The Pump Room, Leamington.
Leamington, C. Elston c. 1835
Lithograph, printed on india paper
A delicately executed, locally published view of the classical Pump Room at Leamington Spa, seen from across the River Leam. The town of Leamington Spa was originally known as Leamington Priors and its mineral springs had been known since the Middle Ages, but it was not until 1784 that inhabitants of the village began re-discovering their medicinal properties and started developing the town as as a resort and spa. In the period just prior to 1810 it had become obvious that the town’s existing bath houses could not cope with the ever increasing number of visitors and plans were therefore made to build a bathing establishment on a scale surpassing anything yet attempted. Attempts to discover a reliable source of saline water in the higher land of the new town north of the river were unsuccessful, but in 1810 a spring was discovered on land just to the north of the river. In July 1814 ‘The Royal Pump Room and Baths’, designed and built by C.S.Smith of Warwick at a reputed cost of £30,000, were officially opened. The Spa treatment was claimed to cure, or relieve, a huge number of disorders – examples being ‘stiffness of the tendons’, ‘rigidity of the joints’, ‘the effects of gout and rheumatism and various paralytic conditions’. The Pump Room gardens were originally laid out and enclosed for the exclusive use of the patrons of the Pump Room ‘to afford them pleasant promenades’. A bandstand was erected and military bands played in the evening during the summer for the gratification of the subscribers. It was not until 1875 that the Pump Room Gardens became public. The ‘Royal Pump Room and Baths’ paid handsome profits in their early days but by 1848 the fashion of ‘taking the waters’ had begun to decline. In 1860 the Hon Charles Bertie Percy, by then the sole owner, put the Pump Rooms up for sale for building purposes. In 1862 a new locally-formed company took over the building and carried out extensive reconstruction work, including the addition of a tower and pediment on the facade, a Turkish Bath and a swimming pool. In 1889, now owned by the local authority, a larger pool was added which remained the town’s public swimming pool until 1989. The building now houses the town’s museum, art gallery and library.