former Greyhound pub has been closed, while within the parish but outside the village, you can find two other pubs: The Nelson and the Old Spring Well (formerly the Travellers’ Rest). The village also boasts a primary school, the Church of St. Thomas, a Methodist chapel, a children’s day nursery, a doctor’s office, and a garden centre with a nursery. The local area is surrounded by several farms.

Killinghall’s history dates back long before the Norman conquest of England, with evidence suggesting its existence even in Celtic times. In the Domesday Book, the village was referred to as Chenihalle, possibly a place where the Lord of the Manor kept hounds. It’s been suggested that the name could also originate from “Chillingehal,” which means the place of Cylla’s people in Old English.

In the 17th century, early settlers established themselves in the Hollins Hall area of Lund Lane, known at the time as Year with Hollins. This area was chosen because it was intercommoned with Killinghall and Hampsthwaite, meaning it wasn’t possessed by either village. These settlers, including families like the Hardistys, played a crucial role in the village’s development. There were also wealthy families in the village, like the Pulleyns, Tancreds, and Bayns, who built manor houses that have since been replaced with grassy steps or other structures.

During the English Civil War, after the Battle of Marston Moor in July 1644, Cromwell’s Norwich Troop of horses were quartered at Killinghall Village. The oldest building in the area is Kennel Hall Farm, which was used to house Parliamentary soldiers from Cromwell’s regiment during the 17th century, a period when much of the village was being rebuilt.

Killinghall initially grew around a river crossing over the River Nidd, where a new bridge now stands. This spot was popular among artists. Later, the village gained a reputation for its quarries, even though they have been inactive for years. Many stone-cutting businesses still operate in the area, and a lump of stone in the glebe serves as a reminder of this industry’s history, as it was quarried from the area and contributed to the construction of many of Harrogate’s structures.

Notably, on July 5, 2014, the Tour de France Stage 1 from Leeds to Harrogate passed through the village, leaving its mark on the village’s modern history

History of Harrogate

This historical information is credited to Alan Gould and the Bilton Historical Society, providing valuable insights into Killinghall’s past.

The name Knox likely has its roots in Old English “cnocc” or the Scots Gaelic “cnoc,” both meaning a rounded hill, hillock, or hump. This etymology is fitting for Knox Hill, a wooded and quarried summit located between A61 Ripon Road and Knox Lane.

Before 1850, Knox had relatively little to offer apart from a cornmill, a packhorse bridge, and a handful of houses. The corn mill on Knox Mill Lane, still retaining its waterwheel, likely dates back to the first half of the 18th century, as evidenced by the fireplace in the mill house, inscribed with the year 1745. It was evidently a prosperous business, as John Oliver, the mill owner in the late 18th century, also owned land at Church Square.

Spruisty Bridge predates the mill, with its construction dating back to the 17th century, facilitating packhorse traffic across Oak Beck. The ford likely existed before the bridge and was supposedly used by Cistercian monks of Fountains Abbey. This ancient route could indeed have been employed by the monks, given its connection to the Abbey’s lands near Ripley, extending to the south of Bilton, where the Abbey had more granges. This route was significant, making it plausible that both James I and Charles I used the bridge on their journeys south. If the bridge was constructed in the 17th century, it’s more likely that Charles I used it in 1646, rather than James I in 1603.

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

Further developments took place by the end of the Victorian period, including the construction of rows of cottages on the north side of Knox Lane near the river and William Woods’ bleachworks. Woods engaged in a lengthy legal dispute with the Harrogate Improvement Commissioners from 1867 to 1876, seeking damages and compensation due to the adverse impact of sewage-contaminated waters from Oak Beck on his bleached linen production. Woods eventually won his case, but by then, he had closed his bleach yard, and Harrogate had improved its sewage treatment facilities. The land between the cottages and the bleach yard later became Pettinger’s market garden.

History of Harrogate

Before World War I, more cottages were built between the mill and the bridge on the north side of Knox Mill Lane. Spruisty Bridge House, the bridge keeper’s house, was demolished and replaced by Sunny Bank House, now known as Moorland Court. Old Trough Lane was renamed Knox Lane, and the narrow gauge Barber Line was constructed, running from the mainline coal sidings at Bilton Junction, crossing Knox Lane near the current Knox Sawmills location, and entering a tunnel under the hillside, emerging at the Harrogate Gas Works in New Park.

A period of stability followed before significant post-World War II housing developments began. Houses were initially constructed along the south side of Knox Lane, from the Knox Sawmills, established in 1952, up to the junction with Crab Lane and Bachelor Gardens. The Barber Line closed in 1958, and the bridge was removed, but the abutments remain. The construction of the Knox and Redhill estates, located between Knox Lane and Skipton Road, took place around 1970, and the Kebbell estate on the north side of Knox Lane was built approximately a decade later.

Pettinger’s nursery, which suffered substantial damage during a severe hailstorm in July 1968, has closed, as has the little shop in the Knox Lane cottage nearest the Oak Beck. The ford has been closed to traffic since the 1980s, a wise decision given that it was not uncommon to witness vehicles, including an ambulance on one occasion, stranded in the middle of the river.

The Knox Valley Residents Association, established in the early 1980s, had one of its initial goals to oppose the conversion of Knox House Farm and barn into a pub, although this effort was unsuccessful. Over the years, the function room of the converted pub has been utilized by various organizations, including the Association itself.

In 1996, the Bilton Historical Society was formed with the purpose of recording, investigating, and promoting an awareness of Bilton’s heritage and future. Their focus included delving into the secrets of Bilton’s past, such as its people, buildings, railways, industry, the royal hunting park, and a way of life now lost. The Society successfully completed three Community Archaeology Projects with support from the Local Heritage Initiative.

Knox Lane in Bilton had a significant history. In the past, children from the Bilton side attended Bilton Endowed School. The description also provides insights into the local businesses and landmarks, including shops, market gardens, and the Barber Line’s railway tunnel, which connected to New Park Gas Works. The text also mentions the cricket club’s history and the cottages at the top of Knox Lane.

The historical account goes on to discuss Knox Hamlet, mentioning a bleach mill from the 1600s and details about the old corn mill and its water wheel. The account touches on the flood-related challenges faced by the cottages in Knox.

The text provides historical context for Moorland Court, the ownership of farmland, and the packhorse bridge at Spruisty Bridge. It also mentions the separation between Knox and Bilton and the changes in transportation routes in the area, notably the blockage of the Oak Beck ford and the role of the Spruisty packhorse bridge.

Finally, the description briefly mentions Hornbeam Park, a recently developed area accessed via Hookstone Road, which now houses various amenities and offices, including Harrogate College, a Nuffield fitness centre, a Travel Inn, a hospice, and more.

History of Harrogate

History of Ripon

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