Harrogate today still bears witness to the great building boom of the later Victorian years. The older, once separate, districts of High and Low Harrogate now were united. A central shopping district was created, including elegant James Street. Along Victoria Avenue and in areas like West Park, housing was built for the town’s middle classes, whilst its workers were accommodated in streets at Smithy Hill, Oatlands, New Park and Starbeck. One of the largest developments was towards the close of the century, along Valley and Harlow Moor Drives to the east of the Valley Gardens. Leading off Valley Drive were Valley Road and Valley Mount. It is Valley Road which is the subject of this profile.
Enclosure Award, showing the Pannal Church land, reproduced courtesy Malcolm Neesam, from his Harrogate Great Chronicle 1332-1841, published in 2005 by Carnegie, page 135.
The land on which Valley Road and the lower part of Valley Drive were built originally belonged to St Robert’s Church, Pannal. This part of Harrogate, called Low Harrogate, was in Pannal Parish. This was just one of several owners of the land which was to form the development known as the Valley Park Estate. It had been given to that church under legislation of 1713 which permitted the grant of land, which in this case was part of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough, to support lowly paid parish clergy. When the Royal Forest, which extended from the River Nidd in the east to the Washburn Valley in the west, was enclosed, the Award of land of 1778 shows St Robert’s holdings on either side of Cold Bath Road. The area which became lower Valley Drive is clear just under the Black Bog, which was to form part of the Valley Gardens, as is the wedge of the land where Valley Road was eventually built.
Valley Park Estate
1st Image: Plan of land conveyed to the Valley Park Estate, dated 1894, from title deeds.
2nd Image: Ordnance Survey Map, surveyed 1889-90, 10” to the mile, reproduced with the permission of Ordnance Survey.
It is that parcel of land which was sold to the Valley Park Estate developers in 1894. On 27 December that year, the Revd Mark Rowntree, the patrons of St Robert’s and the Ecclesiastical Commissioner of England conveyed to Alfred Vickers, a land agent, and James Close, a chartered accountant, for the developers, the land comprising 3 acres, 2 roods, 4 perches and 21 yards. This was on a 999-year lease to begin on Christmas day of the previous year. The land is shown shaded on the plan which accompanied this original lease. A clearer picture of its location is given by the Ordnance Survey map of 1889-90 produced on the large scale of 10” to the mile. The intended street line is shown cutting through the old vicarage. As on the plan, the quarry at the end of what became Valley Road and Valley Mount can be seen. Valley Drive has yet to be created; a footpath runs from Royal Parade along the edge of the then recently opened Valley Gardens.
The terms of the lease gave to the Valley Park Estate power to quarry for stone on the site solely for the works there and to level the land for building. They agreed within four years to build ‘good and substantial’ houses which when completed should be not less than the clear yearly letting value of £15. No trade or business was to be carried out at the properties that might constitute a nuisance or be illegal or immoral. The frontage of all houses was to be of stone. Finally, they agreed to pave, sewer and drain Valley Drive at a width of 55 feet which would then be dedicated to the public use.
Building Valley Road
1st Image: Photo of Valley Road looking down, number 1 to the left, under snow early 2021.
2nd Image: Photo of Valley Road looking up.
3rd Image: Photo of Valley Road to rear.
The several plots which became Valley Road were sold in 1896 and 1897 to Thomas Johnson, surveyor and estate agent, on which to build ‘good and substantial’ houses, as specified in the original lease. In addition to the other specifications, he could erect behind the houses, facing the carriageway, buildings no higher than twenty feet to be used only as a hothouse, conservatory, coach house and stables or a dwelling for a gardener or coachman. This clearly indicates the class of people at whom the development was aimed. What the houses were like inside can be seen in the details of a survey and valuation undertaken of number 1 in 1910, which like number 2 opposite was larger than the rest of the houses. On the ground floor was an entrance porch with a tiled floor, a cloak room with lavatory basin, dining room with bay window, kitchen and scullery fitted with a sink with hot and cold running water and set pan. On the first floor was a drawing room, two bedrooms and a bathroom and toilet. On the second floor were three further bedrooms and a box room. There were coal and ‘keeping’ cellars in the basement. To the rear the yard was asphalted and provided with an outside W.C. To the front was a dwarf wall with iron palisading. It was valued at £600 per year, leasehold, with an annual ground rent of £9.
Residents in 1901 and 1911
Photo of House on Valley Mount.
The houses were then completed within a short period of time and were there for the censuses of 1901 and 1911, which give us a detailed picture of the inhabitants on census nights: 31 March and 2 April. Something of the street’s character and the reasons for its construction can be seen from the occupation of Edith Spinks, living at number 1. This is given as ‘lets off apartments’. From the end of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, many of the houses on Valley Road and Valley Drive were used in this way. It was the custom for visitors, who did not stay at one of the town’s hotels or boarding houses, to rent a room or rooms in a private house for all or part of the Season. The term apartment was adopted as having a rather superior tone than lodging house. In trade directories the term is invariably used for Valley Road houses, although in the census some did indeed describe themselves as lodging-house keepers. Some also distinguished themselves as boarding houses, like Sarah Robinson at number 26 in 1911, helped by daughters Maude and Adelaide, whilst Frances and Mabel went out to work as a café assistant and confectioner respectively. The lack of visitors recorded is explained by the fact that the censuses were taken before the Season had begun.
