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 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.
- 1815 Immediately after the Battle of Waterloo, acorns were planted to create Waterloo Wood by Colonel Richard Elmhirst of West Ashby.
- 1821 The coal mine shaft in Coal Pit Wood was started by John Parkinson.
- 1823 In January, the shaft was some 480 feet deep and less than 10 feet in diameter. An explosion during blasting seriously hurt 2 men.
In June, the shaft had reached 670 feet deep, another explosion during blasting killed William East and badly hurt Mr Tyler
- 1823-24 The shaft was abandoned and covered over. The shaft flooded and water overflowed into the ditch surrounding Coal Pit Wood. Legend says cattle drinking the water in the ditch were cured of ailments. Local inhabitants found the water curative for the symptoms of rheumatism, gout, scurvy and various skin diseases. Thomas Hotchkin, Lord of the Manor, believed the water was beneficial for his gout.
- 1826 John Parkinson was bankrupt
- 1820s- 1830s Thomas Hotchkin purchased the land and shaft and drew the water into a brick lined bath. He had the water analysed at the suggestion of Dr A.B. Granville after the Bath House and Hotel had been built. The water was found to contain Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium Chlorides and more Iodine and Bromine than any other known mineral water. Later analysis showed six times more Iodine than the German Spa Bad Kreuznach and earned Woodhall Spa the title “The English Kreuznach”.
- 1834 Primitive Methodist chapel built.
- 1838 Thomas Hotchkin built the first Pump Room and Bath House.
- 1839 Thomas Hotchkin built the Victoria Hotel, named after the young queen. Ann Tweed was the Hotel manageress, James Davy the Bath House keeper, Dr Thomas Snaith of Horncastle the surgeon. William Collier along with William and Mary Fixter were Lodging Housekeepers.
- 1840s Dr A.B. Granville recommended a covered way between the Hotel and the Bath House, new bathrooms and replacement of the iron pipework by a hydraulic belt to prevent contamination of the water by Iron Oxide.
Stafford Hotchkin, son of Thomas, installed the hydraulic belt turned by 2 horses to lift the water into a reservoir under the well yard and to a tank over the Bath House.
Standard charges were:
Bed & Breakfast 6/- (Servants 3/-); Single bath 2/-; 8 baths 14/-; drinking water 3/- per gal
Poor peoples charges were: Single bath 1/6; 8 baths 10/6d; drinking water 2/- per gallon.
- 1844 Wellington Memorial erected by Col Richard Elmhurst of West Ashby.
- 1846 St Andrew’s church built.
- 1847 St Andrew’s National School founded.
- 1848 Opening of the Lincoln-Boston railway, Great Northern Railway Co., with a station at Kirkstead. This improved accessibility for visitors from London and the south.
- 1850 Warm and cold showers were available in the Baths. Heating apparatus introduced by Dr Scott, resident physician. Invitations to tender for the building of villa residences were not taken up.
- 1855 Opening of Kirkstead-Horncastle railway, Horncastle Railway Co., with a station at Woodhall Spa.
- 1866-83 Victoria Hotel and Baths leased to Dr Robert Cuffe, the medical superintendent.
- 1873 Dr Cuffe and Rev J Conway Walter opened a small cottage hospital for the poor (now Rose Cottage, close to the museum).
- 1870s (mid) A large villa residence, Eagle House, was built and became the home of Charles Blyton, horticultural and general builder, contractor and hot water apparatus maker. The plant nursery opposite the Spa was owned by Edmund Blyton.
- 1875 Wesleyan Methodist chapel built on Witham Road.
- 1876 Steam power to lift the water and heat the Baths was installed.
- 1877 John Wield was born in Lincolnshire.
- 1880 Thomas Wield and his wife Mary started to work at the Baths.
- 1881 Census population of Woodhall Spa was 515
- 1882 Eagle House became the Eagle Lodge Hotel, run by Edmund Blyton.
- 1883 Dr Cuffe retired as medical superintendent and opened a private sanatorium at Northcote House (Hydro) – now Spa Court.
- 1884 Thomas John Stafford Hotchkin refurbished the Victoria Hotel. Although the Spa possessed only 2 hotels and a few houses it was prosperous.
