A prompt start to the meeting at 1030a.m. was made by Chairman Peter Staples who advised of the one apology received. A reminder was given that at next weeks Christmas Lunch the charitable collection would be shared between Yorkshire Air Ambulance and St. Michael’s Hospice.

Today’s Speaker Professor Mike Dixon was Professor of Pathology at Leeds University and is now Emeritus Professor. As a leading authority on the history of Ilkley his talk today was titled “The Ilkley Water Cure”.

In the late 18th /early 19th century Ilkley was a small village described as “Rustic, inaccessible….” and what appeared to be an unprepossessing place to be. Ilkley had a Spa (Spaw) on Rombalds Moors with the water not having any medicinal value although this was sold as a virtue!! However the water from the moors was ice-cold (4 degrees C) and would be an important feature of the developing Spa Town. Our Speaker then gave us a historical tour showing the development of Ilkley and Ben Rhydding and how in Victorian times it developed into a major Spa location with visitors flocking for the reputed cold water health treatments. We heard about Ben Rhydding Hydro, a hydropathic establishment at Wheatley, White Wells House and other spa locations. Charles Darwin underwent hydropathic treatment at Wells House; Madame Tussaud had a property in the town and initial transport was provided by Donkey Jackson. Major influences in Ilkley’s development and growth as a Spa Town were Vincenz Priessnitz, a peasant farmer from Grafenburg Austrian Silesia and generally considered the founder of modern hydrotherapy and Hamer Stansfield (Lord Mayor of Leeds) who put Ilkley and Wheatley on the spa map.

The population of Ilkley dramatically increased through the 19th century from 462 in 1801 to 7455 by 1901 fuelled by the introduction of the Ilkley Water Cure (hydrotherapy), the coming of the railway in 1865 and the sale of land for development forced economically upon the main Middleton landowners. The Professor detailed the spa treatments e.g. cold water baths; cold sheet treatments, rough towelling; massage and exercises together with some peculiar but substantial dietary measures.

With his  excellent slides and amusing but informative delivery an enjoyable morning was had by members with some insightful questions asked.

The Vote Of Thanks on behalf of forty members was given By His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson.



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