Harrogate

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Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. The town is a tourist destination and its visitor attractions include its spa waters, RHS Harlow Carr gardens, and Betty’s Tea Rooms. From the town one can explore the nearby Yorkshire Dales national park. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Harrogate originated in the 17th century, with High Harrogate and Low Harrogate as two separate settlements. It lies adjacent to Knaresborough, with which it forms a single urban area, and is in the Nidd valley.

Harrogate spa water contains iron, sulphur and common salt. The town became known as ‘The English Spa’ in the Georgian Era, after its waters were first discovered in the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries especially, these ‘chalybeate’ waters (i.e. containing iron) were a popular health treatment, and the influx of wealthy but sickly visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of the town.

Harrogate railway station and Harrogate bus station in the town centre provide transport connections. Leeds Bradford International Airport is 10 miles (16 km) south west of Harrogate. The main road through the town is the A61, connecting Harrogate to Leeds and Ripon. Harrogate is also connected to Wetherby and the A1, by the A661. The town of Harrogate on its own had a population of 71,594 at the 2001 UK census; the urban area comprising Harrogate and nearby Knaresborough had a population of 85,128, while the figure for the much wider Borough of Harrogate, comprising Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and a large rural area, was 151,339.

The town motto is Arx celebris fontibus, which means “a citadel famous for its springs.”

Before the discovery of iron and sulphur rich water, Harrogate comprised two hamlets, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, close to the historic town of Knaresborough. The first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewit Well possessed similar properties to that from the springs of the Belgian town of Spa, which gave its name to spa towns. The medicinal properties of the waters were widely publicised by Edmund Deane, whose book, Spadacrene Anglica, or the English Spa Fountain was published in 1626. Harrogate developed fame as a spa town following the enclosure of surrounding lands in 1770, when 200 acres (0.81 km2) were reserved as public commons, the Stray, which has remained a popular spot for picnicking, kite-flying, outdoor games and local football matches.[5] To provide entertainment for increasing numbers of visitors to the village, the Georgian Theatre was built in 1788. Bath Hospital (later the Royal Bath Hospital) was built in 1826. The Royal Pump Room was built in 1842.

In 1870, engineering inventor Samson Fox perfected the process of creating water gas, in the basement laboratory of Grove House. After constructing a trial plant at his home on Scarborough Road, making it the first house in Yorkshire to have gas lighting and gas heating; he built a town sized plant to supply Harrogate. After he had completed the conversion of Parliament Street to make it the world’s first route to be lit by water-gas, newspapers commented: “Samson Fox has captured the sunlight for Harrogate.” After donating the towns first fire engine, and building the towns theatre, he was later elected mayor for three years, a still unprecedented record.

Today the site of the Tewit Well is marked by a dome on the Stray. Other wells can be found in Harrogate’s Valley Gardens and the Royal Pump Room museum.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Harrogate was popular among the English élite and was frequented by nobility from Europe. Its popularity declined after World War I. During World War II, Harrogate’s large hotels accommodated government offices that had been evacuated from London. This paved the way for the town’s current function as a commercial, conference, and exhibition centre.

In 1893 Harrogate doctor George Oliver was the first to observe the effect of adrenaline on the circulation.

Former employers in the town were ICI, who occupied offices and laboratories at Hornbeam Park, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), and the Milk Marketing Board. ICI’s Hornbeam Park laboratories at Hornbeam Park were the location of the invention of Crimplene in the 1950s, named after the nearby Crimple Valley and Beck.

The town hosted the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest in the conference centre.

Harrogate won the 2003 Britain in Bloom in the category of ‘Large Town’ and won the European Entente Florale competition in 2004. This reprises its win in the first Entente Florale competition in 1977. Harrogate was a gold medal winner of Europe in Bloom in 2004. In 2005, a Channel 4 TV show listed Harrogate as the UK’s third best place to live. In 2006 it came fourth in the same league; the programme claimed that it placed lower due to “a slight dip in exam results”, though presenter Phil Spencer noted that it was his personal favourite.

In 2007, two metal detectorists found the Harrogate hoard, a 10th century Viking treasure hoard, near Harrogate. The hoard contains almost 700 coins and other items from as far away as Afghanistan. The hoard was described by the British Museum as the most important find of its type in Britain for 150 years.

The Olympic Cauldron for the 2012 London Olympics was built in a ‘Bond Gadget Workshop’ in Harrogate, said designer Thomas Heatherwick.

The constituency is Harrogate and Knaresborough. The town is part of Harrogate Borough Council.

Harrogate is twinned with Bagnères-de-Luchon, France (since 1952); Harrogate, Tennessee, United States; and Wellington, New Zealand.

The town is a dormitory town for commuters working in Leeds and Bradford. Harrogate is prosperous and has some of the highest property prices in England, with many properties in the town and surrounding villages valued at £1 million or more. Harrogate is situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, with the Vale of York to the east and the upland Yorkshire Dales to the west and northwest.