Thomas Wield was responsible for drawing the water and his wife was in charge of the baths for women.
- 1886 Rev John Otter Stephens, Rector of Blankney, initiated the formation of a Syndicate which included Rt. Hon. Edward Stanhope (MP for Revesby), Rt. Hon. Henry Chaplin (MP for Blankney), Thomas Cheney Garfit (Kenwick Hall), Sir Richard Everard Webster (later Lord Alverstone) and Sir Stafford Northcote (later Lord Iddesleigh).
The number of visitors was 15,182.
- 1887 The Syndicate purchased 75 + 25 acres of the Woodhall Spa Estate from Stafford Hotchkin. The Syndicate put in hand the following alterations and improvements:-
Remodelled Bath House by C F Davis, architect of Bath, which included facilities found in continental spas of the time; archery and tennis grounds; bandstand with daily music in the season and special concerts on Saturdays; Pump room fitted as a lounge with newspapers and periodicals.
Dr C J Williams was the medical superintendent.
Typical charges were: Massage Douche 2/6d with attendant fee of 4d.; Pulverisation 6d. with attendant fee of 1d.
The Victoria Hotel was leased to W J Roberts of London who reorganised the establishment of 150 rooms, suites of private apartments, large public dining room and 10 acres of grounds.
- 1887 The bungalow, now used by the museum, was a construction by Boulton and Paul and originally built in 1884 but moved to its present site in1887. Given by Stafford Hotchkin and Dr Boulton to the Wield family for their home. Subsequently Thomas Wield ran the Bath Chair business.
Richard Adolphus Came, architect of London, was employed to design the new town. His design was based on a mini garden city plan with a straight tree line Broadway and shopping Mall. Avenues of trees were planted before the construction of roads and buildings – later roads were named after members of the Syndicate. Cromwell Avenue was named after a builder and Tarleton Avenue was named after an Irish lady who was “cured” by the Spa Water. In his design of buildings Came favoured a half-timbered upper storey and the use of panels of over-fired bricks from kiln linings.
- 1889 Number of visitors was 47,700 (over a four year period)
- 1890 One hundred dwellings of which a quarter were boarding houses (including Villa Kreuznach run by Mrs Ellen Cartwright and Sylvanhay run by Miss Meshullemeth Harding) had been erected. Other buildings included a bank (Garfit, Claypon & Co.), 2 grocers, a baker/confectioner (Harness & Son), a chemist/druggist (Carlton), a dairyman (Thomas Croft), ironmonger, stationer, tobacconist, and refreshment rooms. Most of the shops were in the rectangular Mall, which had a covered promenade around an open space with an ornamental tower and gardens.
The Mall Tavern was run by W J Roberts of the Victoria Hotel and the Mall Temperance Hotel was run by F Landolt.
A domestic supply of water was supplied from the chalk at Cawkwell by the Horncastle Water Co.
In May, Countess Brownlow of Belton House opened the Alexandra Hospital which had been built on a site provided by the Syndicate at a cost of £3000. There was accommodation for 30 inpatients at 12/- per week.
The first golf course opened for play, 9 holes along Tattershall Road to Abbey Lane.
- 1893 St Peter’s Church built.
- 1894 Clarence Ward was added to the Alexandra Hospital.
Rev J Conway Walter established the Home for Gentlewomen with accommodation for 20 ladies in reduced circumstances. Dr Cuffe was the honorary medical officer.
Woodhall Spa became a civil parish formed from parts of Woodhall, Roughton, Martin and Langton.
Woodhall Spa Parish formed 29 September (originally called Langton St. Andrew).
- 1895 The second golf course replaced the one on Tattershall Road when the land that the course was built on was required for building. The first tee was near the location of the present Kinema, covering part of Petwood and crossing the Stixwould Road.
- 1896 Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to Our Lady and St Peter, built.
- 1897 The Royal Hotel opened. Designed by Came and developed from The Mall, it had 120 rooms and suites, with gardens, tennis courts and a bandstand connected to it by a footbridge over the railway track. Came covered the open space of the original Mall to form the Winter Gardens. He also sank a well (550 feet deep, 7 feet diameter) about the present Cromwell Avenue to supply Spa water for a hydropathic establishment in the Royal Hydropathic Hotel & Winter Gardens.
