Development of the Spa
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 full story is told in the following pages beginning with a time line illustrating the growth of the Spa.
Originally compiled by Don and Olive Roberts in 1987 for the Cottage Museum and recently updated in July 2014 for the personal use of Cottage Museum Volunteers.
In Medieval times the area was mainly moorland and virtually deserted. Cistercian monasteries had been founded at Kirkstead and Stixwould in the 12th Century. The Tower on the Moor was built about 1440.
At the beginning of the 19th Century land enclosure and fen drainage encouraged the purchase of land and the seeking of coal for the industrial factories. Coal was also desirable because firewood was expensive (wood was needed for ship building in the Napoleonic wars) and coal was brought from the Pennines.
Origins of the Spa: The Watery Jewel
“Do you know Woodhall Spa?” “No, where is it?’ “So, you are not a golfer…you are not familiar with the Dambuster Story.. ..you are not a cinema buff and…you have not read about English Spas?” “Well, there is Bath and Harrogate!” “Yes, well at one time… but I will begin at the beginning.”
In 1772, a baby, named John, was born to a Mr. Parkinson who was land agent and steward for the famous Lincolnshire naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks. When he grew up, John, reputedly, had three dreams. He wanted to plant a forest, to sink a coalmine and to build a city. The last ambition may have been because of vanity but there were good reasons for the others.
Two hundred years ago agriculture was a profitable business, partly owing to the Napoleonic Wars and the fact that woodland was decreasing because of land clearance. Consequently, firewood was becoming costly. At the same time the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, so wood and coal were needed for use both domestically and in industry. Coal was transported to Lincolnshire from mines in the Pennines, which was both slow and expensive.
Surveyors attempted to trace coal seams in Lincolnshire, based on the limited geological knowledge of the time and entrepreneurs sank exploratory bore shafts in areas where they were told coal might be found.
In 1821, one such entrepreneur was John Parkinson. By this time he was a speculator in land and owned some in the parish of Woodhall, a small settlement in the flat fen country about 20 miles S.E. of Lincoln. Here, men with their picks and shovels began to dig, bricking the sides of the shaft as they went. At about 170 yards (155.5m.) they came upon a fissure full of salty water and a conduit was built to divert it round the back of the shaft. It was soon forgotten.
After a while faith in the venture lessened and there are stories that men took coal down the shaft in their pockets to produce it triumphantly later! At a certain depth, dynamite was needed to penetrate the rock and, unfortunately, there were two serious accidents, resulting in three men being badly injured and one killed. A while after this fatality, with no sign of coal and with money running short, the mine was abandoned and heavy timber planks were laid across the shaft.
John Parkinson became bankrupt and had to accept that this ambition had failed. By the following year water was overflowing from the closed up shaft and strange rumours began. It was said that cattle drinking from this overflow were cured of ailments and then people, also sampling the water, found rheumatic and other conditions dramatically improved! Consequently, Mr. Hotchkin, the Lord of the Manor, tried the spring and found it aided his gout. So, he erected a small bathhouse over the well and then, with an eye to the future, a hotel, described as “a neat, unostentatious edifice.” Woodhall Spa was bom!
When a Dr.Granville visited the Spa, he suggested that Mr. T.J.S. Hotchkin should have the water analysed. This was done, with spectacular result, for it was found to contain large quantities of iodine and bromine, greater than that of any British Spa. This information spread amongst the Spa going public (of whom there were many) and people began to arrive from afar. The Bath House was enlarged, the hotel became a fashionable place in which to stay and the village prospered. The water, later termed “the watery jewel,” was proving its worth and after the railway arrived in 1855, more and more visitors of rank began to choose this Spa… but that is another story!
As to John Parkinson, sadly, his other ambitions also failed and he died, aged 86, having seen the growth of a spa, of which he was the accidental instigator but from which he received neither cash nor credit.
Richard Adolphus Came and the Syndicate of Woodhall Spa
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
Came Village Walk
Richard Adolphus Came (1847-1917) was appointed architect for the Syndicate in 1886 and produced an aerial plan to show his vision of the centre of Woodhall Spa. His distinctive designs for houses and hotels are known as the English Style.
Turning left out of the Cottage Museum into Iddesleigh Road, you will find the old chemist’s shop of Carlton and Sons, now a private dwelling. It has elements of Came’s designs but the brickwork fronting the road used to be the plate glass windows of the original shop.
At the corner is Longwood House which is reputed to be a copy of Napoleon’s house on St. Helena. On early OS maps (1888), however, it is referred to as Oranienhof and is pre-Came in design.
Crossing the Broadway you will find two semi-detached Victorian houses of the Came period. They have the distinctive half-timbered pattern to the front elevation and the irregular dormer windows in the roof.
Continuing along Iddesleigh Road we have a new housing complex, Spa Court, which was built on the site of the Spa Hotel demolished in the 1980’s. This hotel had many names in the course of its history and before the First World War was known as the Hotel Göring.