Harrogate has a strong and varied economy. The conference and exhibition industry is the focus of the town’s business, with Harrogate International Centre the third largest fully integrated conference and exhibition centre in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. It brings in over £150 million to the local economy every year and attracts in excess of 350,000 business visitors annually. The town is home to the Great Yorkshire Showground and Pavilions of Harrogate, which are major conference destinations.

The Great Yorkshire Showground is the hub of the regional agricultural industry, hosted by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. The Great Yorkshire Show and Countryside Live take place there annually.

The many business visitors to Harrogate sustain a number of large hotels, some originally built for visitors to the Spa.

Harrogate’s main shopping district is focused on Cambridge Street, Oxford Street, Beulah Street and James Street where most of the high street shops can be found. There is a wide range of boutique and designer shopping on Parliament Street and in the Montpellier Quarter, as well as independent shopping around Commercial Street.

Eating out is popular in Harrogate, and the town well served by restaurants. Parliament Street and Cheltenham Parade are lined with many independent and chain restaurants, while there is also a concentration of chain restaurants on John Street and Albert Street.

There are many fine examples of architecture about the town, including the Royal Hall theatre, a Grade II listed building designed by Frank Matcham. As the only surviving Kursaal in Britain, the Royal Hall is an important national heritage building. Restoration work was completed in 2007, and the hall was reopened on 22 January 2008, by The Prince of Wales.

The Royal Pump Room houses Europe’s strongest sulphur well, but is now a museum showcasing the town’s spa history.

Two military installations are located to the west of Harrogate, the Army Foundation College and RAF Menwith Hill, an electronic monitoring station.

Bettys Tea Rooms are regionally renowned. They are owned by Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate – the same company that makes Yorkshire Tea. Bettys has a second tea room at the RHS Harlow Carr Gardens.

The Mercer Art Gallery is home to Harrogate district’s art collection which consists of some 2,000 works of art, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection includes works by William Powell Frith, Atkinson Grimshaw, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Dame Laura Knight, Alan Davie and many more.

The Montpellier Quarter is the centre of the town’s nightlife, which is mainly centred on the renovated Royal Baths development.

The Valley Gardens, in Low Harrogate, is the town’s main park and covers much of the area originally known as ‘Bogs Field’, where a number of springs were discovered. Valley Gardens has an ice cream parlour, children’s play area with outdoor paddling pool, a skate park, frisbee golf and also crazy golf and mini golf. The Sun Pavilion at the northern edge of the park can be privately hired. Tennis courts and a bowling green are located in the west of the park. The Friends Of Valley Gardens group was formed in 2009 to support the park. It works in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council to guide the park’s future development.

The Stray is an area of open parkland of some 200 acres (80.94 ha) (80 hectares) in the centre of the town. It was created in 1778 to link most of Harrogate’s springs in one protected area by an act of Parliament which fixed its area as 200 acres (80.94 ha), and even now when part is removed, e.g. due to road widening, it must be replaced elsewhere. During the Victorian period, there was a racecourse for horses there.

RHS Harlow Carr gardens, on the western edge of Harrogate, are award-winning themed gardens and are the Royal Horticultural Society’s main presence and representative in the North of England.

Crescent Gardens is a small open area in central Harrogate surrounded by some of the town’s main tourist attractions including the Royal Pump Room, Royal Baths and Royal Hall, as well as the Town Hall. Hall M of the Harrogate International Centre also fronts onto Crescent Gardens.

The town is served by four railway stations; Harrogate (for town centre), Hornbeam Park, Pannal (towards Leeds) and Starbeck on the Harrogate Line to Knaresborough and York. Trains are operated by Northern Rail. Trains run every half hour to Leeds and Knaresborough, and every hour onto York. There are extra non-stop commuter services at peak times between Harrogate and Leeds. There is one daily weekday service to London King’s Cross operated by East Coast. The former railway lines to Ripon and Wetherby (see Wetherby railway station) were dismantled in the 1960s.

Harrogate is strongly connected to Leeds, in both rail and road transport. Road transport to Leeds is via the A61 (north and central Leeds), A658 (north west Leeds/Leeds Bradford International Airport) and A661 (for north east Leeds). The A61 also continues northwards to Ripon, while the A658 connects to Bradford after passing through north west Leeds. The A658 also forms the Harrogate Bypass that skirts the south and east of the town, joining the A59 linking York and the A1(M) to the east and Skipton to the west with Harrogate.

  • The town’s main print news source is the Harrogate Advertiser, part of Ackrill Media Group. The newspaper was first printed in 1836.
  • The main online news source is Harrogate-News.

Alongside Runnymede, Surrey, people in Harrogate drink alcohol to more hazardous levels than anywhere else in the UK. In 2010 Harrogate was named as ‘the online pornography capital of the country’ when a BBC documentary, The Virtual Revolution, revealed that residents from the town watched more adult material on their computers than anywhere else in the UK.

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