• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

West Midlands Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

A popular C19th Spa and still a fashionable town with some splendid architecture


Although the benefits of the 'taking 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 with just a few cottages clustered around the church.

Leamington 1783.jpg

The first mineral spring was discovered on land owned by the Earl of Aylesbury in 1804. A few years later a second spring was discovered by William Abbotts and Benjamin Satchwell, who exploited this by building a bath house above the spring, following the success of other popular spa towns like Bath and Harrogate. By 1808 there were another five springs with bath houses

Numbers of visitors increased as people flocked to Leamington, paying to drink the waters and bathe in the spa water. Free spa water was provided for the poor by a basin outside Lord Ayleford’s well, as he believed it should remain free for everyone. PIC 236 & 238



The town began to grow rapidly. Crescents lined with large houses were built along with assembly rooms, hotels and theatres.


Roads were paved and trees planted. The Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were built near the River Leam at a cost of £30,000 in 1814.


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 population grew rapidly, not only from visitors but also people attracted to the town for work. They were houses in the narrow squalid streets and courts behind the fine Regency buildings. It was a tough life, working six days a week for low wages. Houses were damp and squalid, Large families with water supply from wells often close to the cesspits, privies and pigsties… Jephson Gardens were open free of charge on Sunday afternoons so the ‘less fortunate’ could enjoy the park.

Leamington 1843.jpg

Queen Victoria made her first visit to Leamington in 1830 and continued to visit with Prince Albert and other members of the Royal Court. In 1838 she granted the town permission to change its name to Royal Leamington Spa.

A splendid Town Hall was built in 1882


The old church of All Saints’ was no longer able to accommodate the increasing population and was pulled down and replaced by a much larger Victorian Gothic building.


Jephson Gardens and the Pump Room Gardens with it band stand, were attractive areas for visitors to promenade.

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 and increasing foreign travel. Royal Leamington Spa is now a popular place for the middle class 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 boutique shops.


The Spa Baths and Pump Rooms closed in the late 1990s and now house an Art gallery, museum, library and cafe as well asa very good Tourist Information desk.

There is a thriving cultural scene with the Loft Theatre Company, as well as many excellent pubs and restaurants.

Jephson Gardens 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.


The War Memorial stands in gardens lining the Parade.


Rowing boats can be hired at the Leam Boat Centre.

Tourist Information has leaflets with walks around the town or else learn about Sam Lockhart and his elephants. The elephant wash can still be seen where the elephants were taken down to the River Leam to bathe.

Royal 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.




Last edited:
Royal Pump Rooms and Baths



Taking the waters was a popular treatment for a wide range of ailments. Patients were expected to stay at least 3-4 weeks to drink and bathe in the water, take regular exercise and eat a restricted diet of plain food. The cost was expensive and could only be afforded by the wealthy. Lord Ayleford who discovered the first spring was a strong believer that free water should be available for all and provided a small fountain for use of the poor.

The Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were built near the River Leam at a cost of £30,000 in 1814, with seventeen hot and three cold baths, with three baths set aside for use by the poor.

P4220260 copy 1814.jpg

In 2000, Warwick District Council erected a small drinking fountain on the spot outside the Pump House where spa water was found in 1810.


From the 1860s, there was increasing competition from sea water bathing in resorts like Brighton. Many of the Pump Rooms closed. A consortium of local business men formed to buy the Royal Pump Rooms and carried out a series of renovations to attract more visitors with the addition of a Turkish bath and swimming pool.

P4220261 copy1864.jpg

The Pump Rooms also performed an important social function and slipper baths were provided as many of the population did not have access to a bath at home.

The Pump Room came under the care of Leamington Borough Council in 1875 when a second larger swimming pool was added. Leamington was promoted as a health resort with partnerships developed with railway, bus companies and tour operators.

P4220263 copy1910.jpg

In 1948, many treatments were available through the NHS although patients could still pay for private treatment. As well as Hydrotherapy, a range of different treatments were available, based on electricity, heat or manipulation.


Electric currents were passed through the body either by using electrodes or when in the spa water, to stimulate nerves and muscles. Heat was used to improve circulation, reduce muscle and joint pain and encourage wounds to heal. Wax baths particularly useful for hands and feet. Manipulation was used to ease pain and increase movement.

Hydrotherapy was used from the C19th as warm water provided support, reduced pain and relaxed muscles. Assistants would work with the patient following regimens prescribed by a physiotherapist. This was particularly useful for children affected by polio epidemics in the early c20th to strengthen muscles. They were able to walk in the water which they couldn’t do on dry land. It was also useful in treatment of rheumatism.

Needle showers were used for treating part of the body. Needle like jets were sprayed onto parts of the body. Alternating showers of hot and cold water were used at times. Patients also took a shower before other treatment and again afterwards.


Vichy massages were originally a form of Hydrotherapy treatment and were later offered to the general public as part of the Turkish Bath. The patient was massaged on a stone slab with jets of water sprayed on during the massage. It was supposed to be very good for painful muscular conditions.


Turkish Baths consisted of a series of hot rooms and a relaxation room.


