The ancient Greeks and Romans had cultivated a great affection for health and cleanliness. In addition to that, they believed that certain springs had been blessed by the gods — and therefore that their waters possessed therapeutic, healing properties.
When the Western Roman Empire fell, adherence to the notion of “medicinal” waters became, for a long interval, much less widespread in Northern Europe. But like so many other elements of Greek and Roman culture, their mania for health and cleanliness was revived. Around 1570, the Tewit Spring in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate, England, was found to help cure the sick — especially of such afflictions as gout and rheumatism.
In 1668, an English doctor named Thomas Guidott moved to the city of Bath. Swiftly, he became a committed advocate of the alleged healing properties of Bath’s abundant springwaters. These were the same springwaters that had been the joy of conquerors from the Roman Empire between the 1st and 5th Centuries A.D. — as well as of the “barbarians” that both pre- and post-dated the Roman colony. The waters, the bathhouses, and the temples the Romans constructed in Bath helped earn the town designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987).
Guidott desired to spread the word about Bath. So in 1676 he published an account entitled A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there. Also, Some Enquiries into the Nature of the water. Despite the not-so-zippy title of this publication, its ideas became influential enough to attract Queen Anne to Bath in 1702 to partake of its waters. From the point of this royal visit it was a short hop to all of high society wanting to drink from the mineral springs of Bath or similar places. The culture of the spa — named for Spa, Belgium, a picturesque, mountain village renown for its springs — spread. In order to serve the wealthy elite who flocked to these glamorous, body- and mind-bolstering destinations, pricey hotels, restaurants, and other relaxing entertainments followed.
Now here’s what starts to bring us back to ginger beer.