Report 21st February 2012

A Tea Party

This week our Vice-Chairman, Bill Blades, completed his tea and coffee duties (In the kitchen) by 10.25 and then told us the story of a rather different “Tea Party”.  During the hot summer of 1911, Harrogate was at the height of its reputation as a resort for royalty and aristocracy from the whole of Europe.

A brown plaque on Cathcart House on West Park records a tea party attended by two former Empresses, the ex-King of Portugal, the sister of George V and the Russian Grand Duchess who later founded convalescent homes in Harrogate for soldiers in World War One.  Our speaker skilfully sketched the personalities of the participants and wondered at their enthusiasm for staying at the modest Cathcart House when they were used to grand palaces. 

Bill Blades was at pains to show that the period before the First World War was not in every respect a “golden sunset”.  Although the Suffragettes had called a truce, problems of immigration and terrorism were prominent in the newspapers, there were many strikes and 20% of the population of York lived below the poverty line.  These problems contrasted jarringly with the elegant world of the Queen Alexandra sandwich (tongue and egg) at Cathcart House.

Derek Clarkson gave the vote of thanks and drew attention to the amount of detail which had been researched by Bill Blades for his talk.

John Taylor

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