Woodhall Spa had its beginnings in the dream of John Parkinson Esquire to sink a coal mine and develop the city of New Bolingbroke. His speculation was a failure as no coal was found. However, the accidental discovery of ‘salt water’ at his coalmine shaft near Coal Pit Wood in Woodhall eventually led to the erecting of a Bath House in 1834 by Thomas Hotchkin, the local squire. Mr Hotchkin later built the Victoria Hotel in 1839 and the spa’s mineral-rich healing waters became a magnet for the treatment of ailments such as rheumatism.
The building of the Kirkstead to Horncastle railway in 1855 enabled invalids to travel from greater distances to take the waters.
The Syndicate was formed by the Reverend John Otter Stephens, Rector of Blankney, in 1886 to develop Woodhall Spa into a prosperous, thriving town. He brought together Edward Stanhope, MP for Revesby, Thomas Cheney Garfit of Kenwick Hall in Louth, Sir Richard Everard Webster (Viscount Alverstone), Henry Chaplin, MP for Blankney and Sir Stafford Northcote (Earl of Iddesleigh). Together they set about investing in Woodhall. They purchased 100 acres of land from Thomas Hotchkin which included the Victoria Hotel and, in 1887, commissioned Mr Richard Adolphus Came to design a new town: a ‘Lincolnshire Buxton’.
Mr Richard Adolphus Came was born in London on April 23rd 1847. His father was Richard Came of Fircroft, Lancing, who had been employed in the East India Civil Service. Richard Adolphus Came was educated at Lancing, London University and in Germany. He was an exhibitor and student of the Royal Academy, a pupil of Sir Digby Wyatt and from 1870 he was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He practised as an architect for many years at Gray’s Inn and Mecklenburgh Square in London. Came designed many buildings which included boarding schools, private residences, country houses in Lancing, East Grinstead, Tunbridge Wells, Broadstairs, Ealing, Child’s Hill, Hampstead, Winkfield and Windsor. He was also responsible for the design of city warehouses in Cannon Street, Cheapside and Bread Street. Additionally, he designed the German Athenæum Club, electric light stations in Pall Mall, St. James, Richmond and Preston. The Grantham Hospital, Roman Catholic Chapels at Skegness and Woodhall were also Came’s work. He laid out and developed the Queensbury Estate at Newmarket and designed most of the residences facing the racecourse at Ascot.
In March 1887, Came advertised estate plans and particulars of shops or houses which could be applied for at Eagle Lodge, Woodhall Spa or 27 Mecklenburgh Square in London. He submitted drainage plans for his development and these were met with full approval.
By 1897 the Royal Hotel was open with 120 rooms and suites. It was designed and owned by Came and was one of the most distinctive buildings, dominating the central crossroads of the town.
The Spa’s tree-lined avenues and the luxuriant foliage enjoyed by the residents of Woodhall are largely owing to Came’s foresight in planting extensively long before the roads were laid.
Came realised that because the old well was closed for four or five months every winter, that the progress of the Spa was being inhibited. He chose to sink a well 550 feet in depth and seven feet in diameter bricked throughout, near to what is now Arnhem Way. This allowed him to provide a constant supply of spa water for his Hydro spa baths annexe to the Royal Hotel. A pipeline was laid underground to connect the well and the hotel.
The unique Winter Gardens with it glass roof occupied the central portion of the Royal Hotel which was destroyed in 1943 and now constitutes Royal Square and the Dambuster Memorial.
Came’s influence extended into the wide streets and avenues as the spa town expanded. He invested in land in Tor-o-Mor Road where he built a number of houses of varying size, such as Broom Hill and The Vale, which exhibited the breadth of his ‘English style’.
Elsewhere in the Spa, many of the large semi-detached villas were intended as boarding houses to complement the hotels where people came to enjoy the benefits of the spa regime. Expansion was its greatest from 1890 into Edwardian period.
In this photograph, we see Richard Adolphus Came on the right with his extended family having afternoon tea in his Winter Gardens pavilion. It is taken probably at the beginning of the twentieth century when the British Empire was at its height and Woodhall, after twenty years of growth and expansion, was set to enjoy the Edwardian age before the First World War.
Richard Adolphus Came, a prosperous professional man, must have felt great pride and achievement with all the trappings of his success. A silver tea-kettle takes pride of place as the family enjoys the civilised surroundings in a smart, formal setting.
Thanks to Mr Roger Stalman, Richard Adolphus Came’s grandson, we can identify several of the family members:
“The older lady is my grandmother, then uncle Charlie is behind the teakettle. Uncle Digby is standing behind aunt Geraldine. I cannot identify the lady immediately to the right of my grandfather, Richard Adolphus Came – it is definitely he. The two girls sitting on the floor are aunt Ida, at grandfather’s feet, and my mother, Vera Irene, on the left.”
A photograph from the collection of Johnny Wield has been brought to life and we can enjoy again that wonderful afternoon a century ago.
Bob Ritson. May 2007.
- Woodhall Spa and the World, Marjorie Sargeant, Cottage Museum Publication
- The Book of Horncastle and Woodhall Spa, David Robinson, Barracuda Books
- Records of Woodhall Spa, J.Conway Walters, W.K.Morton 1899
- Lincolnshire’s Professional Men, Extract- origin unknown