Royal Leamington Spa

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Royal Leamington Spa, commonly known as Leamington Spa or Leamington (/ˈlɛmɪŋtən/), or Leam /ˈlɛm/) to locals, is a spa town in central Warwickshire, England. Formerly known as Leamington Priors, its expansion began following the popularisation of the medicinal qualities of its water by Dr Kerr in 1784, and by Dr Lambe around 1797. During the 19th century, the town experienced one of the most rapid expansions in England. Six electoral wards make up the urban town of Leamington Spa; Brunswick, Milverton, Manor, Crown, Clarendon and Willes. The estimated total population for those wards in 2008 was 39,940. It is named after the River Leam which flows through the town.

Formerly known as Leamington Priors, Leamington began to develop as a town at the start of the 19th century. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Lamintone. For 400 years, the settlement was under the control of Kenilworth Priory, from which the older suffix derived. Its name came from Anglo-Saxon Leman-tūn or Lemen-tūn = “farm on the River Leam”. The healing properties of the spa waters had been known in Roman times and their rediscovery in 1784 by William Abbotts and Benjamin Satchwell, led to their commercialisation.

Early development of the old town centre was on the southern bank of the River Leam. Later builders began concentrating the town’s expansion on the land north of the river, resulting in the Georgian centre of New Town with the Leam flowing between the two.In 1767 Parliament passed an Act, proposed by Edward Willes, a local landowner, for dividing and enclosing the open and common land on the south and west of the River Leam. Following a survey of the area by John Tomlinson in 1768, the land was estimated to be 990 acres (4.0 km2) and was subsequently divided, and new public roads were laid out. After the division on the south of the river most of the land east of the village was owned by the Willes family and to the west by Matthew Wise. To the north of the river most of the land was owned by the Willes family, the Earl of Warwick, and Bertie Greatheed. The main landholders of the village and adjacent land were the Earl of Aylesford, and a number of smaller landowners. In the following decades some of the land was sold. By 1901, the population of Leamington had grown from a few hundred to nearly 27,000.

In 1814, the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were opened close to the River Leam. This grand structure attracted many visitors, expecting cures by bathing in pools of salty spa water. It also included the world’s first gravity fed piped hot water system in modern times, which was designed and installed by the engineer William Murdoch. Leamington became a popular spa resort attracting the wealthy and famous, and construction began of numerous Georgian townhouses to accommodate visitors, and a town hall was built in 1830.

With the spread of the town’s popularity, Leamington was granted a “Royal” prefix in 1838 by Queen Victoria, who visited the town as a Princess in 1830 and as Queen in 1858. A statue of the queen was almost destroyed by a German bomb during World War II, and was moved one inch on its plinth by the blast. The statue was not returned to its original position, and the incident is recorded on a plaque on its plinth.

The function of the Royal Pump Rooms changed several times over the following years. While retaining its assembly rooms and medical facilities, around 1863 it was extended to include a turkish bath and swimming pool, in 1875 the Royal Pump Room Gardens were opened to the public, and in 1890 a further swimming pool was added. The economy of Leamington decreased towards the end of the 19th century following the decline in popularity of spa towns, and it became a popular place of residence for retired people and for members of the middle-class who relocated from Coventry and Birmingham, and wealthy residents led to the development of Leamington as a popular place for shopping. In 1997, the owners of the building, the district council, closed the facility for redevelopment, reopening it in 1999 as a culture centre. It now contains Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, a library, a tourist information centre, refurbished assembly rooms and a cafe. Spa water can still be sampled outside the building.

Leamington is closely associated with the founding of lawn tennis. The first tennis club in the world was formed in 1872 by Major Henry Gem and Augurio Pereira who had started playing tennis in the garden of Pereira. It was located just behind the former Manor House Hotel and the modern rules of lawn tennis were drawn up in 1874 in Leamington Tennis Club. During the Second World War, Leamington was home to the Free Czechoslovak Army; a memorial in the Jephson Gardens commemorates the bravery of Czechoslovak parachutists from Warwickshire.

Leamington Spa is a town and civil parish in the Warwick District Council, an administrative division of the county of Warwickshire. Since 2002 the parish has been represented at the lowest tier of local government by its Town Council. Between 1875 and 1974 Leamington was a municipal borough. As part of the 1974 local government reform it was merged with Warwick, Kenilworth and Whitnash, and surrounding rural areas into the Warwick District, which has its offices in Leamington. Leamington is part of the parliamentary constituency of Warwick and Leamington. It was once the seat of Anthony Eden, the Conservative prime minister.

Leamington is divided by the River Leam running east to west, which is susceptible to flooding, with especially heavy floods in 1998 and 2007.

The town has several parks and gardens, including the Jephson Gardens, close to the Royal Pump Rooms and next to the River Leam. These were seriously damaged in the floods of 1998, but have been restored and improved with funding from the National Lottery. The other side of the River Leam, on Priory Terrace features a 19th-century slipway down to the river located near the suspension bridge in Jephson Gardens. It was specifically constructed so that circus elephants in winter quarters in Leamington could be watered. Other parks are the Mill Gardens on the opposite bank of the river to Jephson Gardens, Victoria Park, the Royal Pump Room Gardens, Newbold Comyn, The Dell and Welsh’s Meadow, a nature reserve.

