Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. The town is a tourist destination and its visitor attractions include its spa waters and RHS Harlow Carr gardens. Nearby is the Yorkshire Dales national park. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Harrogate grew out of two existing smaller settlements, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, in the 17th century.
Harrogate spa water contains iron, sulphur and common salt. The town became known as 'The English Spa' in the Georgian Era, after its waters were discovered in the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the 'chalybeate' waters (i.e. containing iron) were a popular health treatment, and the influx of wealthy but sickly visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of the town.
Harrogate railway station and Harrogate bus station in the town centre provide transport connections. Leeds Bradford International Airport is south west of Harrogate. The main road through the town is the A61, connecting Harrogate to Leeds and Ripon. Harrogate is connected to Wetherby and the A1, by the A661. The town of Harrogate had a population of 71,594 at the 2001 UK census; the urban area comprising Harrogate and nearby Knaresborough had a population of 85,128, while the figure for the much wider Borough of Harrogate, comprising Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and a large rural area, was 151,339.
The town motto is Arx celebris fontibus, which means "a citadel famous for its springs."
Before the discovery of its iron and sulphur rich water, Harrogate comprised two hamlets, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, close to Knaresborough. The first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewit Well possessed similar properties to that from the springs of the Belgian town of Spa, which gave its name to spa towns. The medicinal properties of the waters were publicised by Edmund Deane, whose book, Spadacrene Anglica, or the English Spa Fountain was published in 1626. Harrogate developed a spa town following the enclosure of surrounding lands in 1770, when were reserved as a public common, the Stray, which has remained a spot for picnicking, kite-flying, outdoor games and local football matches. To provide entertainment for increasing numbers of visitors the Georgian Theatre was built in 1788. Bath Hospital (later the Royal Bath Hospital) was built in 1826. The Royal Pump Room was built in 1842.
In 1870, engineering inventor Samson Fox perfected the process of creating water gas, in the basement laboratory of Grove House. After constructing a trial plant at his home on Scarborough Road, making it the first house in Yorkshire to have gas lighting and heating; he built a town-sized plant to supply Harrogate. After he made Parliament Street the world's first route to be lit by water-gas, newspapers commented: "Samson Fox has captured the sunlight for Harrogate." After donating the towns first fire engine, and building the town's theatre, he was elected mayor for three years, an unbroken record.
The site of Tewit Well is marked by a dome on the Stray. Other wells can be found in Harrogate's Valley Gardens and the Royal Pump Room museum.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Harrogate was popular among the English élite and was frequented by nobility from mainland Europe . Its popularity declined after World War I. During World War II, Harrogate's large hotels accommodated government offices evacuated from London. This paved the way for the town's function as a commercial, conference, and exhibition centre.
Former employers in the town were ICI, who occupied offices and laboratories at Hornbeam Park, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), and the Milk Marketing Board. ICI's laboratories at Hornbeam Park were the location of the invention of Crimplene in the 1950s, named after the nearby Crimple Valley and Beck.
The town hosted the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest in the conference centre.
Harrogate won the 2003 Britain in Bloom in the category of 'Large Town' and won the European Entente Florale competition in 2004. This reprises its win in the first Entente Florale competition in 1977. Harrogate was a gold medal winner of Europe in Bloom in 2004. In 2005, a Channel 4 TV show listed Harrogate as the UK's third best place to live. In 2006 it came fourth in the same league; the programme claimed that it placed lower due to "a slight dip in exam results", though presenter Phil Spencer noted that it was his personal favourite.
In 2007, two metal detectorists found the Harrogate hoard, a 10th century Viking treasure hoard, near Harrogate. The hoard contains almost 700 coins and other items from as far away as Afghanistan. The hoard was described by the British Museum as the most important find of its type in Britain for 150 years.