BYGONE HARROGATE BY MALCOLM NEESAM

IT MUST have been a devastating blow to Joshua Bower to learn that shortly after he had bought High Harrogate's Dragon Hotel estate in the 1850's, the railway company, working with the Victoria Park company, planned to bisect part of it with the new railway line to central Harrogate.

Mr Bower had intended to develop the land solely for residential purposes, but the introduction of a railway, with its noise and dirt, its coal depots, goods yards and sidings, would hardly commend the land as an ideal place for housing.

Consequently, the land adjoining the new railway line was not used for residential development, but took on a light industrial appearance.

In 1906, Frederick Smith opened a second-hand furniture business in Bower Road, which makes the business one hundred years old this year.

Following the success of the Bower Road business, Smith's moved into larger premises in Dragon Road, taking over an old roller skating rink, thereby becoming known as Smiths, the Rink. During the years of the Second World War, Smiths' business premises were used by the Ministry of Aircraft supply, but it resumed trading after the war, when the market for antique furniture really took of.

In 1962 the company added a second storey to the old rink building, doubling the amount of floor footage.

This year, visitors can see the attractive entrance and display windows, which are far-removed from the rather utilitarian appearance shown in this week's photograph, which pre-dates the 1962 alterations.

Traces may be seen of the winter's severe snow, and Dragon Road was still the proud possessor of trees planted by the Chippindale family when they developed the area in the 1890's.

Today, after a century in being, Smiths the Rink is still a family firm, and the business started by Frederick, continued by his son Thomas, then by his son Reg, and now by Reg's sons Richard and Nicholas, is well set for a second century of success as a unique enterprise.