Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson Q.C. opened the meeting promptly at 1030 a.m. and advised of twelve apologies.

Under “Initial Notices” Secretary Neil Ramshaw gave notice of the 2018 April 24th A.G.M. and asked for members to consider taking office/helping with the small tasks needed to make the Forum operate efficiently and successfully— in particular 2nd Vice Chairman candidates needed and Catering assistance welcome!!

John Taylor Programme Secretary updated members on the late Gordon Richardson’s funeral last week and also regarding Ken Roberts who has been absent for some time and now in a Care Home off the Knaresborough Road— a long-standing member and former Bevin Boy !!

Today’s talk saw the return of Mr Malcolm Neesam, noted Harrogate Historian, whose subject would be “Harrogate in the 20th Century”. For the next hour the attentive audience were entertained with an excellent recounting, supported by a complementary slide show, of Harrogate’s development both good and bad throughout the last century. Harrogate’s progress was enhanced by its reputation as a premier Spa Town and further consolidated with the arrival of the Railway.

In 1900 Harrogate’s population stood at 26,583 increasing by 2001 to 71,594. Before the Great War Harrogate was a genteel community attractive to the aristocracy and the well to do–very much upmarket in terms of its appeal. This would dramatically change both after the First World War and accelerate again after the Second World War. Significant building took place prior to the First World War—1900 Harrogate Opera House; Majestic Hotel with one gold leaf dome!! In 1902 the Grand Hotel opened on Cornwall Road with eight gold leaf domes!!; 1903 Kursaal opened and other developments also took place—all funded from within Harrogate itself.

Following World War One the Council had three priorities to action with housing improvements urgently required leading initially to the developement of the St. Andrews Estate in the 1920’s and then others. Secondly suitable commemoration of the War Dead was required which eventually saw the Cenotaph commissioned and thirdly responding to as report by Professor Smithells on Spa Facilities, initiated in 1918, with plans for pavement canopies and the training of Bath Attendants being progressed.

We were shown Valley Gardens improvements, even though part of the Stray, and Malcolm described what was between the wars the big business of Harrogate Spa Water. 1930 saw new Council Offices in Crescent Gardens and the Council publicised an”Up Market” image of the town. Council interference with the properties of the Stray led to the formation of the Stray Defence Association in 1933 and an outbreak of internecine strife thar was eventually won by the Association and the removal of the offending flower beds and shrubs from the said Stray.

The Second World War saw slum clearances put on hold; billeting taking place on a large-scale in the town; bombing in 1940 and following the war’s end the further acceleration of change with Conference Halls, Bus and Railway Stations replaced (not for the better!); start of the International Festival in 1966; refurbishment of the Royal Hall and other changes/ developments up to the end of the century.

Whilst not a lot of time for questions it was apparent that the morning’s proceedings had been much appreciated and well received by members.

The Vote of Thanks on behalf of thirty-nine attendees was given by Richard Brooks.



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