About the year 1858 a new era of progress was commenced in Harrogate. The facilities of improved transit enjoyed by every similar watering place in the kingdom, had until then, to a great extent, been denied to Harrogate; and the prospect of its further growth or improvement had all but
The old institution of "Starbeck for Harrogate," was at length numbered amongst the miseries of the past; and along with it were swept away many of the obstacles which had previously impeded the progress and growth of the place. In the seven years which have since elapsed remarkable changes have been effected, and Harrogate has taken its position amongst the most flourishing and attractive of English or European spas. In the rapid increase and improvement of its hotel
accommodation, as well as of buildings for the reception of visitors and permanent residents, it has scarcely been surpassed, if at all equalled, by any example in the kingdom.
Foremost perhaps in the achievements of a practical enterprise directed towards the place, was the acquisition of several independent properties in the very centre of Harrogate, and the blending of these into one estate by the Victoria Park Company. By its auspices railway accommodation has been secured and a central station established, capable of yielding every convenience and facility in the completest possible manner. From the central station are roads formed and projected, which give access from all parts of Harrogate. In one of the most frequented of these roads, and within about 170 yards of the railway station, is the site selected for the new general Post-office, occupying a position exactly central in the district, and approached by excellent roads from every quarter. A circle of 700 yards radius, described from the new Post-office as a centre, includes fourteen out of seventeen of the principal hotels, and a very large proportion of the population of Harrogate. The new building has been erected by the Victoria Park Company, and forms a very prominent feature on the angle of James Street and Princes Street, presenting at the angle a noble portico entrance to the
Post-office, Money-order office, Savings Bank, and Postmaster's residence. It forms part of a pile of new buildings, having a grand facade towards James Street of about 300ft in length, and towards Princes Street of 100ft.
The style is Italian, treated with great boldness, in order to show to advantage the building stone of the locality, which being capable of being quarried in large and massive blocks, offers unusual facilities for producing grand effects of light and shade. To relieve the monotony produced in all large masses of building by sameness of colour, red bricks have been introduced
in a somewhat novel but very effective manner. The principal room of the Post-office - size about 30ft by 20ft-is lighted towards James Street by three large semicircular headed windows, divided by stone columns with richly carved capitals. This room is handsomely finished in the interior, the plaster cornice being especially rich and elegant. Herein is conducted, not only the business of the postal department, but
that connected with money-orders, and the new Government Savings Bank.
The public enter through the portico, before alluded to, by three spacious semicircular arches resting on stone columns, with carved capitals and bases. The portico carries
two stories of rooms over it, and is surmounted by the Royal Arms. In addition to the accommodation above mentioned, are cloak and retiring rooms for the letter carriers and employees, and separate entrances for the Postmaster, whose private residence occupies the rest of the building, excepting at the South-East end, where our fellow-townsman,
S Powell, Esq., has secured a suite of chambers, and the Masonic body have located themselves in a noble hall and suite of apartments especially designed for their accommodation.
This brief description of the new Post-office would be incomplete did we not include a few additional particulars of the adjacent new buildings, which being of similar design, add vastly to the general effect. The noble arched windows of the Post-office are repeated the whole length of James Street and Princes Street, the James Street frontage consisting of a series of noble shops with dwelling-houses attached along both streets, producing an elevation of imposing proportion and magnitude.
For all this architectural effect and public accommodation, Harrogate is indebted to the good taste and public spirit of the Victoria Park Company, who have been well seconded by the purchasers of the James Street building lots; to the zeal and ability displayed by their architect,
Mr J H Hirst, a Yorkshireman, now resident at Bristol ; and to the energy and skill of our townsman,
Mr R Ellis, the contractor.