Royal Leamington Spa

From Wikishire
(Redirected from Leamington Spa)
Jump to: navigation, search
Royal Leamington Spa
The Parade -Leamington Spa - Warwickshire 13a2008.jpg
Grid reference: SP316660
Location: 52°17’31"N, 1°32’13"W
Population: 39,940  (2008 est.)
Post town: Leamington Spa
Postcode: CV31, CV32, CV33
Dialling code: 01926
Local Government
Council: Warwick
Warwick and Leamington

Royal Leamington Spa, commonly known as Leamington Spa or Leamington is a spa town in central Warwickshire.

Leamington was formerly known as Leamington Priors. Its expansion began following the popularisation of the medicinal qualities of its water by Dr Kerr in 1784, and by Dr Lambe around 1797.[1] During the 19th century, the town experienced one of the most rapid expansions in England.[2] The River Leam flows through the town.


The town's name comes from the Old English Leman-tun or Lemen-tun, meaning "village on the River Leam".[3]

The town was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Lamintone. It was formerly known as Leamington Priors, because during the Middle Ages it belonged to Kenilworth Priory. The old name is still formally borne by the parish church.


Lansdowne Crescent

For 400 years, the village was under the control of Kenilworth Priory. The priory was dissolved under King Henry VIII.

The healing properties of the spa waters had been known in Roman times and their rediscovery in 1784 by William Abbotts and Benjamin Satchwell, led to their commercialisation.

Leamington began to develop as a town at the start of the 19th century. Early development of the old town centre was on the southern bank of the River Leam. Later builders began concentrating the town's expansion on the land north of the river, resulting in the Georgian centre of New Town with the Leam flowing between the two. In 1767 Parliament passed an Act, proposed by Edward Willes, a local landowner, for dividing and enclosing the open and common land on the south and west of the River Leam.[4] Following a survey of the area by John Tomlinson in 1768, the land was estimated to be 990 acres and was subsequently divided, and new public roads were laid out.[4] After the division on the south of the river most of the land east of the village was owned by the Willes family and to the west by Matthew Wise. To the north of the river most of the land was owned by the Willes family, the Earl of Warwick, and Bertie Greatheed.[4] The main landholders of the village and adjacent land were the Earl of Aylesford, and a number of smaller landowners.[4] In the following decades some of the land was sold.[4] By 1901, the population of Leamington had grown from a few hundred to nearly 27,000.[5]

Royal Pump Rooms and Baths

In 1814, the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were opened close to the River Leam.[6] This grand structure attracted many visitors, expecting cures by bathing in pools of salty spa water. It also included the world's first gravity fed piped hot water system in modern times, which was designed and installed by the engineer William Murdoch. Leamington became a popular spa resort attracting the wealthy and famous, and construction began of numerous Georgian townhouses to accommodate visitors, and a town hall was built in 1830.[2]

With the spread of the town's popularity, and the granting with a 'Royal' prefix in 1838 by Queen Victoria, 'Leamington Priors' was renamed 'Royal Leamington Spa'. Queen Victoria had visited the town as a Princess in 1830 and as Queen in 1858.[6] A statue of Queen Victoria was almost destroyed by a German bomb during Second World War, and was moved one inch on its plinth by the blast. The statue was not returned to its original position, and the incident is recorded on a plaque on its plinth.

The function of the Royal Pump Rooms changed several times over the following years. While retaining its assembly rooms and medical facilities, around 1863 it was extended to include a Turkish bath and swimming pool, in 1875 the Royal Pump Room Gardens were opened to the public, and in 1890 a further swimming pool was added. The economy of Leamington decreased towards the end of the 19th century following the decline in popularity of spa towns, and it became a popular place of residence for retired people and for members of the middle-class who relocated from Coventry and Birmingham, and wealthy residents led to the development of Leamington as a popular place for shopping.[5] In 1997, the owners of the building, the district council, closed the facility for redevelopment, reopening it in 1999 as a culture centre. It now contains Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, a library, a tourist information centre, refurbished assembly rooms and a cafe.[7] Spa water can still be sampled outside the building.

Leamington is closely associated with the founding of lawn tennis. The first tennis club in the world was formed in 1872 by Major Henry Gem and Augurio Pereira who had started playing tennis in the garden of Pereira.[8] It was located just behind the former Manor House Hotel and the modern rules of lawn tennis were drawn up in 1874 in Leamington Tennis Club.

During the Second World War, Leamington was home to the Free Czechoslovak Army; a memorial in the Jephson Gardens commemorates the bravery of Czechoslovak parachutists from Warwickshire.


All Saints Church

The original parish church is All Saints Leamington Priors, a grand, gothic church. The town also has churches of other denominations.

About the town

The town hall with Queen Victoria's statue

Leamington is divided by the River Leam running east to west, which is susceptible to flooding, with especially heavy floods in 1998 and 2007.[9][10]

The town has several parks and gardens,[11] including The Jephson Gardens, close to the Royal Pump Rooms and next to the River Leam. These were seriously damaged in the floods of 1998, but have been restored and improved with lottery funding.

