Hugh Beavin

Hinckley - Spa Town of the Midlands

At the end of the 1840s, when Hinckley had witnessed such terrible privations, it is surprising that plans were undertaken to turn Hinckley into a spa town rivalling Harrogate or Cheltenham but such indeed was the cause.

In 1849, Dr Mervyn Patterson, while resident in Burbage, wrote a "Medical Guide to Hinckley Spa".

Hinckley had been notable for a number of healing springs in the 18th century such as Christopher's Spa and the Holy Well but in the late 1840s Mr Hollier purchased land and a spring which he hoped to turn into a commercial spa. The location of this spring was roughly on the present site of the Ashby Tavern which was indeed once called the Mineral Baths.

Mr Isaiah Deck, an analytical chemist of Leamington, was given the task of making a complete analysis of the spring water. He declared it to be "Sulphuretted Chalybeate with unusual presence of Nitrate of Soda and Phosphate of Lime. The water temperature was 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the specific gravity 1.0011".

Dr Patterson, who was employed to promote the spa, claimed it would cure or alleviate all sorts of medical conditions and diseases. Bilious complaints, rheumatics, scrofula, skin diseases, nervous complaints, worms and leprosy were only a few of the conditions which was claimed had been cured by either bathing in the waters or drinking them. Indeed, Hinckley spa waters were a universal panacea!

In further support for the efficacy of the spa water, Dr Patterson stated: "Perhaps in no place can there be found more healthy, strong children with their round, ruddy cheeks (in proportion to the number of inhabitants) than in and about Hinckley."

If this was insufficient evidence, the doctor referred to the cures of Dr Chessher, generally regarded as the first English orthopaedic surgeon who practised in Hinckley in the first 30 years of the 19th century. It was, said Dr Patterson "no doubt owing to the salubrity of the place and the tonics held in solution in the water" that made Dr Chessher "so successful in his treatment of spinal cases".

Sadly, Hinckley did not become the sedate spa town which Dr Patterson and his patron Mr Hollier had hoped. Problems of travel to the spa existed since Hinckley did not receive rail communications until 1862.

Perhaps even more significant was the fact that the search for a cemetery in Hinckley finally came to fruition in a site being chosen on Ashby Road, next to Hinckley Mineral Baths, in 1858.

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley-on-line