- 1898 Woodhall Spa became an Urban District.
John Wield married Asenath Dickinson.
- 1899 Second Wesleyan Methodist chapel built, on Iddesleigh Road.
- 1900 Woodhall Spa had 23 shops including 3 bakers and confectioners, 2 butchers, 2 grocers, 3 stationers & newsagents, 4 blacksmiths & ironmongers, 4 builders & painters.
- 1901 Dr Lionel C R Calthrop was appointed medical superintendent at the Spa.
Population of 988 excluding visitors.
- 1903 Work started on a new golf course, 6300 yards and 18 holes which was laid north-east towards Martin Moor with advice from past Open Champions Harry Vardon and J H Taylor. Later it was upgraded to championship standards.
- 1904 Ethel May (Effie) Wield was born.
- 1905 Grace Maple, Baroness von Eckhardstein and only child and heiress of Sir John Blundell Maple (of the famous London furniture emporium), built a country house in her “pet wood” near the Spa Baths. Set in 40 acres of rhododendron woods and gardens designed by Harold Peto. The house, called Petwood, was designed in a dark half-timbered style and furnished by Maples.
The Tea House in the Woods was built and run by the Misses Williams, with a gift shop and lending library.
New golf course was officially opened.
- 1906 The first cricket ground was constructed.
- 1907 A new Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built on an adjacent site to the one on Iddesleigh Road, facing The Broadway. The Iddesleigh Road chapel was then used as a Sunday school. It was re-converted to use as the chapel in 1995, following the sale of The Broadway chapel
- 1908 The Northcote (Hydro) became the Goring Hotel (now Spa Court).
Cedric Wield was born.
- 1909 The Woodhall Spa Water Co. was formed and used a supply from Kirkby Moor (now a Nature Reserve).
- 1910 Grace Maple married Capt. William Ernest George Archibald Weigall, land agent for the Blankney estates of the Earl of Londesbrough. The Weigalls made their home at Petwood.
- 1911 Capt. Archibald Weigall was elected to Parliament as the member for Horncastle.
26 and 27 July, the Centenary Pageant of Lincolnshire History was performed in the Spa grounds with a cast of some 300. The date, according to Conway Walter’s “Records of Woodhall Spa” was the centenary of the finding of Spa water. Further research puts the findings of the water to 1821.
- 1912 The present cricket ground was established by Capt. Archibald Weigall and was opened by the Sussex cricketer George Relft.
- 1914-18 The Petwood and the Alexandra Hospital were turned into Convalescent hospitals
- 1920 Woodhall Spa had not recovered from the effects of the First World War.
At this time the Royal Hotel was virtually deserted by visitors, although part of it functioned at the Mall Hotel under Charles Langton Webster and the Winter Gardens was a venue for entertainment.
The Victoria Hotel was destroyed by a fire on Easter Sunday, 4 April, which was started by an electrical fault in the boiler room and spread to the linen cupboard.
Sir Archibald Weigall was appointed Governor of the South Australia and the Weigalls temporarily left Petwood.
- 1921 Population of Woodhall Spa was 1635.
- 1922 The Weigalls returned to Petwood to find the Spa in decline and the Spa Baths losing nearly £1000 a year.
Sir Archibald bailed out the Syndicate and bought the Baths and the ruins of the Victoria Hotel including the sports and entertainment pavilion. He offered the Baths to the Urban District Council free of charge. The Council did not accept the offer and the Woodhall Spa Baths Trust was established.
The Urban District Council, chaired by Major Stafford Vere Hotchkin, vigorously advertised the Spa and more visitors were attracted.
Lady Weigall, with the assistance of Capt. Carleton Cole Allport converted the pavilion into The Pavilion Cinema (later renamed “The Kinema in the Woods”) with a back projection. It was patronised by members of the royal family during their visits to Petwood.
- 1926 The Goring Hotel became the Spa Hotel (now Spa Court).
- 1931 Population of Woodhall Spa had fallen to 1372.
- 1933 Lady Weigall believed the problems caused by the loss of the Victoria Hotel could be solved if Petwood was converted to a hotel. John Flury, a naturalised Swiss and his wife Peggy were brought from the Hotel Washington in Mayfair to run the new hotel.
