diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gadabout: ROYAL LEAMINGTON SPA

Leamington, just east of Warwick, was a tiny town until its local doctor started pushing the local mineral waters as a recuperative cure. It grew rapidly from the 1820s, with a new residential quarter of fine Regency architecture attracting the well-to-do and fashionable. I see it very much as the Harrogate of the Midlands.
[10 photos]



Leamington's game-changer was the Royal Pump Rooms, a pillared classical structure beside the River Leam, opened in 1814 for bathing and the taking of the waters. When spa-going fell out of fashion, a swimming pool and Turkish baths were added, which kept the place going until the 1980s. The local council then took over, repurposing the interior as the town's main library, plus museum and art gallery, cafe and Tourist Information Centre. I'm told the museum is fascinating. The museum is closed on Mondays. A drinking fountain outside allows passers-by to sample the waters, although I didn't see any passers-by ducking down for a salty gulp.



A string of gardens were laid out beside the river for patients to "take the air", with the local population originally only allowed access first thing in the morning. Jephson Gardens are still immaculately maintained, with pristine shrubbery, 72 different types of tree and, currently, carpets of crocuses and snowdrops. If you fancy a drink, the aviary has been repurposed as a cafe. If you want to know the time, the clocktower still bongs out the quarter hours. The most recent intrusion is a giant glasshouse for the display of subtropical plants, paid for with lottery cash, with a big wedding-friendly reception room tucked on at the back. Not only is it free, but also warm, and also open on a Monday.



Royal Leamington Spa has by far the best shops in the area, always has, focused on a grid of streets to the north of the river. The main drag is simply called Parade, a grand thoroughfare rising from the Pump Rooms towards Christchurch Gardens, with a definite (but slightly modified) Regency vibe. Look carefully and a shopping mall is hidden behind the facade, with backstreets of independent boutiques tucked in beyond. At the foot of the hill is the Regent Hotel, where Queen Victoria once stayed as a child, for which ridiculously flimsy reason the town was allowed to add the title 'Royal' to its name. I doubt we'll see the current queen here any time soon, however, as it's now a Travelodge, with the downstairs converted into a Wagamama.



So middle class is RLS that the first modern lawn tennis club was established here, and the bowling greens in Victoria Park are used for tournaments at international level. It's no coincidence that much of Keeping Up Appearances was filmed around here, whenever a town centre scene was required (although the Bucket residence was actually located in a suburb of Coventry). Hyacinths and Richards can still be seen in the streets, but also Onslows and Daisys, and a substantial Eastern European population has moved in since. Be sure to walk beyond the 19th century centre to see the real town, as well as enjoying its bourgeois heart.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream