Spa plans take shape
Woodhall Spa may be classed as a village, but it has as much to offer tourists, holidaymakers and the local community as its better-known ‘neighbours’.
With its interesting and unique history, a number of delightful tourist attractions and a host of events that attract thousands of visitors to the area every year, Woodhall Spa is somewhat of a feather in Lincolnshire’s cap.
Regarded as one of the county’s most attractive villages, it is famous for its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere and, with three caravan parks, a number of fine hotels and many guest houses, it is the perfect location for a short break or holiday.
Woodhall Spa came about by accident in 1811 after John Parkinson, of Old Bolingbroke made several attempts to find coal. After spending several thousand pounds, and sinking a shaft more than 1,000 feet deep, the enterprise was abandoned because of the rising spring.
Around 1834, the then Lord of the Manor, Thomas Hotchkin, ascertained by analysis that the water was in fact valuable, being an iodine and bromine-containing mineral spring. He spent nearly £30,000 sinking a well and erecting the Spa Baths and the Victoria Hotel. Sadly, the Victoria Hotel burned down in 1920 when an electrical fault in the boiler room spread to the linen room above. The Spa Baths finally closed when the well collapsed in 1983.
However, plans are in the pipeline to give the baths a new lease of life. After thirty years standing derelict, the Spa has been bought by a retired Lincolnshire businessman who intends to restore it to its former glory.
Clerk to the Parish Council, Amanda Bushell said: “The most exciting news is about the Spa Baths, which after many years of being derelict and an eyesore, looks like it might get a refurb. The Parish Council has also just had the four ornamental village signs refurbished and there are lots of events taking place in Jubilee Park, as well as in the village.”
Today the village still has a number of hotels including The Golf Hotel, which was built in 1880 in seven acres of well-kept gardens, lawns and woodlands and is adjacent to the world famous Woodhall Spa Golf Course.
The Dower House Hotel, situated by the first fairway of the Bracken course at the National Golf Centre – which is the home of the English Golf Union – was built at the end of the nineteenth century, and retains all of its original features.
Then there is the Petwood Hotel. It is so-called because it was originally built at the turn of the twentieth century as a house for Lady Grace Weigall, who had it constructed in her favourite wood, her ‘pet wood’. It was turned into a hotel in 1933.
Historically, the Petwood Hotel was the Officers’ Mess for several squadrons during the war, including 617, the Dambusters, and the Squadron Bar contains fascinating memorabilia of its former occupants. The village also has a large memorial to the Dambusters which was erected in 1987. It stands in Royal Square, formerly the site of the Royal Hydro Hotel and Winter Gardens, which were both destroyed by a bomb in 1943.
One of the village’s biggest events of the year is a step back in time to wartime Britain. The Woodhall Spa ’40s Festival takes place throughout the village on Saturday and Sunday, 18th and 19th July. Thousands of people from far and wide are expected to turn up for the event, which is now in its fourth year.
This year’s event will mark seventy years since Victory in Europe and visitors can expect to experience a unique and immersive event that celebrates the best of the British Homefront.
The village’s shops, restaurants and hotels all get involved, with staff dressed in period costume throughout the festival. Events and entertainment include living history groups, singers and dancers, vintage vehicle displays, re-enactors, flypast displays by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and ’40s trade stalls.
Another event which helps attract hundreds of visitors to the village is the Woodhall Spa 10k run on 7th June, which has established itself as one of the premier runs in the region, with athletes coming from all over the country to compete. It is expected to attract some 1,200 athletes this year, many of whom will be first-time competitors and of a wide age range. The numbers at the event have doubled over the last few years.
This is followed by the Woodhall Spa Triathlon on 14th June. Now in its ninth year, the event is the last in the Midlands Sprint Triathlon Series. Over the past few years, this event has grown from under 200 competitors to well over 600. The event takes place in Jubilee Park which is always a very popular destination for locals and visitors alike, especially in the summer months when the heated outdoor swimming pool is open.
Other park amenities include a camping and caravanning site, children’s playground, picnic area, bowling green, croquet lawn, cricket field, putting course, tennis courts and a cafe.
The park is located on Stixwould Road in the heart of the village, a gift from Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall to commemorate the jubilee of King George V in 1935.The amenities are set in traditional English gardens with a bandstand, pergolas and pathways adorned with English roses.
Woodhall Spa has a variety of attractions, including two top class golf courses, the unique Kinema in the Woods and the Cottage Museum, which is packed with intriguing stories and displays about the village, the local area and the Wield family, who lived in the building from 1887 until the 1960s.
