Spa town’s historic gem to regain luster

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PLANS to transform a redundant pump room in Harrogate’s Valley Gardens into a major new educational facility showcasing the spa heritage of an area thought to have more mineral wells than anywhere else in Europe, are set to be rubberstamped next week.

The Magnesia Well Pump Room, which was built in 1858 serving sulphur water to visitors from all over the world, is to be restored to its former glory following a major fundraising campaign by the Friends of Valley Gardens and Harrogate Borough Council.

The redundant building is set to be transformed to be the centrepiece of a new tourist trail through Valley Gardens, which contains 36 of Harrogate’s 88 mineral wells, with each one containing a different composition of water.

Many of the wells are now sealed up after being vandalised in the 1970s, and as part of the plans, the Friends of Valley Gardens are looking at re-opening the Magnesia Well, which was discovered in the 17th century.

Jane Blayney, the chair of the Friends of Valley Gardens, said: “We should be restoring the spa history of Harrogate.

“To have all the different compositions of wells in Valley Gardens, there is nowhere else in Europe like it.

“Around the time of the 1980s it was decided that Harrogate was now going to be a centre of the conference industry, and our spa heritage went to the background.

“It is sad to see that some of that history has been forgotten.

“We want to bring that back.

“The pump room is a charming little building with surrounding gardens which people tend to just walk past and have no reason to stop and look.”

Such was the meteoric rise of Harrogate during the 19th century when it was visited by aristocracy from all over the world, that the demand for waters from the Magnesia Well meant a new much larger pump room was opened in 1895 which is now the Valley Gardens cafe.

The building was unused until 1907 before it became the Corporation Museum - long before the Royal Pump Room Museum opened in 1953 - then it was later used as a gardeners’ store and rest room.

It was Grade II listed in 1975.

The transformation of the building into an information and educational centre is expected to cost around £60,000, much of which has been raised through community events.

Plans to begin the restoration, with new internal fittings based on the original 1858 design, new guttering, window glazing and wood panelling, will go before a Harrogate Borough Council planning committee on Tuesday.

The gardens around the building will also be cleared, with benches based on original models installed outside.

It is expected that work will begin this autumn.