Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Victorian Harrogate, England

Harrogate is a town with hundreds of years of history, but its big boom was about 150 years ago during the Victorian era. The area has numerous mineral wells. Victorian doctors thought the waters were medicinal and restorative. The town made itself into a posh spa resort, enclosing many of the wells and building large, fancy hotels for people to stay while convalescing.

The Alexandra, now mostly the pub downstairs

The Majestic Hotel

One central well was turned into the Royal Baths in 1897. Part of the complex still functions as a Turkish bath. Many of the adjacent parts of the complex have been turned into restaurants and bars.

Turkish Baths entrance

Other side of the baths, now a few different businesses

Royal Baths Chinese restaurant

Nearby is the Royal Pump Room, a Victorian complex built over three wells in 1842 and now turned into a small museum. It includes historical information on Harrogate and a small exhibit of Egyptian items (from the Eyptian craze inspired by the Tutankhamun discovery). Visitors may also taste or just smell the water from the "Old Sulfur Well." J took one wiff of the rotten eggs' smell and was glad to leave!

Entrance to the Royal Pump Room Museum

Other side of the museum

Another fine local museum is the Mercer Gallery, originally built as the Promenade Room where visitors would assemble before visiting the spas. The gallery has a nice collection of painting. Temporary exhibits come and go. The nice thing about the gallery is the size. It's small enough for parents to see everything before small children get bored.

Mercer Gallery

Also nearby are the Council Offices with a statue of Cupid and Psyche circa 1870 by Italian sculptor Giavanni Benzoni in a glass gazebo.

Gazebo with statues and the Council Offices behind

Statues close up

Across the park is the Royal Hall (also known as the Kursaal), which hosts performers and dances. We went there in 2013 for a ball room dancing night, even though we know mostly swing dancing. It was a lot of fun but tricky to take photos inside.

The Royal Hall

Inside, set for dancing

Another bit of Victoriana is the Jubilee statue to Queen Victoria near the train station. Mayor Richard Ellis put up the statue in 1887 for her golden anniversary. Behind her is the Victoria Shopping Centre built in the early 1990s, so it's Victorian in name only.

Queen Victoria Jubilee memorial

Victoria Shopping Centre

Statues on top of the shopping centre, all common folk

More on Harrogate in the next post!

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