Hydrotherapy continued to be used by the NHS until the late 1960s when it was replaced by more active exercises in the therapeutic pool or gym. Treatment baths were removed and replaced by gyms. This helped patients who could not exercise in water, or who had completed treatment in the therapeutic pool but need to rebuild and retrain muscles on land .

P4220265 copy1979.jpg

Treatments could still be paid for privately.


The Turkish and slipper baths had closed by the mid 1970s, By 1988, Leamington was the only spa in Britain still giving NHS treatments in the original buildings and still using the waters, although there were increasing concerns about the future of the building. The Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy departments moved elsewhere and the swimming pool was the last to be shut.


The Royal Pump Rooms and Baths closed in the late 1990s and has been reopened as a museum, art gallery and tourist information office. The Turkish Baths are still there is all their splendour with their tile and brick work.


The other areas still give an impression of how opulent and splendid the original building must have been.


The museum has a lot of information boards as well as artefacts from the days of the spa.


There is the original fountain used to pump water from the spring into jugs


All Saints' Parish Church

This must rank high in the list of largest parish churches and was built to house the increasing influx of visitors to royal Leamington Spa.

There has been a church here since the C12th when Leamington was still a tiny hamlet. A west tower was added in the C14th. By the mid C19th the church was at the centre of a bustling spa town and had already been extended five times in eighteen years.


John Craig, the vicar, decided the only answer was to pull down the existing church and rebuilt a larger church in the latest Victorian Gothic style befitting to the rapidly expanding and popular Spa town. Work began in 1946 around the existing building. A large portion of the cost was borne by Craig and work was slow through lack of funds. When Craig died in 1877, the building was still unfinished. Sir Arthur Blomfield was engaged to oversee its completion and extended the nave westwards and added the bell tower. The lovely wrought iron screens across the chancel and side chapels is his work. The building was eventually finished in 1902.

From the outside it is an impressive church with its tall offset tower at the west end and smaller Angel tower with a clock at the end of the north transept.



Just inside the main door is a modern cast aluminium statue depicting the Confrontation of the Angels with Archangel Michael triumphant over Satan, the Devil.


Inside it is a rather spartan building and the size is almost intimidating. An arcade of tall pointed arches separates the nave and side aisles. Above are very tall clear glass clerestory windows.


The change in style of the 1892-1902 additions to the end of the nave is very clear.


On the walls of the side aisle are modern depictions of the stations of the cross.


There is a lovely and very delicate wrought iron screen across the chancel and side chapels.


The carved stone pulpit stands against one of the columns by the chancel.


The baptistry with the font are by the south door. At the base of the font is a medieval stoup, one of the few artefacts to survive from the medieval church.


Both the south and north transepts have large round windows which are copies of windows in churches in Rouen.


On the north wall near the transept is a small window containing stained glass rescued from the earlier church .


The Chancel is apse shaped with a rib vaulted ceiling and three very tall windows filled with brightly coloured glass. The reredos behind the altar has a carving of the Last Supper.



On the south side of the chancel are two small chapels.


The first is the War Memorial Chapel, with a crucifix on the east wall.


Next to it is All Souls' Chapel with its beautiful triptych painted in 1927 by the Belgian artist Arthur Van Daele


In a smaller apse to the north of the chancel is the small Lady Chapel with its statue of the Virgin and Child.This has a stone screen rather than the open wrought iron screen, which makes the c hapel feel dark.


On the north wall is are paintings of the nativity with the Magi and shepherds.




On either side of the sanctuary arch are paintings of the Annunciation.



Round the base of the ceiling, above the stained glass windows are paintings of angels holding shields with the symbols of the passion. This has painted ceiling ribs and gilded bosses.


At the back of the church and separated by a wooden screen is the Urquhart Room which was added in 1986. This houses the church office and coffee shop which has an excellent selection of homemade cakes.


Jephson Gardens

Royal Leamington Spa became popular as for the medicinal quality of its waters at the end of the C18th. By the C19th it was a popular resort and the splendid Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were built near the River Leam. Across the road are the Victorian Jephson Gardens which was the place the wealthy paraded to take the air and to be seen.

The gardens were badly damaged by flooding in 1998 and have been carefully restored with Heritage Lottery funding. They are still as popular today, with their lake, grassy areas, trees, conservatory and cafe.

The River Leam runs along the edge of the gardens and separates the gardens from the boating lake.



The most popular entrance is opposite the Royal Pump Rooms. The Hitchman Fountain by the gate is named after Dr John Hitchman a prominent local citizen. This originally had a single jet but had to be modified after passers-by complained about getting wet.


Beyond it are the Lower Gardens with their flower beds.


On the opposite side of the path is the lake with fountains, ducks and geese.



The Jephson Memorial commemorates Dr Henry Jephson who successfully promoting the town as a Spa destination.


Behind it is the Sensory Garden with the Clock Tower beyond.



Across the path from this is the sub-tropical conservatory with its gold fish pond and palm trees.



The area beyond the conservatory is described as the Upper Garden and is grass with specimen trees and tree lined paths. There are plenty of wooden seats to sit and enjoy the gardens.



How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page