The other side of the River Leam, on Priory Terrace features the "Elephant Walk" 19th-century slipway down to the river located near the suspension bridge in Jephson Gardens. It was specifically constructed so that circus elephants in winter quarters in Leamington could be watered.[12] Other parks are the Mill Gardens on the opposite bank of the river to Jephson Gardens, Victoria Park, the Royal Pump Room Gardens, The Dell and Newbold Comyn which includes the nature reserves Welches Meadow and Leam Valley.[13]

The road running through the town centre is the Parade (formerly Lillington Lane until 1860).[2] The shopping street contains high street chains and a covered shopping centre.

Buildings in the town include a variety of Georgian and early Victorian architecture, and listed buildings such as the Grade II listed Lansdowne Crescent in neo-classical style, designed by William Thomas between 1835 and 1838.[14]

An oak tree just to the northeast of the town centre is marked by a plaque stating that it commemorates the Midland Oak, a tree that grew near the spot and was reputed to be at the centre of England.



The popularity of the town's waters in the 19th century led to the town's initial growth, making tourism Leamington's primary industry in the 19th century.[15]

Christmas Lights in Livery street


In the town centre there are a variety of shops from high street chains to independent retailers, plus an indoor shopping centre the Royal Priors. The out of town retail park is called the Leamington Shopping Park (formerly The Shires Retail Park).[16]


Tourism was initially driven by the spring waters. The arrival of the Warwick and Napton Canal (later amalgamated into the Grand Union Canal) officially opened in 1799 as the primary means of cargo transport and led to growth in other industries until rail gradually took over in the mid 19th century,[15] The canal supplied coal to the gasworks on Tachbrook Road, providing gas to light the town from 1835. Pig iron, coke and limestone were delivered by canal, allowing a number of foundries to be established in Leamington, specialising in cast iron stoves.

Today the Eagle Foundry, dating from at least 1851, continues to manufacture AGA Rangemaster stoves. The Imperial Foundry, dating from around 1925, was subsequently taken over by Ford]], casting engine blocks until its closure in 2008.

Commercial parks for service providers and light industry and offices are primarily located to the south of the town: Althorpe Street Industrial Estate, Queensway Trading Estate, Shires Gate Trading Estate and Sydenham Industrial Estate.

Video game industry

Leamington is a significant centre for the game industry in the UK, being known as Silicon Spa.[17] Based in the town are Blitz Games, DNA Studios,[18] Fish in a Bottle, FreeStyleGames, Kwalee, Playground Games,[19] Red Chain Games,[20] Stickman Studios,[21] and Supersonic Software. Codemasters are based in the countryside outside Leamington and were the initial impetus behind the cluster and provided many of the staff for the companies in Leamington.[22] Former companies were Bigbig Studios and Titus Software UK Limited.[23]


The Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum is located in the Royal Pump Rooms, in Parade.[24] There are several local community centres.

Since 1978, the annual free festival and celebration of alternative culture called the Peace Festival has been held in the Pump Room Gardens.[25]

Leamington in popular culture

Leamington has been featured in a number of television series:

  • Keeping Up Appearances, the 1990s BBC situation comedy, was filmed in and around the area
  • Dangerfield
  • ChuckleVision (CBBC)
  • Broke starring Timothy Spall
  • Mayo, a comedy detective series
  • Upstairs, Downstairs, the 2010 remake, had scenes shot on Clarendon Square and in The Jephson Gardens.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell portrays the Duke of Devonshire owning a house here; he offers it to Mr Norrell as a place to set up a magic school upon the advice of the Earl of Liverpool.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Royal Leamington Spa)


  1. "The Penny Magazine 1833–1848". Extracted and digitized by The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Leamington Spa Courier
  3. Shuckburgh, Sarah (2004-03-15). "Leamington Spa: Weekend to remember". (London: Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Cave, Lyndon Fraser (1988). Royal Leamington Spa: Its History and Development. Phillimore & Co Ltd. p. 44. ISBN 0-85033-520-5. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Slater, Terry (1981) A History of Warwickshire, ISBN 0-85033-416-0
  6. 6.0 6.1 Allen, Geoff (2000). Warwickshire Towns & Villages. ISBN 1-85058-642-X. 
  7. Royal Pump Rooms website
  8. Tennis Club history Retrieved 9 August 2009
  9. "Jumbo flood warning issued". BBC News. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  10. "Films cancelled after town floods". BBC News. 24 July 2007. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  11. "Judgement day as Leamington goes for gold again - Leamington Spa Today - Back to Home Page". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  12. Warwick District Council website (PDF) Retrieved 8 August 2009
  13. "Nature reserves". Warwick District Council. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  14. "Plaque at Lansdowne Crescent". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Trinder, Barry, (2003) The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Maps: Leamington Spa (South) 1923, ISBN 978-1-84151-517-5
  16. [1], Leamington Shopping Park.
  17. Still Booming, The Leamington Observer., 5 July 2012.
  18. DNA Studios
  19. Playground Games
  20. Red Chain Games - Official Homepage
  21. The Pursuit of Infamy GamesIndustry International
  22. Games Still Booming, The Birmingham Post, 22 March 2007.
  23. "Contacts." Titus Interactive. 3 February 2002. Retrieved on 4 September 2012.
  24. Warwick District Council press release Retrieved 8 August 2009