- Woodhall Spa -
The poet Sir John Betjeman described Woodhall Spa as an ‘unexpected Bournemouth - like settlement in the middle of Lincolnshire’. But Woodhall owes its air of Edwardian gentility more to the likes of Barnsley than Bournemouth, for it was during the search for coal hereabouts that curative mineral water was discovered. And that sealed the fortunes of Woodhall Spa.
The story of John Parkinson is detailed elsewhere in this book, in the section on old and New Bolingbroke around 1821 he sank a shaft in Woodhall in the vain hope of finding coal to power his new factory eight miles away in New Bolingbroke. But the only coal brought up from the shaft was the coal which the workmen took down with them in their pockets in order to prolong the project. Before long the 1,000 foot shaft was abandoned and allowed to fill with water.
While Parkinson went bankrupt another man took advantage of the situation. The local squire, Thomas Hotchkin, used the water from the shaft to ease his gout, and others in Woodhall found it a useful cure for rheumatism and skin ailments. A pump room and bathhouse were built and the water was drawn off into a brick lined bath to treat the 20 – 30 patients who were visiting daily by 1841.
The railway made Woodhall Spa accessible to more visitors, and by the beginning of the 20th century a new garden – city plan drawn up for the town included a hospital, 23 shops and two luxury hotels. In Woodhall’s Edwardian heyday the golf course, the Teahouse in the Woods and the Concert pavilion were added. The pavilion is now a charming and unique cinema, the teahouse is still open for business, and since 1996 the golf course has been the site of the headquarters of the English Golf Union, the governing body of English amateur golf. Today Woodhall Spa is also home to two of Lincolnshire’s best known hotels – the Petwood and the Golf.
The only amenity which Woodhall Spa no longer has is a spa. It began to decline after the First World War but revived somewhat in 1948, when the First World War but revived somewhat in 1948, when the new national Health service gave it a role as a rheumatic and been abandoned in 1930. In 1983 the spa baths were finally closed after the Well collapsed.
Elsewhere in the town are two tributes to British military endeavour: Waterloo Wood, planted after the battle in 1815 by Colonel Richard Elmhirst and set off by a bust of Wellington on a stone obelisk; and the Dambusters’ memorial to the men of 617 Squadron who dropped the ‘bouncing bombs’ on German dams in 1943 and whose officers’ mess was in the Petwood Hotel.