Trumpeting spa charms
Royal Leamington Spa to Saltisford Arm, Warwick: 3 miles and 2 locks
Royal Leamington Spa – have you any idea how many spa towns there are in England? Five maybe, or ten? According to Wikipedia it’s 22 …
Think spas and perhaps you think of young ladies in Regency style dresses, fan-waving matriarchs, Assembly Room balls, eligible young gentlemen and invalids in bath chairs ‘taking the waters’.
The spa waters of \leamington had been known in Roman times and in the late 1700s they were rediscovered. In 1801 Leamington Priors was only a small village of 315 inhabitants living in a few dozen cottages.
Then the notion that bathing in salty spa water provided health benefits became fashionable. Leamington had one natural spring and drilling was made for six more wells. By 1814 the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths had been opened close to the River Leam. This imposing building attracted many visitors, expecting cures by bathing in pools of spa waters. Leamington fast became a fashionable town, visited by Princess Victoria in 1830 and by her again in 1858 (by which time she was Queen). In 1838 the town was awarded its Royal status…
As a popular spa resort the town attracted the wealthy and famous – visit the Pump Rooms nowadays and you’ll read about the various bathing pools, you can see the colourful Turkish Baths and the extraordinary physiotherapy shower which remained in use until the 1990s.
Walk a little past the Pump Rooms and you come to the Parade, a wide elegant street that leads uphill. Outside the Victorian Town Hall (1882) on a plinth stands Queen Victoria (carved from pure white Carrara Marble).
Pride of place goes to Lansdowne Terrace, a gentle sweep of graceful housing, fitted with identical but differently coloured front doors. A bike chained to a set of railings seems to be in appropriate scale, not so though modern saloons and ‘Chelsea tractors’ parked alongside the pavement.
Local boy, Sam Lockhart (born 1850) became a world-famous elephant trainer. He returned from Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) with three elephants which used to appear in a grand circus building. The elephants used to be led to the River Leam to bathe and to play in the water. Of course, such entertainment is no longer tolerated in this affluent and classy town…
From Leamington on Thursday afternoon it was onward to Warwick – and at the two Cape Locks there was a Cleddau first for several weeks, an upwards climb, – a practice for what was yet to come, the real thing, the 21 broad locks of the Hatton Flight that climb northwestwards out of Warwick.
Next time: up into Warwick and ‘the Stairway to Heaven’.
Since Higher Poynton 185 miles, 3 tunnels and 78 locks