The Harrogate Museums column with May Catt

A classic penny farthing.
A classic penny farthing.

The UCI race will soon be whizzing past the doors of both the Mercer and Museum and we’re excited to be welcoming guests from both Harrogate and from across the world!

According to Michael Constantine, Head of Culture, Tourism and Sport here at Harrogate Borough Council, “This exciting section of road by the main entrance to Valley Gardens, now dubbed ‘Museum Corner’, will provide a fantastic viewpoint for two technical corners on the Harrogate circuit.

The long sweeping turn from Valley Drive to Cornwall Road will be tempting for riders to take fast but there will be risk in doing so – first aiders are available!”

Perhaps we should be thankful that riders won’t be on penny farthings, as these didn’t have any brakes so when going downhill the rider would have to perch their legs on the top of the handlebars and then jump off at exactly the right time in order to stop!

Visitors will be coming from all over the world, building on the success of the major UK and Ireland tourism initiative, Explore GB – which included a prestigious reception for Harrogate’s international guests hosted in the Mercer Art Gallery.

As Michael has also noted: “we are looking forward to welcoming delegations from South Korea, Australia and Belgium and are keen to show them Harrogate’s splendours”.

As the new academic year begins we continue to work with the European Spa Network, who held their first seminar here earlier this summer.

They were excited to see international connections in the architectural design of the town, as Dr Astrid Köhler, Queen Mary University of London, and one of the researchers on the European Spa Network explained; “Following the Improvement Act of 1841, Harrogate looked to Europe in two regards: many of its new developments followed European examples, but at the same time, it started competing with these places for a more international clientele.”

If the continental watering places ‘had previously taken the cream of the patients and reaped a golden harvest’, the British Medical Journal was happy to report that Harrogate had, by the early 1900s, made good progress in reversing this trend and could now ‘claim to rival the best of the Continental spas’.

In a publication dated 1914, R. Murray Gilchrist described the atmosphere of Harrogate as ‘extraordinarily invigorating’ and concluded that ‘In the season it is as gaily-coloured as any watering-place in Europe’.

Just as it will be during the UCI events!

And, make sure you look out for our numerous graphic banners throughout the fan park which contain some iconic images highlighting the history of the town.

The Mercer Gallery will be open throughout race days, from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and noon to 4pm on Sundays.

Do call in to see the popular William Powell Frith exhibition which draws together almost his entire collection, with artworks notably being loaned from the Tate, V&A and even HM the Queen – the last chance to view it before it closes on Sunday, September 29.

The Gallery will then be closed from Monday, September 30 to Friday, October 11, reopening on Saturday, October 12 for our bi-annual Open Exhibition, where local artists will be exhibiting their art, all of which will be for sale.

Watch this space for exciting changes ahead!