Yes, yes, Betty's, Taylors tea, The Stray, spas...we all know they're the big guns that put Harrogate on the map. But our town has also made the news for several other weird, wonderful, and sometimes criminal reasons! You see, there's far more to Harrogate than tea and cake...
1. Happy Place
Harrogate frequently hits the headlines when it’s named the happiest place to live in the UK! In fact, Harrogate has topped the poll for three years straight. So it must be true! Our neighbours in York came in fourth. Ain’t Yorkshire grand!
The survey was based on neighbourliness, how safe people felt, recreational facilities, sense of community, living costs, contentment and how proud people felt about their home.
Thanks to Bucks Fizz’s 1981 victory with Making Your Mind Up, Harrogate became the talk of the continent when Europe’s cheesiest, we mean, finest musicians descended on the International Centre in 1982. Except France, they didn’t fancy joining the party that year after dubbing the Eurovision Song Contest boring. They obviously weren’t lucky enough to have the late Terry Wogan with his acerbic wit as their host! Despite being favourites (Ha! We’ve better odds of nil points these days!), the UK came second to Germany’s Nicole with Ein Biβchen Frieden.
3. ‘Serial killer strikes’
In 1974 Harrogate was front page news when serial killer Donald Neilson, known by the nickname The Black Panther, shot dead postmaster, Donald Skepper. The balaclava wearing robber was eventually convicted of murdering three sub postmasters, as well as the infamous kidnap and murder of Lesley Whittle, 17. Neilson was jailed for life and died in prison in December 2011.
4. Agatha Christie’s Greatest Mystery!
On Friday 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie vanished into the night. Her car was soon found abandoned on a steep slope in Surrey. What followed was one of the greatest manhunts in history. Thousands searched for the missing mystery writer. Speculation was rife – the story had all the elements of one her own whodunits and the press had a field day coming up with theories. The novelist was found 10 days later – living the high life in Harrogate’s very own Swan Hydra – now The Old Swan hotel! Bizarrely she’d checked in as Theresa Neale – the name of her hubby’s mistress! She spent her time attending the hotel’s glamorous balls and dinner dances until one of the hotel’s banjo players recognised her and tipped off her husband. Agatha Christie refused to ever speak of those missing eleven days – but two years later she divorced her philandering hubby.
5. Tour De France
In 2014 Yorkshire stole the show when it hosted the opening stages of the Tour De France. And the finish line of stage one was none other than our beautiful spa town, Harrogate! And boy, we won’t let anyone forget it! The story and photos were the topic of numerous front pages, and we made the sports pages too – on the same day! Now we host our very own annual Tour De Yorkshire – which has officially been added to the world cycling calendar. We love bicycling, we do!
6. Majestic Bombing
During the war a single bomb was dropped on Harrogate. It landed on the Majestic Hotel in 1941, and thankfully caused little damage and caused no injuries or deaths. A fire also ripped through the hotel back in 2010, sadly killing a member of staff.
No wonder it's the happiest place in the country!
A shocking crime
The secrets behind the UK's happiest place...
7. Harrogate Grumblers
Harrogate may be an old spa town but these days it’s very much living in the 21st century! It now has its very only social media network of Harrogate Grumblers and Mumblers, used by its cheery residents to spread the joy of living in the country’s happiest place. We’re so tech-savvy, one page has nearly 20,000 members. The people of Harrogate trade opinions, ideas, help, advice jokes, moans, and occasionally insults! Sometimes it can resemble the problem pages of a teen magazine, or a Jeremy Kyle Harrogate special. But it’s very entertaining and so current even the local media outlets use it as a source of news! The Harrogate Advertiser has Grumbler to thank for many headlines, sources and quotes. It’s been known to crop up in the Yorkshire Post too.
It’s also incredibly helpful if you need that dodgy rash diagnosed…
8. Harrogate Water
We love it when we get on a plane and they’re serving Harrogate Spring Water. Plus, it’s The Official Water of England Cricket! It also made the news when it was named Royal Ascot’s official water too. Ohh-er!
9. Ketchup on that, Your Maj?
The Great Yorkshire Show. We love it, we hate the traffic it brings! But once a year all the farmers in the land gather in Harrogate to compete over who has the best veg, flowers, cows, horses, pigs, chickens – and of course, who can shear a sheep the quickest/best. It’s reight good – even the Royals reckon so. They’re always showing up, and getting their pic in the paper! The Queen popped up for the 150th show in 2008, although we’re not sure if she showed off her corgis. We bet Prince Philip was the one who parked across our dad’s driveway though. Bloomin’ liberty.
10. Hollywood legends (well, sort of)
Harrogate has produced some very notable talent on the silver screen. Hugo Speer, who played Guy in The Full Monty. And Downton Abbey actor and four time Emmy Award nominee Jim Carter, who gained worldwide fame playing the affable butler, Mr Carson. He’s often spotted in the showbiz sections of weekly mags, and even the gossip pages! Thanks Jim, we’re well proud!
What makes your town famous? Tell us in the comments below!