The Stray (Harrogate)
The Stray is a long area of public parkland in the centre of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, comprising 200 acres of contiguous open land linking the spa town's curative springs and wells. The contiguous area of land, not all of which is officially designated part of The Stray, forms an approximately U-shaped belt from the Cenotaph on the North West point of the U, down the A61, along a broader southern belt of fields, enclosing the building of Church Square, and up to the North East tip of the U at The Granby. The Stray includes the site of Tewit Well, marked by a dome.
The area of the Stray was historically part of the Forest of Knaresborough, a royal hunting forest which passed into the hands of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, in 1369. The forest remained in the hands of the Duchy of Lancaster, which still owns the freehold of the Stray. By the 18th century the forest had long outlived its original purpose, and the spa town of Harrogate was growing within the forest. The Duchy became concerned at illegal encroachments on its land, and considered enclosure of the forest. The Duchy commissioned a survey in 1767, which resulted in an Act of Enclosure in 1770. The commissioners' subsequent survey recognised the value of the unenclosed land which gave visitors unhindered access to the various mineral springs around Harrogate, and their Great Award of 1778 set aside two hundred acres to be forever unenclosed. The Award ensured public right of access to the land linking the wells and dedicating a long stretch of land for those seeking the cure to walk and exercise in.
The Award allotted grazing rights (or "gates") on the unenclosed land, so that animals on the 200 acres were free to stray without tether, giving rise to the popular name for the land, the Stray (a term used elsewhere in Yorkshire for unenclosed land, such as at York and Redcar).
Neither the Act of Enclosure nor the Award made any provision for ongoing management of the Stray. In 1841 a new Act of Parliament, the Harrogate Improvement Act, established a committee of Stray gate owners, but in practice this enabled the gate owners to generate income from renting parts of the Stray for purposes other than grazing animals. In 1884 Harrogate was incorporated as a municipal borough, and the new corporation negotiated the purchase of the gates. A further Act of Parliament in 1893 required the corporation to maintain the Stray as a public open space.
In 1932 the corporation's action in planting large formal areas planted with shrubs provoked opposition, and led in 1933 to the formation of the Stray Defence Association. Another Act of Parliament, the Harrogate Stray Act 1985, made the new Harrogate Borough Council the protector of the Stray, and permitted the use of up to 8.5 acres (3.4 ha) of the Stray for spectator events. A variation was granted for the Tour de France in 2014, but proposals in 2016 to relax the restrictions permanently met opposition and were abandoned.
The Stray is traditionally the site of parades and civic events. For example, at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 the people of Harrogate roasted an ox for the occasion and drank 500 gallons of beer. During World War II trenches were dug on The Stray in fear that German planes might use the open land as a runway.
- Neesam, Malcolm (2005). Harrogate Great Chronicle 1332–1841. pp. 124–146. ISBN 978 1 85936 145 0.
- Paul Chrystal, Simon Crossley Harrogate Through Time 2011 1445628554 "The Stray came about after the punitive 1770 Acts of Enclosure with the Duchy of Lancaster Commissioners' great Award of 1778. This ensured that 200 acres of land linking the wells would remain open, thus protecting public access to the springs and allowing space for people to exercise in – exercise was just as important a factor in the cure as the waters."
- "History of The Stray". Stray Defence Association. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- "About the Stray Defence Association". Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- "Harrogate's Stray law change bid to run big public events". BBC. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- "Harrogate Borough Council backs down on Stray plans". Open Spaces Society. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2019.