Friday, February 1, 2008

Purton Stoke, Wiltshire

There are spa towns all over England, from Harrogate to Tunbridge Wells, Malvern to Woodhall Spa. Their heyday was the Georgian and Regency era, when places like Bath and Cheltenham attracted the rich, and even the royals, in search of a cure for their ills or pastimes to fill hours of idleness. Driven by the fame of these boom towns, many people discovered a spring that produced water with impurities in it, decided these impurities were health-giving, and started a spa in their backyard. There must have been scores that were too remote, too badly marketed, or insufficiently healthy to take off. Usually, they vanished without trace.

Purton Stoke in Wiltshire was one such place but here a trace of the spa remains in this tiny octagonal pump room, hidden from public view along a bridleway. Apparently the spa began as a 17th-century venture, but the little pump room is Victorian and was built in 1859–60. The decorated woodwork and octagonal plan are certainly typical of ‘pleasure architecture’ found in spas and seaside buildings, though Pevsner rightly compares the awnings to railway-station architecture too. The plaque above the door announces, ‘The ancient Salts Hole. Sulphated and bromiodated saline water’. The ironwork on the gate keeps it simpler, and just says ‘Spa’.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Brill in Buckinghamshire is a classic example of a failed spa - appparently Queen Victoria preferred Leamington, so Brill just died on its feet.