On the right hand side of Iddesleigh Road is a row of six large, semi-detached houses which are definitely in the Came idiom. They are in the mock Tudor style and tend to have one or all of the following:
- small spire on the roof
- wooden features, i.e. carved facia, mock beams
- double frontages
- main entrance door at the side
- simple sash windows
- partial tile-hanging
- an area of flat roof hidden by the slope
- chimney stacks arranged so as to maximise space by allowing for fireplaces in the corners of rooms
At the end of the row of semi-detached houses is a large detached house which has been divided asymmetrically. It has Came features but like most of the larger houses is more substantially built of brick. Opposite is a house at the corner of Stanhope Avenue which appears to be of a later style in that it is less ornate.
On the opposite corner of Iddesleigh Road and Stanhope Avenue is a bungalow which was probably built in the grounds of the previous house early in the C20th.
If you turn right into Stanhope Avenue, you can walk past three large detached houses. Number 5 is of all brick construction and is probably Edwardian. Oakhurst next door has the appearance of a Came house as it has lots of his hallmarks, such as gable ends and tiles and it appears on the 1888 OS map. It is evident that the porch is a later addition to the original doorway.
Thoresway is probably a Came house – note the half-timbering chimney spire and tile-hung walls. The ground floor windows have been modified and they were probably more symmetrical when first built. Face Victoria Avenue and on your right you will see the rear gardens of Eagle Lodge, recently renovated and renamed the Woodhall Spa Hotel. This hotel existed pre-Came as a smaller residential building.
Tasburgh Lodge, the doctor’s surgery, is on the opposite corner. The original Victorian house was demolished by a landmine during the Second World War and was rebuilt in the 1950s.
Along Victoria Avenue on the right can be seen a group of six semi-detached houses which were probably used as guest houses to provide for the less affluent visitors to the Spa Baths. On the OS map of 1888 they are shown in situ before the Royal Hydro Hotel was built. They follow Came’s designs and have many of the features noted in the Iddesleigh Road grouping. Some of these houses have been modified or turned into flats but they are still very much as Came designed them in the 1880’s. The main entrances are on the side of the houses below a large half-timbered gable which varies from house to house.
On the left is a series of three detached houses probably built in the 1930s until you reach Wharfdale which is post-Came but did have a spire above the front door in photographs taken by John Wield. Many of the houses on this walk are in the collection which has been preserved in the Cottage Museum.
After Denbigh, the last of the Victorian semi-detached houses, Stanhope House is a detached house built of local brick, but not in the same style as depicted in Came’s vision. The stretch of road from Stanhope House to the end of Victoria Avenue used to border the ornamental gardens of the Royal Hotel, which contained a bandstand and tennis courts. Four detached bungalows, built since World War II, now occupy this stretch.
Turning right at the corner you will find Cornwall Terrace, which is illustrated on Came’s aerial view as a crescent. However, it was instead built parallel to the road and would not look out of place in one of the garden suburbs of the early C20th. There is Dutch influence in the gable ends and roof line and a very distinctive tower with lead covered cupola.
Moving north towards the crossroads, a hairdresser’s salon stands on the site of the old railway track and level crossing and across the road the present Budgen’s store used to be a railway goods and marshalling yard.
At the junction of Tattershall Road and Station Road is Royal Square, a park containing The Dambusters’ Memorial. This was the site of the centrepiece of Came’s vision, the Royal Hotel, Hydro and Winter Gardens. It was a major part of Came’s plan for the village to have a shopping mall and hotel and later it was developed into an imposing structure, which incorporated a ballroom, baths and Pump Room. Sadly, in August 1943, it was destroyed when two parachute bombs landed in the village.
The Mall public house is now the only remaining structure to give an impression of how the whole hotel complex would have appeared. It features an entrance flanked by original tree trunks with branches, which would have been repeated along the original hotel façade.
After the Mall, heading east, Station Road opens out into The Broadway. Here the railway track used to cross the road and the station buildings and platform stood behind the shops. Beside the police station and the entrance to the car park there is a small section of railway track to indicate the course of the original railway which ran from Kirkstead Junction to Horncastle.
The Woodhall Hotel, formerly Eagle Lodge, pre-dated the Came era and like many of the large houses has served several functions; private house, council residential home and finally hotel. The shops opposite have changed little over the previous century and give some idea of how Came’s Mall may have looked.
The circular walk you have taken has now come to an end with your arrival at Iddesleigh Road. In the museum it will be possible to spot many of the buildings you have passed from the photographs taken by Mr. Wield, which were the basis of the Cottage Museum’s existence.
The Railway Age
In 1853 a group of far-sighted men local men formed a company to construct a railway from Kirkstead (on the Boston-Lincoln line) to the market town of Horncastle with Woodhall spa as an intermediate station.
Woodhall Spa station
In a memoir Gillian Jackson (John Wield’s grand-daughter) tells how she and her brother, John, watched the trains going by the bungalow.
