Dear Reader: Too many 'chains' in Harrogate + a splendid church

Championing the independents - Paul Rawlinson, owner of Norse in Harrogate.
Championing the independents - Paul Rawlinson, owner of Norse in Harrogate.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Is the growing tidal wave of ‘chain’ restaurants, bars and cafes good for Harrogate or not?

Personally speaking, as a fan of the independents, the answer to that straightforward question should be obvious.

Award-winning independent Harrogate restaurant owner Paul Rawlinson also has no doubts on the issue

The man behind Norse and Baltzersens is so worried by the big brand names arriving in town, he’s calling on his fellow independents to work together for everyone’s good, something which chimes with the #loveourindies campaign this newspaper first launched a few years ago.

But, my original question is, perhaps, not entirely easy to answer.

The fear of a rash of empty units on our high streets is something which has to be taken seriously.

And this is a free country, afterall. We can eat, drink and shop where we want.

But if I had a pound for every time a friend proffered the idea there’s too many restaurants in Harrogate these days, I’d probably have enough money to open up a café myself.

Such sentiments do nothing to stop new chains arriving, lured, presumably, by financial figures on the numbers of ABs and C1s which must make good reading for board members down in London.

Still, some of the famous names in our town centre seem to be struggling a bit.

Perhaps Harrogate is not as easy a plum to pick as the raw data suggests?

The town, indeed, the district as a whole, is well educated, a little fussy and, well, this is Yorkshire and don’t forget it.

It doesn’t like being taken for granted and nor should it.

In the long run, Harrogate’s unique status rests on not being the same as everywhere else.

It may sound odd, but spare a thought for St Wilfrid’s Church in Harrogate.

The town’s only Grade I listed building may be located on the exclusive Duchy Road and boast a design by Temple Lushington Moore, one of 19th century London’s leading architects, but it would be a mistake to assume it was living on easy street.

It might surprise readers to learn there are usually no services in this quite magnificent building during the winter months because it is simply too cold.

Built in 1904, the world has moved on a lot since then and the 38th largest parish church in all of England has been playing catch-up in the modern era.

Thankfully, the church’s current restoration appeal is beginning to bear fruit.

As a kick-off, it’s about to get proper central heating for the first time. Next up will be proper lighting which will enable the full grandeur of this towering building to be revealed.

There’s still some distance to travel before St Wilfrid’s acquires the modern facilities to match its impressive pedigree.

For such a huge building, it’s remains a bit of a hidden gem.

Walking amid its dusty beauty earlier this week I thought to myself “it deserves better.”