Llandrindod Wells - The Premier Spa in Wales
"Here were accommodation for the invalid of whatever rank and distinction, field amusements for the healthy....balls, billiards and regular assemblies varied the pastimes of the gay and the fashionable."
Llandrindod Hall, a deserted farmhouse belonging to the Middleton Hope family, was converted into the splendid hotel described above in 1749 by William Grosvenor of Shrewsbury. The wells at Llandrindod had been resorted to as early 1696, when the Vaughans of Herefordshire stayed for three weeks to take the waters. The chalybeate spring, known as the Rock Water, had been used " from time immemorial"; the saline and sulphur springs were rediscovered in 1732 by Mrs Jenkins the tenant of Lower Bach-y-graig farm. She began to sell the waters to travellers and the fame of their healing qualities spread. The farm became known as the Pump House, later the famous Pump House Hotel.
The wells were situated on a bleak common, the sight of which dismayed many visitors. Accommodation was provided at farmhouses around the common and at the Llanerch Inn, but facilities were primitive until the opening of Mr Grosvenor's hotel, which soon became fashionable, with its excellent accommodation and entertainments. In 1756 Dr. Linden published a scientific treatise on the waters, which brought them to the attention of a wider public.
For thirty years the hotel flourished as a resort for the healthy and infirm alike, but like most inland watering places, declined with the advent of sea bathing as the fashionable cure. The hotel burned down before the end of the century and now a farm stands in its place.
Although visitors continued to frequent the wells during the 19th century, development on a large scale was inhibited by the remoteness of the area and the lack of good building land. The enclosure of the common in 1862 and the construction of the railway in 1865 ushered in an area of rapid change.
Llandrindod Wells ...a boom town!
The first section of the Central Wales line from Knighton to Llandrindod Wells was opened in 1865 and the whole line completed in 1868, giving a through connection from Shrewsbury to Swansea. Llandrindod was now within easy reach of the urban centres of the North West, the midlands and South Wales and visitors began to come in large numbers.
In 1862 an Act of Parliament was obtained to enclose the common lands of the manor of Swydd Neithon, Which included Llandrindod common. The Act came into effect in 1867 and the common was divided among local landowners, leaving land for footpaths and roads and recreational areas. The Rock House Estate was the first land to be offered for sale as building plots. At the sale in 1867 a new spring was discovered and a pump room and bath house were soon erected near by: the surrounding land was laid out as gardens and named the Rock Park.
The area around the Rock Park developed rapidly as the centre of the new town with a church, shops, hotels and private houses.
Progress was slower on the land east of the railway. The Holy Trinity Church was built in 1871 and some private houses and an hotel along the side of the main road, named Temple Street, after the stone circle near by. In 1872/3 the marshy land near the Pump House was drained to form an ornamental lake. Llandrindod was now taking shape as a town to meet the needs of Victorian visitors.
Between 1865 and 1914 the appearance of Llandrindod Wells was that of a boom town. Hotels and boarding houses sprang up along the new streets and shops were opened to meet the needs of visitors and residents. Many of the private houses were built on the grand scale characteristic of the era.
The 'season' at Llandrindod lasted from May to mid September. Outside the pump rooms at the Rock Park and the Pump House Hotel the visitors queued each morning to take the waters, entertained by music from the orchestras. The amount drunk varied from two to six glasses at a time, depending on the type of ailment, and the charge at both pump rooms was 6d. per day for any amount of water. In 1909 the High Street Baths opened, offering the wide range of electrical treatments which were expected at a modern spa.
The spacious lay-out of the town meant it could cater for the growing popularity of outdoor sports. A private 9-hole golf course was opened on the common by the Pump House Hotel in 1893, possibly the first in Wales. The 18-hole course above the lake opened a club in 1906. Many of the larger hotels had tennis courts and croquet lawns on their grounds and horse races were held on the rock Ddole, a meadow near the river. In the early 1880's Middleton Street consisted of wooden shanties and open air stalls, but it gradually replaced the High Street as the focal point of the town. The most famous shop was probably the Central Wales Emporium, opened in 1881 by William Thomas of Penybont. It sold a large variety of goods, including a range of illustrated guide books and a type of cloth named 'Spa Flannel'. This business closed in 1927, when the spa was in decline.