The Mysterious Healing Powers of the Spa Town

Harrogate, a spa town in the north of England has had its medicinal benefits well documented for centuries, ever since the first mineral spring was found there in 1596 by one William Slingsby.
Towns like Harrogate and places like Bath got their ‘spa’ titles because the water found there contains very similar properties to the water that was found at a place called Spa in Belgium, which Slingsby had visited a number of years before.

Since then, any place found with springs as rich in iron and sulfur were fixed with a ‘spa’ in their title.

Now, in 2012 it seems time has been called on the taps that supply spa water to thousands of curious visitors every year, as the EU investigates its contents further. Although Harrogate’s healing properties live on in its rich heritage which has shaped modern medicine as we know it today.
The well to-do crowd flocked to Harrogate during the late 19th and 20th centuries and so did many of the nobility from Europe, hopeful of sampling these rejuvenating spa waters that were rumoured to cure a number of ailments including gout and lumbago.

Healing Powers of the Spa Townwater
                                                                    Image: Liz West

During the war, it became home for government offices evacuated from the capital, taking up residence in many of the grand hotels there. Following this, it became even more popular, this time as a commercial centre which it remains today.

The medical background of a spa town
Harrogate was also at the forefront of another medical find. Harrogate resident Doctor George Oliver in 1893, was the first to observe and link adrenaline to its effects on the circulation.
He was at the forefront of the emergence of a dynamic new medical discipline that was named endocrinology.

Many scientists at the time were recognising the potential of chemical messengers and wanted to discover how secretions from other organs could explain other bodily functions.
The next major discovery was made 10 years later, in 1903, by Bayliss and Starling, when secretin was found. It was then that Starling decided to coin the term that we now use to describe all chemical messengers: hormone.

Influencing modern medicine
Over the next twenty years, findings and studies in the field of endocrinology lead to a massive, explosive growth of this new discipline. In 1910, a professor at The German University in Prague published the first known text book on endocrinology.

Now, over 400 years later, Harrogate is playing host to the 40th British Nuclear Medicine Society Annual meeting where its health properties will be the talk of the town once more.

Residents will be hoping that the EU restores their right to be able to drink the water that has been an integral part of the town’s history, a tradition that is built into the heart of the town itself. So maybe next time you visit a spa town, and the residents are looking rather too sprightly for a dark Monday morning, maybe it’s something in the water. Or, since it is coming up the holiday season, maybe you want to look to these places for some quiet and potentially health improving Christmas part venues?
Has any of you ever been magically healed by the redemptive properties of one of our humble spa towns?
Sarah O
About the Author:

Sarah O’Neill is an avid journalist with an interest in English history and folklore. In her spare time Sarah likes to write blogs in partnership with companies like Keele Conferences and to indulge her passion for British history and folklore.

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