The road running through the town centre is the Parade (formerly Lillington Lane until 1860). The shopping street contains high street chains and a covered shopping centre.

Buildings in the town include a variety of Georgian and early Victorian architecture, and listed buildings such as the Grade II listed Lansdowne Crescent in neo-classical style, designed by William Thomas between 1835 and 1838.

In addition to the Anglican churches in Leamington proper, Milverton and Lillington, there is a Catholic church, a United Reformed church. There is a small mosque and a mandir (Hindu temple), neither of which are very obvious to the visitor. However, the strong Sikh community in the town has recently constructed a gurdwara, with a white dome, which can easily be seen if the town is approached from the M40 motorway.

An oak tree just to the northeast of the town centre is marked by a plaque stating that it commemorates the Midland Oak, a tree that grew near the spot and was reputed to be at the centre of England.

The popularity of the town’s waters in the 19th century led to the town’s initial growth, making tourism Leamington’s primary industry in the 19th century.

Leamington Spa offers a variety of shops from some of the more common high street stores to the independent retailers. The Royal Priors is the only indoor shopping centre in the town centre and the Leamington Shopping Park is the town’s main out of town shopping centre.

Tourism was initially driven by the spring waters. The arrival of the Warwick and Napton Canal (later amalgamated into the Grand Union Canal) officially opened in 1799 as the primary means of cargo transport and led to growth in other industries until rail gradually took over in the mid 19th century, The canal supplied coal to the gasworks on Tachbrook Road, providing gas to light the town from 1835. Pig iron, coke and limestone were delivered by canal, allowing a number of foundries to be established in Leamington, specialising in cast iron stoves. Today the Eagle Foundry, dating from at least 1851, continues to manufacture Rangemaster stoves. The Imperial Foundry, dating from around 1925, was subsequently taken over by Ford, casting engine blocks until its closure in 2008. The prominent car parts manufacturer Automotive Products based in the south of the town grew from a small garage to occupy a large site. Throughout the 20th century, while tourism took a downturn, Automotive Products expanded and built a factory in the South of the town in 1928 that is still operative in 2009, although on a much smaller scale.

Commercial parks for service providers and light industry and offices are primarily located to the south of the town: Althorp Street Industrial Estate, Queensway Trading Estate, Shiresgate Trading Estate and Sydenham Industrial Estate.

Leamington is a significant centre for the game industry in the UK. Based in the town itself are Blitz Games, FreeStyle Games, Supersonic Software, Playground games, Big Big Studios, Stick Man Studios, DNA Studios, Fish in a Bottle, and RedChain Games. Codemasters are based in the countryside outside Leamington and were the initial impetus behind the cluster and provided many of the staff for the companies in Leamington.

From Leamington’s centre it is 3 miles (5 km) to the M40 motorway which links it to Birmingham and London. It is also served by the A46, which links it to Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Leamington Spa railway station is served by the Chiltern Main Line, which links London (Marylebone) to Birmingham (Snow Hill). Fast train services on this route are operated by Chiltern Railways. London Midland operate local services to Birmingham and onwards to Worcester. A line connecting Leamington Spa to Coventry used by CrossCountry provides services to Reading, Oxford and Bournemouth to the south, and to Coventry, Birmingham (New Street), Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh to the north.

Leamington has been featured in a number of television series, including the 1990s BBC situation comedy Keeping Up Appearances – filmed in and around the area. Notable episodes included one with Walton Hall which had footage of the actual town in them, including the River Leam being featured as a fishing and boating spot. Other series include the drama Dangerfield, BBC’s comedy children’s show on CBBC ChuckleVision, Broke starring Timothy Spall, and comedy detective series Mayo. In September 2010 scenes for a re-make of the series Upstairs, Downstairs were shot on Clarendon Square and in The Jephson Gardens.

A Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, maintained by the Warwick District Council, and with free admission, is located in the Royal Pump Rooms, in Parade.

Leamington has held an annual free festival, the Peace Festival – celebration of alternative culture – since 1978, at the Pump Room Gardens. Live music is provided by local bands in a variety of venues. War Festival, an experimental music event, is held annually and was established in 2008. The Woodbine Street Recording Studios has been used by several well-known music acts such as Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene and The Specials. Classical music concerts are organised throughout the year in the Leamington and Warwick area, including the International String Quartet series at the Royal Pump Rooms. The Assembly, is a 1,000 capacity music venue attracting national and international artists, and was awarded ‘Live Music Venue of the Year’ at the 2010 Music Week Awards. and the Leamington Spa Competitive Festival for Music Dance and Drama has been staged annually since 1910.

Two theatres are located in Leamington: the Spa Centre and The Loft, with outdoor productions throughout the summer in the Jephson Gardens. Leamington also has two cinemas: the Spa Centre cinema and the multiplex Apollo Cinema.

Leamington is twinned withSceaux, France;Brühl, Germany and Heemstede, Netherlands.  It has friendship agreements withLeamington, Canada; and Bo, Sierra Leone.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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