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Gainford, England

Gainford Spa

This hidden natural fountain issues forth a steady supply of supposedly healing water that tastes like rotten eggs. 

Gainford Spa is a little known mineral spring in the small village of Gainford on the River Tees that once promised to bring the town wealth and notoriety by cashing in on the Victorian mineral waters fad. Unfortunately the odorous sulphuric waters never caught on, however the fountain remains today, restored after being vandalized.  

In the mid-1800s, a borehole was sunk on the banks of the River Tees, looking for coal. However instead of fossil fuels, the digging unearthed an artesian spring of sulfurous water which sprang forth with surprising force. The fashion for “taking the waters” at spas that was all the rage at the time helped the new fountain gain an amount of popularity although the site never caught on the the extant that some of its contemporaries did, despite the construction of a stylized stone fountain to direct the flow of the waters.

A couple of boarding houses and restaurants were built in Gainford to support the burgeoning tourist trade but World War I largely put a stop to everyone’s fanciful fascination with mineral spas, and the Gainford resort fell into obscurity. By 1999 the Victorian fountain had been badly vandalized but an exact replica was created and installed in 2002 by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The fountain continues to push out its sulfur laden waters to this day. As the water emerges from the spring head at the spa the dissolved sulphur gases give it a distinctive “bad egg” smell, something that visitors will either find intriguing or which might put them off tasting it. Apparently the smell soon clears and the water is fresh and cold and delicious. The locals claim it’s excellent for making a good cup of tea.

Know Before You Go

There is a small parking spot on the A67 as it runs NE out of Gainford. Follow the path down to the river and enjoy a lovely walk for about 500 metres until you get to the spa itself.