The building itself is an important museum exhibit, being a rare surviving example of a bungalow constructed of corrugated iron on a wooden frame that was erected in the late nineteenth century.
John Wield (1877–1965) was a keen photographer and his photographic collection is the basis of the museum. The collection of images is a unique and valuable record of life in Woodhall Spa and includes images of both people and the local area.
The village even has its own cinema which has a colourful history all of its own. The Kinema in the Woods started life as a sports and entertainment pavilion and dates from the late nineteenth century. The pavilion sat in the grounds of The Victoria Hotel, looking over tennis courts, croquet lawns and gardens, until The Victoria Hotel burnt down on Easter Sunday 1920. This led to the relationship between the hotel and the pavilion being severed.
In 1922, Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall purchased the Victoria Hotel ruins including the sports pavilion and, with the assistance of Captain Carleton Cole Allport, the pavilion was transformed into a cinema which opened its doors on Monday 11th September, 1922 at 7pm.
The first film to be shown was intended to be The Lion Eaters, however the film failed to arrive and a Charlie Chaplin film was shown in its place.
KINEMA IN THE WOODS
The uniqueness of Kinema in the Woods has been helping to put Woodhall Spa on the destination map for decades and it continues to attract cinema-goers from all over the county. Major C C Allport ran the cinema for more than fifty years, until 1973, when it was taken over by the present owner James Green.
“It opened in 1922 so we are in our 93rd year now. We’ve got quite a few special events coming up and we have all the usual blockbuster films over the summer,” said cinema manager Philip Jones.
“As part of the Woodhall Spa 1940s weekend on Saturday 18th July, we’re doing a special showing of Casablanca, which will also include a wartime sing-along led by Alan Underwood at the Compton organ.
“And we are teaming up with Jubilee Park to put on a special screening of Open Water followed by a midnight swim on Friday 21st August. Open Water is based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark-infested waters after their tour boat left. This is a follow up to our very successful event last year when we screened Jaws followed by a midnight swim.”
In September the Kinema in the Woods is hosting a huge event with Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain.
“We will be screening the 1969 film The Battle Of Britain at a black tie event, which will feature a band playing outside and a flyover, followed by a champagne reception at the Petwood Hotel,” said Philip.
“We are looking forward to rounding off the year with the new James Bond film Spectre, and of course the eagerly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
The Kinema in the Woods started life as a sports and entertainment pavilion dated from the late nineteenth century. It was turned into a cinema in 1922 and most of the auditorium (the current Screen One) was fitted with tip-up seats; however the front six rows were deck chairs which remained in The Kinema until 1953.
In June 1987, James Green installed a Compton Kinestra organ in the Kinema, which features an ornate lacquered red-and-gold console with an eighteenth-century oriental design. The organ is still situated in Screen One and played regularly by the Kinema’s resident organist, Alan Underwood.
A 92-seat auditorium, Kinema Two, opened on Friday 8th July 1994, with a screening of Four Weddings and A Funeral. The auditorium walls of Screen Two depict scenes of rural Lincolnshire in trompe l’oeil style painted by Canadian artist Murray Hubick.
The village’s Spa Baths building, which has been derelict for more than thirty years, is going to be given a new lease of life. Following the recent acquisition of the Spa by a retired Lincolnshire businessman, the owner has now entered into a partnership with GN Construction of Woodhall Spa with the intention of restoring the Spa to its former glory.
In its heyday, at the turn of the century, the Spa provided various medical treatments based on its waters and attracted many visitors to Woodhall Spa. The Spa closed its doors in 1983 following the collapse of the shaft and it has remained derelict until now. The external façade of the building has disintegrated and for many years locals have branded it an eyesore.
GN Construction has floated the possibility of redeveloping the Spa for more than fifteen years, carrying out a great deal of research with spa operators and consultants to gain experience and knowledge of this specialist business, to fully investigate the opportunities for its restoration and development.
A family run building company, GN Construction has been undertaking work in Woodhall Spa and throughout Lincolnshire for more than twenty years. Over this period, it has not only built many new residential and commercial properties, but has also gained considerable experience in the refurbishment and reconstruction of older traditional properties, many of which are in conservation areas – including the extension and refurbishment of the Dower House and The Inn at Woodhall Spa.
It has also undertaken a variety of contracts for Natural England, whose role it is to restore properties and structures of architectural and historical importance.
GN Construction intends to redesign the Spa in a way which ensures it will become a valuable asset to Woodhall Spa and its local community, not only in the immediate future but for many years to come.
