The water-doctors vanish

E.S. Turner

  • British Spas from 1815 to the Present Day: A Social History by Phyllis Hembry and Leonard Cowie
    Athlone, 292 pp, £50.00, June 1997, ISBN 0 485 11502 6

Welcome, then, to this historic spa town, once calling itself the English Montpellier. The cherished waters, ideal for restoring the ‘animal functions’, have been reduced to a trickle from a single tap, hidden away from all but the curious; the Regency assembly rooms are the scene of a one-week monster carpet sale; and the crumbled colonnade for water-drinkers houses boutiques called Smarty Pants, Just Bums and Going for Bust. ‘Call this a spa?’ the valetudinarian out of Europe might say. ‘Where is your Grand Parc des Sources? Where are your salles de pulvérisation? And your first-class gargling-room? Have you no radioactive muds? We do not ask for dew-treading meadows, but what about a quiet garden with rows of brine-soaked hedges?’

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