Spa towns have always enjoyed a close relationship with royalty. Whether as distinguished visitors, trendsetters or patrons, royal guests played a large part in bringing Britain’s spa towns into popularity.
Malvern water, bottled by Schweppes, is famous for containing “just nothing at all!” in the words of Dr John Wall, in 1756 – it is the purest spring water in England. It has also always been the royal favourite: Queen Elizabeth I made a point of drinking it in public; Queen Victoria (pictured) refused to travel without it; and it is the only bottled water Queen Elizabeth II will drink.
Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells were both given their blue-blooded prefixes in response to royal visits. The title was granted to Leamington Spa by Queen Victoria to record her numerous visits, while Tunbridge Wells was a favourite of Queen consort Henrietta Maria (wife of King Charles I) in the 1630s, Princess Victoria in the 1820s, and King Edward VII, who bestowed the title in 1909.
In the case of Bath, Matlock, and Buxton it was a royal visit that established the reputation of the towns as hubs of fashionable society. Princess and later Queen Anne’s visits to Bath between 1688 and 1703 did much to draw the aristocrats there too, and Princess Victoria’s visit to Matlock, in Derbyshire, confirmed the town as a society venue. Buxton, in the Peak District, is a slightly different story: Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have visited, but her attention was drawn not to the spa but to the weird and wonderful carboniferous limestone formations in Poole’s Cavern, a giant cave just outside the town.