- 1934 East wing of Petwood Hotel destroyed by fire and rebuilt. The Weigalls continued to visit and entertain at the Petwood Hotel.
- 1935 The Weigalls provided Jubilee Park and the swimming pool which were opened by Princess Marie Louise.
- 1939-45 During the Second World War Woodhall Spa and district was used to billet British and Polish soldiers and airmen. In early 1944 the 1st Airborne Division were trained and billeted in and around the village before Operation Market Garden (Arnhem).
- 1943 During the night of 16-17 August, two enemy parachute mines were dropped on the village destroying the house of Dr George Armour and most of the Royal Hotel and Winter Gardens.
Petwood Hotel became the Officers’ Mess of RAF 617 (Dambusters) Squadron.
- 1947 The Weigalls gave Jubilee Park and the cricket ground to the village.
The Woodhall Spa Community Association was formed to build a community hall in the village.
Polish army units were based in Roughton and Kirkby Moor camps; many settled in the area and married local women.
- 1949-53 The Community Association organised various fund-raising events with Mesdames Boys and Flury playing an active part.
- 1950s Royal Square, site of the bombed Royal Hotel, was given to the people of Woodhall Spa.
- 1953 The Community Association had purchased part of the old Victoria Hotel site and an ex-RAF building from Tattershall Thorpe was transferred and re-erected on the site.
- 1954 On 2 June Coronation Hall, community centre, was officially opened by the Earl of Ancaster.
The last passenger train ran from Horncastle to Woodhall Spa on 11 September.
- 1965 John Wield died.
- 1971 The freight only railway service between Horncastle and Woodhall Spa ceased in April.
- 1972 Coronation Hall was leased to Lincolnshire County Council.
- 1975 The old railway track from Woodhall Spa to Horncastle was bought by Lincolnshire County Council and later became part of the Viking Way.
- 1983 On 22 September the buildings over the Spa Well collapsed, followed three days later by the chimney of the pumping engine, ending the use of the baths as a hospital.
- 1984 Alexandra Hospital was closed.
The Community Association was re-activated as the Woodhall Spa & District Community Association.
- 1987 Memorial for RAF 617 (Dambusters) Squadron was erected on the site of the old Royal Hotel and was dedicated on Sunday 17 May.
The Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum opened to the public on 17 May.
- 1991 Tourist Information Centre opened at the Museum.
Population – 2,990
- 2010 Memorial to the 1st Airborne Landing Brigade in grounds of Cottage Museum dedicated to the men who left Woodhall Spa to fight in the battle of Arnhem.
In December an arson attack leaves outbuildings damaged beyond repair.
- 2011 In July a People’s Pageant organised to commemorate the original Pageant of 1911.
On 23 November news received that an application for a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant
- 2012 On 24 January a group of volunteers, organised by Matt Tuck of RAF Digby, assembled
to demolish the outbuildings.
- 2013 On 3 May the refurbished Cottage Museum and its outbuildings were ready to open.
On 19 May a new memorial was dedicated to RAF 617 Squadron at Royal Square.
“In memory of No 617 Squadron RAF who gave their lives since 1945 in the service of their country”
- 2014 On 10 July the Cottage Museum achieved success at the Lincolnshire Heritage Awards
and was the winner of the Excellence Award and highly commended in the Inspiration
Award category for its project – The Future of Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum.
Jackie Goodall was awarded a Judge’s Special Award for an ‘outstanding
contribution to Lincolnshire Heritage’.
On 6 September Veterans and invited guests joined the community in a major event
to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.
“The Book of Horncastle & Woodhall Spa” David N Robinson OBE, MSc
“Records of Woodhall Spa and Neighbourhood” Rev J Conway Walter
“The Spas of England and Principal Bathing Places” Dr. A.B. Granville MD, FRS
Books about Woodhall Spa by local authors Edward Mayor and Marjorie Sargeant
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:
- Animated diagram that shows how the Lincolnshire railway system fitted into the development of a country wide system
- Woodhall Spa, LNER poster, 1923-1930
- Lincolnshire Railways Gallery: A large collection of photos.
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.