A GN Construction spokesman said: “For the Spa to become a success it needs to offer a creative, comprehensive and commercially viable solution. It must serve the local people of Woodhall Spa as well as attract a ‘healthy’ increase in visitors to this delightful ‘gem of Lincolnshire’.
“It is essential to create the best ambience for the Spa and the proposal must include the comprehensive reinstatement of the soft landscaping in the vicinity of the Spa, as well as addressing the parking difficulties within this part of the village.”
In late 2011 GN Construction commissioned a feasibility study on the viability of the Spa. It was undertaken by the world famous Spa developers and operators Wheway Lifestyle International (WLI) and demonstrated that a well-designed and operated Spa, targeted at the right sector of the market, would have the required ingredients to be successful.
The study was prepared by Colin Farndon, associate of WLI, who this year has won an award for developing the Best Hotel Spa in the UK. Colin has had many years’ experience opening and operating highly successful spas in the UK and abroad.
Woodhall Spa’s Jubilee Park, opened eighty years ago, is thriving and looking forward to a busy summer.
The heated open air swimming pool has added extra early morning adult only swims, midnight swims and film/late night swims – in partnership with the Kinema – as well as sessions with inflatables and aquacise and swimming lessons to its expanding schedule. There are also a number of special events in the park throughout the summer for everyone to enjoy. Visitors will notice the newly planted rose gardens and other ongoing improvements
After just a year, the charitable company Jubilee Park Woodhall Spa Ltd (JPWS) which runs the facility, has broken even and initiated a raft of new support ideas and proposals for all sections of the community, including the Royal Jubilee Project where businesses offer a product or service that automatically generates a donation to Jubilee Park – look out for a crown symbol in shop windows. These will help the park to thrive while long-term plans to refurbish and upgrade the facilities are put into place.
For full details see the website www.jubileeparkwoodhallspa.co.uk which also has information on membership of JPWS, volunteering and sponsorship opportunities. Alternatively you can phone the park office on 01526 353478.
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VIP TREATMENT FOR BRIDE-TO-BE AT NEW BOUTIQUE IN WOODHALL SPA
Local bride-to-be Laura Normandale has performed the official opening of a brand new bridal boutique in Woodhall Spa.
Laura (24), who is getting married next year, cut the ribbon at The Ivory Room, on Tattershall Road, and was treated to a hair and nail treatment by Expressions Hair and Beauty as well as celebratory drinks, canapés and flowers.
The Ivory Room is owned by local entrepreneur Victoria Evans, a former RAF Navigator who embarked on the exciting new venture to keep her feet firmly on the ground after having her two children, Jessica (4) and Owen (2).
Victoria Evans said: “I love everything about weddings and I was delighted to officially open the boutique and welcome so many special guests to come and have a look around. I was particularly pleased to invite Laura along to be my special guest and to thank her for being my very first customer.
“Finding the right dress can feel like a daunting task and so, at The Ivory Room, I provide a relaxed and personal service so that brides-to-be have a wonderful experience choosing their perfect dress and accessories.”
The Ivory Room, located in the beautiful Georgian village of Woodhall Spa, stocks contemporary and vintage gowns by renowned designers, including Justin Alexander, Allure and Lillian West, as well as bridesmaid dresses and stylish accessories from British designers.
The boutique is open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday.
For further information, please visit www.theivoryroombridal.co.uk or call 01526 268030.
HUGO’S OF WOODHALL SPA
Woodhall Spa not only has a number of unique tourist attractions, which help to bring visitors into the village, but its range of independent shops also plays a part.
One such outlet is the quality ladies fashion shop Hugo’s of Woodhall Spa, which is based in Station Road. Established for several years, it attracts people from far and wide – some travelling to the shop from along the coast and beyond.
Owner Karen Rowlett was a visitor to Woodhall Spa when she fell in love with the place so much that she decided to set up a business in the village – and she has never looked back.
Hugo’s prides itself on good service and looking after its customers. Karen is able to provide customers with an almost personal shopper experience, making sure she is familiar with someone’s sizing and previous purchases to maximise key pieces and combinations.
The showroom features clothing which ranges from inexpensive separates through to sophisticated occasion wear. Feedback from Karen’s loyal client base is that they want garments to be versatile, outfits that they can wear to multiple events and have the option to dress up or down.
Hugo’s of Woodhall Spa is a stockist of brands such as Steilmann, Magee, Via Appia, Phool, Viccio and Passioni and the shop also stocks special occasion wear by Frank Lyman, Aria, Michaela Louisa, Libra and Gina Bacconi.
Customers also appreciate Hugo’s quality and affordability and, on some ranges, Hugo’s cannot be beaten for value.