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one story from a Wiltshire village
Every village has stories to tell. The history can be fascinating, and the Wiltshire village of Holt is no exception. Rather than write about many of the historical facts about Holt in this article, I will tell you the story of the mineral spa water discovered in 1688. More tales of Holt will come in future stories.
In an area known as The Midlands, you will see the water pump (above) set between two Tuscan pillars in the end wall of a property. We will come back to this later.
As mentioned, it was in 1688 when a mineral spring was discovered in Holt. Some years later, the lady of the manor, Lady Lisle, became a promoter of the spa waters, seeing an opportunity for financial gain. She used her position to attract the upper classes to come and take the waters.
At least four wells were sunk to draw up the spa water, named The Old, The New, The Great Nose (love that!) and Harris’. Records show that from 1723 it became a commercial venture. By 1780 a Spa House was built providing treatments, and another property nearby, The Great House, accommodated the travellers who came for the waters’ curative powers.
Henry Eyre, the proprietor, made in the year 1731 a bold proclamation. Henry claimed that the waters could cure: Kings Evil, ulcers, leprosy, piles, itching of the skin, colic, giddiness of the head and other ailments. Now before you rush to the water pump at Holt, keep in mind that in 1933 the water was analysed and found unfit for drinking.
The enterprising Mr Eyre bottled the Holt Spa water and distributed it in London. I hope it wasn’t unfit for drinking in those days!
The success of the spa did not last long. With the City of Bath attracting the wealthiest of clients and also nearby Melksham having a rival spa, client numbers fell. By 1790 the peak of visitors was over, and the business declined. The Holt spa water remained for sale until 1815.
The Spa House was incorporated into Sawtell’s bedding factory and later demolished. For a short while, the Great House became a girls’ day and boarding school and, in 1794, a boys’ boarding school. By 1821 the building was divided into tenements housing seventeen families. It was put up for sale in 1868 and purchased by the leather works of J&T Beaven. It was reverted tenements but became unfit for habitation and was demolished in 1957. The modern industrial estate (Midlands Industrial Estate) is where The Great House was sited.
The two Tuscan pillars were saved from the entrance of The Spa House before it was demolished, and a water pump was built into the bed factory for posterity. The plague above the pump reads:
Sacred to the memory of Lady Lisle & The Rev’d James Lewis. The persons who patronized this spring and rendered it Famous In the year, 1720.
For such a small village, there is quite a lot of industrial heritage and history, as you might imagine from the companies mentioned already. I will return to the village of Holt in future articles, so if you’re not a subscriber, please become one today. It’s free, and you won’t miss a future story. You can download the Substack app if you prefer.
The disease mycobacterial cervical lymphadenitis, also known as scrofula and historically as king’s evil, involves a lymphadenitis of the cervical lymph nodes associated with tuberculosis as well as nontuberculous (atypical) mycobacteria. - Wikipedia
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