Several houses in adjoining Valley Mount, which had a more working-class character, had rooms let to lodgers, who do, in contrast, appear in the census. The exact arrangement of apartment accommodation varied, but some provided meals, or prepared food bought by the visitors. Rooms were let as apartments in this way right up into the 1960s. Heather Dean, a Valley Road resident since 1960, remembers rooms being kept in a pristine condition for the reception of the visitors. In addition, numbers 2 and 4 together formed an annexe to the Langham Hotel on Valley Drive, to which residents repaired for breakfast.
The Character of the Edwardian Street
Photo of Valley Road odd-numbered side looking up the street.
The character of the Edwardian Street was predominantly lower middle class, with some working-class residents, who, as we saw, might also let off a room or rooms as apartments. This was quite common in several parts of Harrogate. At number 8, John Watson was a retired officer of HM Customs, whilst at number 6, widow Bessie Hopkinson was a coal merchant. Working-class residents included at number 21, Alfred Atkinson, an engineer at the Baths and at number 28, Albert Lupton, a hansom-cab driver. Similarly in 1911, whilst at number 18 there was an insurance agent, at number 7 he was a jobbing gardener.
A European Prescence
1st Image: Photo of number 13, Valley Road.
2nd Image: The Schwarz band performing at the Pier Head, below the Prospect Hotel. Courtesy the Walker-Neesam Archive.
A European presence is shown by, at number 23 in 1901, two Italian mosaic workers in lodgings. This presence was a little more marked in 1911. At number 19 lived Alex De Waal, a hotel waiter born in Germany and his English-born wife Ellen. European, especially German, waiters were a feature of the hotel trade at this time, and Harrogate was no exception. Germany also supplied musicians. At number 13 lived Otto Schwarz, bandmaster, his brother, and several nephews. He and his band entertained Harrogate residents and visitors throughout the Edwardian years down to the First World War. His wife Amalie did the administration and fed the band. It was from this house that the male members were arrested one day and taken under armed guard to internment for the duration of the war, chiefly in a huge camp on the Isle of Man.
The musical connections of the street may be further seen in an advertisement of March 1900 in the Harrogate Advertiser for Charles Dean of number 16, certificated blind piano tuner and also a harmonium and American organ tuner and repairer from the Royal National College, London. In the census of the following year, he is at number 19.
We know about the Schwarz family as a descendent compiled a detailed life story of Otto. Mostly we just have the details of such as the census and know little of what people were like. Occasionally, however, tragedy intervenes to cause details to be reported in the newspaper. Thus, in August 1903, the Advertiser reported the inquest on the body of Victor Wardman Richardson, 26, which had been pulled from the River Nidd 300 yards above the High Bridge. He was the youngest son of John Richardson of the firm of John Richardson and Sons, the Exchange. His widow, Mary, give evidence that he had left their home, number 5, on Saturday morning for a short walk before breakfast. He had been unwell all that summer, suffering from ‘weakness’ but did not seem depressed until that day, when he was worried about a recent business trip, although he was not in any difficulties of any kind. He had also ‘not been temperate in his habits lately’. He had taken the train to Knaresborough, where he had visited a couple of public houses, latterly the World’s End, where he had a glass of milk. The verdict was ‘found drowned’ but there was not sufficient evidence as to how he had got into the river.
An Ageing Street
Other things we can glean from the census are, for example, how few of the residents had been born in the town. Harrogate generally was a town of incomers. Also striking is the presence of families with children, like Edith Spinks in 1901 with Annie, aged two and Joseph aged one. The Spinks were also one of few families who stayed there over the whole decade. In 1911, husband Joseph, an assistant in an antiques business, was now recorded there, and Annie and Joseph junior were then at school. They had actually bought their house in 1904. By the 1960s the street’s inhabitants were predominantly elderly. Heather Dean remembers only one other family apart from hers. As well as child-free, it was also car-free, such that residents could hang their washing across the lower parts of it.
A More Expensive and Ever Changing Street
By 1960 a larger house like number 1 sold for £1,750, whilst a smaller one, number 7, went for £900. Prices were to rise much higher. Number 7 in 1977 sold for £5,700. Twenty years later it was bought for just over £72,000. By 2021, prices approaching half a million pounds were being asked. One other change was the decision of the church to sell the freehold of the properties in 1983, under the Endowment and Glebe measure of 1976, for £1,000 to Spurshire Ltd of London. Householders now purchased the freehold, including Heather Dean, who was thereby relieved of the onus of collecting the ground rents and remitting it to the church.
As with any street, change is constant. From the 1970s more families were again living there. What had formerly been let as bedsits were converted to private houses in the 1990s and 2000s. The street had enough communal feeling to have a street party to welcome the new millennium. More recently again, the former annexe to the Langham Hotel, which itself had closed along with all but one of the hotels and guest houses which once were such a feature of Valley Drive, was converted into a house and flats. Another recent development is the use of properties for Airbnb or holiday lets. What this may mean for the street’s future character remains to be seen. But it is a lovely street, so close to the Valley Gardens and the shops, cafés and restaurants of Cold Bath Road and but a short stroll from the town centre and the Stray.
Paul Jennings May 2021
Acknowledgements and Sources:
Title deeds to numbers 1 and 7 Valley Road.
The censuses of 1901 and 1911.
D. K. Schwarz, The Waves Roar: A Kapelmeister’s Journey (published by the author 2011).
All Photos by Frank Jennings.