Leigh described a number of places in Lancashire with chalybeate springs (water containing iron). Early in the 17th century, chalybeate water was said to have health-giving properties and many people have promoted its qualities. Among the first places to establish a health spa around a chalybeate spring was Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Leigh highlighted the spring that enters the Calder on Towneley Holmes and was shown to him by Richard Towneley (1629-1707). Leigh compared the water to that at Bourbon-l’Archambault, a spa town in the Auvergne, and described in Observations sur les eaux minérales published in 1675 by Samuel Cottereau du Clos (1598-1685). There was a copy of the book by du Clos in Richard Towneley’s library and Richard impressed Leigh with his knowledge of the subject.
In the 18th century it was Harrogate rather than Burnley that became known as ‘The English Spa’ and the influx of wealthy but sickly visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of that town. Towneley’s mineral water was not completely forgotten as can be seen in the map of Lancashire published by William Yates in 1786 with a Spaw (spa) south of Handbridge.