Boston Spa - a (very) brief history

High Street early 1900's

Until the mid 19th. Century Boston Spa was known as Boston ( in the Township of Clifford in the Parish of Bramham). These are both nearby and ancient villages. In about 1840, at the time of the Penny Post, "Spa" was added to the name in order, it is said, to differentiate the name from Boston in Lincolnshire. The origins of the name Boston are uncertain but the Rev’d William Bownas stated that it was from Bos, the Latin for Ox, and the Anglo Saxon ton for township.  There were certainly areas of land named as Ox Close on old maps showing the field structures in 1786 and 1807. Prior to the above and in the early part of the 19th. Century the village was also known as "Thorparch Spaw" although it was never part of Thorp Arch, a village just to the north across the River Wharfe. Thorp Arch is mentioned in the Domesday Book and is believed to have been a mill used by the brewers in Roman times. The "Spaw" was a mineral spring discovered on the south bank of the Wharfe in 1744 when a John Shires of Thorp Arch was cutting willow and noticed a little stream and drank some of the water. Local records show that he dropped his tools and ran to the village to tell the news and shortly after a tiny cottage was built to protect the new found treasure.

Spa Baths circa 1930It was not until 1784 that the mineral water came into general use, after being submitted for analysis and approved for use by the medical profession. Later in 1834 the Spa Baths were built and fitted with baths and a pump by R.O Gascoigne and by 1850 as many as 50 baths a day were being taken at the Spa. This was the beginning of the age of Spa's and baths for "health" reasons and Spa's became quite fashionable for the wealthy people. However it was also the age of the railways and as these made access to the countryside more easy for so many people ( see below) it also enabled those wealthy people to travel further to Harrogate, which had become a very fashionable Spa town, some 12 miles to the north.

As a village Boston Spa started with what is now The Royal Hotel, then called Farrers Hotel after the owner, which was built in 1753 and is the oldest recorded building. It was a coaching inn on the York to Lancaster road. In 1753 the Tadcaster to Otley Turnpike Act was passed in Parliament for "repairing and widening the road from Tadcaster through Newton, Collingham and Harewood to Otley"

Following these improvements coaches became more regular and reliable and in 1789 a coach service was established between York - Thorp Arch and Wetherby and in 1791 another coach started to serve Leeds. The first recorded house was St.Kitts, built in 1774 followed by Brook House in 1791 and Boston Hall in 1807. All these houses are still standing today although Boston Hall is now occupied as offices rather than as a house. In addition several smaller houses, cottages and boarding houses were built although there are no records of these.

Thorp Arch bridge circa 1890The increasing frequency and reliability of the coaches made the area attractive to the rich merchants in Leeds and York and more and more of them built houses. By the mid 19th. Century the railways also made the area accessible to the general population of Leeds who came out in increasing numbers for "days out in the fresh country air" and to enjoy the glorious scenery along the banks of the River Wharfe.

Thus Boston Spa developed slowly over the years until by 1951 the population had grown to 2401 people in 808 households. By 1961 this had only grown to 2426 in 818 households but 1961/62 was the trigger period that led to the significant growth in the Village and led to a near doubling in size over the following 30 plus years.