And later, just further up the road, a Temperance hotel was built to accommodate
them, described as having splendid accommodation for visitors, containing numerous
large, lofty, and well-
The railway arrived in 1859 bring a flood of tourists from Presbyterian Belfast and in 1873 a new church was built for them at Spa, funded by a Belfast Presbyterian by the name of McCutcheon.
In the Beginning...
It is perhaps hard to imagine that Ballynahinch was once a centre for tourism, with visitors flocking to the town to take advantage of the much lauded health benefits from the three wells at Spa. The medicinal properties of the water had been rumoured upon since the 18th Century, with many people reporting how drinking it had cured them of their ills. Walter Harris, in his history of County Down in the 1740 s told the story of a Presbyterian clergyman afflicted with psoriasis and arthritis, who after spending a week at the Spa wells and drinking the waters, was soon cured and back to full health.
At the turn of the century, David Ker, with his financial instincts, saw the commercial possibilities of the Spa, and resolved to use this natural resource to bring prosperity back to a town badly in need of it after the ravages of battle. Historically, modern tourism is reputed to have begun after Napolean s invasion of Egypt in 1798, an event which alerted Europe to the culture of the near East and to other places in general. If this is true, then Ballynahinch and Spa were in at the start of the tourist revolution, as it was in 1810 that David Ker installed two pumps at Spa to bring the water to the surface and to the health needs of the masses.
According to Horace Reid, these pumps are still in existence, having been restored
by Councillor Harvey Bicker. On the front there is a little brass plate which states
that they were installed by David Ker having been imported from Joseph Branagh in
London, who of course was a pioneer of the flushing lavatory. These pumps would have
been the latest in cutting edge technology during the regency period. As the wells
became popular, Ker developed the leisure amenities in the area, installing a maze
in 1815. So, after a morning drinking the waters, the patients could continue their
bid for good health by exercising in the maze. The recommended regime for the waters
was to drink between three and six pints per day. It was described as tasting like
The end was in sightAlas, all good things come to an end, and with the arrival of the railway in Newcastle, the popularity of the wells began to wilt. Newcastle was now accessible to Belfast tourists and the beach became preferable to the wells. However the tourist industry at Spa continued right up to the dawn of the second world war and collectors in Ballynahinch have postcards sent from that period. The industry adapted and catered for every whim of the tourists as it came along, providing croquet lawns and building a golf course, still thriving today. The hotel became known as the Spa Hydro hotel, and Horace jokes that this was perhaps one of the world first Jacussi’s.