DON’T drink the water we’re often told when abroad.
Well I say don’t drink the water in Royal Leamington Spa – although many still do I discovered.
Leamington owes its fame to its water. The natural spring, drawn from limestone rock 800 feet down, were responsible for the transformation of a tiny village into an elegant, wealthy and prosperous regency town.
The discovery of the waters by William Abbotts and Benjamin Satchwell in 1784 brought people flocking to the town to take advantage of their purported health-giving and healing qualities – including Queen Victoria who bestowed the town with its Royal title in 1838.
The first public well house, Aylesford’s well, was built outside All Saints parish church in 1803, and a number of others quickly opened as other springs were discovered. They were followed by the Pump Room and Victoria Baths in Clemens Street, and the current Royal Pump Rooms, which opened in 1814.
The last drop from the original Aylesford’s well was drawn in November 1960 when it was demolished. It’s place is now commemorated by the statue ‘Spring’ in 2007.
Drinking the “nauseous tasting water followed by a brisk walk and breakfast” was the cure all prescribed remedy by doctors for a number of ailments, from gout to rheumatism, and even paralysis.
Residents and visitors alike can still ‘take’ the waters from the drinking fountain outside the Pump Rooms.
This reporter is however no fan of the salty, sulphurous, seawater-like spa water, the taste of which lingers in the mouth seemingly for ever, but it would appear some are.
Leamington Museum Curator Alice Swatton told the Observer: “We still get people coming to taste the water, with some even coming every day to fill up water bottles for their own use. It’s not as important as it once was to the town, but it is still an important part of the town’s history.
“After tasting the water we invite people to visit the museum where they can learn about why it tastes as it does.”
So while the waters of Leamington may no longer be the main attraction for visitors, the waters continue to flow – even if they remain an acquired taste.