Life at the bungalow was quiet though grandad was always busy with something. The cooing of the wood pigeons always takes me back to Woodhall. It seemed the only other noise was the clang of the pedestrial gate across the railway. A strong spring on the gate ensured that it closed after people passed through. It bore a heavy iron plate on it, three or four feet across. “LOOK BOTH UP AND DOWN THE LINE BEFORE CROSSING AND DO NOT CROSS WHEN THE GONG IS SOUNDING”. The warning gong caused us children to run out and stand on the fragile wire fence (strictly forbidden) in order to wave to the driver, fireman, and any passengers who looked our way”.
Some interesting links:
The Horncastle and Kirkstead Junction Railway Company
Before 1848 the only town in Lincolnshire served by a railway was Lincoln, and this was only as the terminus of a spur from Nottingham. In 1848 a line was opened that ran from Peterborough, via Spalding to Boston. From Boston two lines were opened. One skirted the west side of the Wolds via Lincoln and the other the east side. Grantham had no railway connection until 1850 when it, too, was connected to Nottingham. It was not until 1852 that a line was built which connected Peterborough to Doncaster and York via Grantham but this only touched the extreme south-east of the county. Lincolnshire is a big county and in 1852 many places remained far removed from a railway. But things were about to change.
In the early 1850’s Horncastle was an important regional centre which serviced a highly productive agricultural area that supplied corn, cattle, wool, and other produce to the heavily populated industrial areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It also held an important annual Horse Fair and other large Stock Markets. The only problem was that its communication links were running behind the times.
The main line of the Great Northern Railway (GNR), the line which linked Boston to Lincoln, ran along the bank of the River Whitham. There was a canal that joined Horncastle to the river near Dogdyke where there was a station. In 1851, in order to facilitate the transfer of coal and other heavy goods the GNR built a coal wharf and wharehouse at Horncastle. From there coal was delivered to the surrounding villages.
It became clear that the area would be better served by a railway link from Horncastle to the main line. Without that it was feared the town would decline as competition increased from the fairs and markets of other towns served by a railway. So in 1853, three far-sighted local men, Sir Henry Dymoke, J.Banks-Stanhope, MP, and MR S Sketchley, were instrumental in forming the Horncastle Railway Company. The objective was to construct a single line, under eight miles in length, from the GNR’s loop at Kirkstead to Horncastle via the tiny village of Woodhall.
Negotiations were opened with the GNR and it was agreed that if the line were to be built the GNR would work it and that the revenues would be divided equally between the two companies. As a result a Bill to permit the construction of the line, to be called the Horncastle and Kirkstead Junction Railway Company, was presented to parliament. This met strong opposition until it was revealed that the majority of the protesters had interests in the canal company. So, in July 1884, the Bill was passed.
Construction began in March 1885 and was completed by the beginning of August. The opening of the line was celebrated with great enthusiasm in Horncastle. There was a grand procession through the town led by banners, musicians, company officials, directors, shareholders and school children, with local peole following behind.
The railway was a single track line just over 7 miles long. It left the GNR line at the small hamlet of Kirkstead where there was a ferry over the river Witham. From there the line ran north-east through the village of Woodhall Spa where a station with a sigle platform was built. It carried on for another 3 miles, through a small cutting in a low spur of the Wolds, until it encountered the canal.It then ran northwards, alongside the canal, to Horncastle.
Paintings of railway scenes circa 1855
by Abraham Solomon – 1824-1862
A mother, dressed in black, is comforting her young son who is leaving for a life at sea. The scene is a second class carriage with hard, unpadded, wooden bench seats.
First class – the meeting
The young man, in uniform and evidently having made a success of his career, has returned to England. He is chatting to an elderly man whilst exchanging glances with the old man’s daughter. The scene, as befits the officer’s status, is a first class railway carriage. By any standards this is luxurious being fitted out with leather, buttoned, uphoulstery.
Seats for five persons
The scene this time is an overcrowded third class carriage. In contrast to the scenes above this has a comic, cartoon-like, appearance. Does this suggest a degree of class-consciousness in the painter?
The three paintings taken together show very wide differences in the travelling conditions of the three classes in the middle of the 19th century. Nevertheless, even for the third class passengers, conditions had improved considerably. Third class passengers on the first trains had to travel in open trucks.
The Tower on the Moor
Modern-day scenes of the tower portray an evocative scene of ancient splendour now slipping into decay. The Tower which is now on private land still sits regally and has become one of the hallmarks of the village. Once part of a much larger building it is all that remains.
The Tower was probably built around the time that Tattershall Castle was being rebuilt in brick (1430 and 1455). Ralph Cromwell, third baron was treasurer of England and was an extremely wealthy man. It is possible that the Tower was part of his hunting lodge since it was originally in a large lake surrounded by marshland.
In 1530 it was recorded by Leland that the Tower was in a ‘great ponde or lake bricked about’. During excavations part of a stone causeway was found leading to the assumption that this would have been laid to give firmer footing for horses. The overseer of the building of the Tower was probably William of Wainfleet. He was involved in the building of Tattershall Castle and the Tower has similarities one example being that the Tower has handrails in the spiral staircase.