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Workers in Harrogate Spa

December

2021

Workers in Harrogate Spa is a new exhibition at the Royal Pump Room Museum. It is based on the work of Civic Society and History Group member Paul Jennings.

Paul writes. I have been fascinated by history since I was a small boy and have been hugely fortunate to have made its study my career, chiefly teaching at the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Bradford but also for the University of Leeds, the Open University and the WEA here in Harrogate. Most of my published work to date has been on the history of drink and drinking places, much to some people’s amusement, but I can assure them it has mostly been in libraries and archives. My main books on this have been The Public House in Bradford, 1770-1970 (1995), The Local: A History of the English Pub (2007 and now revised 3rd edition 2021) and A History of Drink and the English 1500-2000 (2016). We moved to Harrogate nearly 25 years ago now and as I approached retirement I began to think about a book on Harrogate’s history. I felt that there was scope for a study of the town’s working people. Little seemed to have been written about them and the history of so-called ordinary people has always interested me. Now, some seven years and much research and reading later, the book and the exhibition which complements it have finally appeared as Working-Class Lives in Edwardian Harrogate and Workers in Harrogate Spa.

The exhibition has been the work of Karen Southworh, curator with Harrogate Museums and Arts and I would like here to thank her most warmly for her support and hard work from first hearing my idea for an exhibition, nearly two years ago now. Thanks are due also to the Friends of Harrogate District Museums for sponsorship. It retains existing displays on the history of Harrogate but then looks at the spa workers and also the servants, laundry workers, hotel staffs, shop assistants, builders, cabmen, railway workers, street entertainers and the rest who kept the town going. The book complements the exhibition but goes on to explore not only their work but how they made ends meet, their homes and the neighbourhoods in which they lived, their family lives, schooldays, pastimes and religion.

I also would like to thank many individuals who helped along the way but particularly Malcolm Neesam for his helpful and supportive comments on my work in progress and for photographs from his collection and Terry Williams of the New Park Heritage Centre (and fellow member of the History Group), for his unrivalled knowledge of that district and also for photographs.

The book is published by Carnegie Publishing at £14.99. The exhibition at the Pump Room Museum is now open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 to 16.00. Admission is £3.50 (£2.50 concessions) and children £2. It will continue at least until the Spring.

I welcome any thoughts and comments you may have on book and exhibition to paul.jennings@cantab.net

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