Although the benefits of the waters have been known since Roman times, and their use was well recorded by the C15th, Leamington was a small village until the end of the C18th when the properties of the waters began to be exploited commercially with the building of small bath houses around the springs. Numbers of visitors increased rapidly and the town began to grow. By the start of the C19th it was a popular resort for people taking the waters and the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were built near the River Leam at a cost of £30.000. They are a splendid Neo-classical building with a pillared portico. The spa treatment was claimed to cure or alleviate a huge number of disorders including ‘stiffness of tendons, rigidity of the joints, the effects of gout and rheumatism and various paralytic conditions’ The spa water also acted as a mild laxative, so increasing its potential benefits.
The town grew rapidly with wide streets lined with splendid Regency and Victorian architecture. Queen Victoria visited the town which was renamed Royal Leamington Spa. It’s popularity continued to grow. “All Saints’ Church”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/west_midlands/warwickshire/leamington/index.html was built for the ever increasing number of visitors to the town. It is still one of the largest parish churches in Britain.
“Jephson Gardens”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/west_midlands/jephson/index.html and the Pump Room Gardens with its band stand, were attractive areas for visitors to promenade and be seen.
By the end of the C19th, the popularity of Spas and taking the waters began to decline and this continued during the C20th, speeded up by the effect of two world wars. Leamington Spa became a popular place for the middle classes moving out of Coventry and Birmingham as well as the retired. These brought money into the town which is now a popular shopping centre for the area with a mix of big names and smaller specialist boutiqu shops. .
The “Spa Baths and Pump Rooms”:https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/royalpumprooms/site/index.php closed down and were taken over by Warwick District Council. They now house an Art Gallery, museum, library and cafe as well as Tourist Information. There is a thriving cultural scene with the “Loft Theatre Company”:http://loft-theatre.co.uk/ as well as many excellent pubs and restaurants.
“Jephson Gardens”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/west_midlands/jephson/index.html have been restored back to their Victorian splendour with a new conservatory and are a very attractive green space in the centre of the town. Rowing boats can be hired at the “Leam Boat Centre.”:http://www.leamboatcentre.com/
Tourist Information also has leaflets describing a heritage walk around the town or for those wanting something a bit different, there is a leaflet for the Elephant Trail with information about “Sam Lockhart,”:http://www.leamingtonhistory.co.uk/sam-lockhart-elephant-trainer-extraordinaire/ the world famous elephant trainer with maps showing where he and his elephants lived and performed. The elephant wash can still be seen where the elephants were taken down to the River Leam to bathe.
Leamington Spa is often ignored by tourists who head for Warwick or Stratford upon Avon. This is a shame as it is a very attractive town and well worth a visit with its wide streets, good range of shops, attractive architecture and gardens.