Monday, 3 March 2008

Pigeon Spa

Cheltenham owes it Spa town status to the humble Pigeon. According to tradition, Cheltenham's spa water was discovered in 1716 because local people noticed pigeons pecking at the salty deposits left around a spring in a field on the south of the town.

William Mason, the owner of the field, started to charge for the medicinal water and created the towns first Spa. In 1739 Masons son-in-law, Henry Skillicorne, created a deeper well on the site, installed a pump and built a brick canopy to shelter the drinkers of the water. As the site developed he constructed a Spa building and linked the well to the town with a walk way of trees, later known as Well Walk. The popularity of the Spa grew and the water was bottled and sold in Cities around the country. In 1788 King George and his family visited the Spa and this secured Cheltenhams popularity and its Spa status.

After the regal visit the Spa became known as the Royal Well (now the area occupied by the Ladies College). By the turn of the 1800's the Royal Well was supplying water to about two thousand visitors a year, and this success lead to nearly a dozen other Spas opening in and around Cheltenham by the 1850's. As the century moved on the water tasting and bathing continued but in the early 1900's the Spas began to close and the buildings were used for other businesses. Today you can still try the spa water at the Town Hall and the Pitville Pump Room, having tried it myself I can tell you it is salty and not very pleasant!

Without the pigeon, the bird that some people call 'rats with wings', who knows how different Cheltenham's history might have been.

13 comments:

edwin s said...

I guess nobody uses it for cooking purposes then (the water I mean, not the birds.)

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

No salty spa water for me, although it probably is a good thing. First time I see pink pigeons.

brian said...

very cool story and history... i have a long and bad history with pigeons... they tend to $h!+ on me everywhere i go...

Ming the Merciless said...

I hope the pigeons weren't bathing in the same water that was used for the spa.

Is it a hot spring, by any chance? Most natural spa sites in the US have natural hot springs.

oldmanlincoln said...

An interesting story, indeed. And the photo is really nice too.

Mo said...

Do you think it was the pigeon PR company who created the story? Love the pic. Not keen on pigeons I seem to be always dodging them (or chasing them like the children do).

zentmrs said...

Great photo! And a very interesting story.

Petrea said...

I like this photo! Love the colors. I like pigeons for some reason. Silly things, but sweet. Wouldn't want to have to clean up after them, though.

Lori said...

Well, I guess pigeons do serve a purpose! I think pigeons get a bad rap sometimes. I like your picture of them and congratulations on doing your 100th post the other day!

Gordon said...

An interesting story and a great photo to go with it.

I used to 'own' pigeons as a child and trained them to come home. I had a small carry cage on the back of my bike and used to ride increasing distances from home and release them and hope they would return; most of them did.

D.C. Confidential said...

Whenever I see pigeons congregated like this, I think of Julie Andrew's in Mary Poppins singing "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."

Murphy_jay said...

What a nice piece of history. I like to feed pigeons.

Neva said...

Sounds like the water you want if you want to raise your blood pressure!

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