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Pump Room
Drinking the waters in Bath (Humphry Repton, 1784, detail)


The custom of ’taking the waters’ as a medical practice started in the 17th century. Spa towns, where medicinal springs had been found, became centres of social life for fashionable society in the 18th century.

The towns grew, acquiring new buildings both for the accommodation of the visitors and for their entertainment, such as assembly rooms; major architectural landmarks of the time were erected as extensions of the spa towns.

The most important spas are, chronologically, Tunbridge Wells in the South East, Bath in the South West (both of them with names referring to the spa), and Buxton in the North.