Before The North Bay Bathing Pool: The Northstead Estate

When the North Bay Bathing Pool opened in the summer of 1938, Scarborough’s North Bay was rapidly becoming a haven for holidaymakers.

Above: The North Bay Pool was also known as Scarborough Children’s Lake (source)

Across the road was the relatively new Peasholm Park, initially developed in 1912. Around the corner was a miniature railway, water chute and open air theatre, all part of the new Northstead Manor Gardens, or Pleasure Park, as it was then otherwise known.

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Above: The early days of Northstead Manor Gardens (from the author’s collection)

However, only a few decades earlier, this patch of land had looked very different indeed, nor was it even ‘officially’ part of Scarborough. Part of it was purchased by the Scarborough Corporation in 1911 for the development of Peasholm Park, and the remainder of the estate was bought by the same organisation in 1921. Prior to these transactions, Scarborough legally ‘ended’ at Peasholm Beck.

Above: Bridge over Peasholm Beck, now part of Peasholm Park (source)

There were no adventure playgrounds or water slides here – the land was used for more practical matters before the twentieth century arrived. Piggeries, allotments, farming – thick boggy mud and hard work. All of this seems an antithesis for what was to follow.

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Above: 1913 Northstead, in blue, before it became part of Scarborough, in pink (source)

The area in which the North Bay Bathing Pool later stood was known as Rawling’s Field. Located next to Tucker’s Field (which later became Peasholm Park), the site belonged to a Mr Rawling. A reader kindly contacted Stories From Scarborough to clarify this further:

This was a piece of land owned by my great grandfather’s brother – George Blackett Rawling (1853-1916) – who owned and managed the bathing machines on the North Bay in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  He sold the land to the then Scarborough Corporation for a few shillings (I understand).

Many thanks to Phil for getting in touch with this information, and also for sending an old newspaper article outlining the origins of the pool.

Rawling’s Field and Tucker’s Field once formed part of the sprawling Northstead Estate.

Above: Tucker’s Field, shortly before being developed into Peasholm Park began (source)

The origins of the estate are somewhat murky – some sources suggest that the area was originally named Hatterboard; the Northstead moniker emerging much later. Local friars gained permission to build a priory in the area in 1245, and the land was bestowed upon a series of noblemen before being purchased by King Richard III in the fifteenth century.King Richard reputedly favoured Scarborough and was the last known monarch to stay in the town’s castle.

Above: The earliest known portrait of Richard III (source)

At the centre of the Northstead estate stood a manor house, although few accounts describe it in any great detail:

At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign ‘the Northstead’ had a ‘parliour,’ an old chamber reached by wooden stairs, and ‘a lowe house under it’ unfit for habitation; Sir Richard Cholmley’s shepherd dwelt in it until it fell down. Adjoining were an old decayed barn and the walls of other houses, which shortly afterwards fell, and an old chapel. Sir Richard Cholmley, lessee of Edward VI, used the timber of these decayed buildings to build ‘an hall house, adjoining it to the said parliour.’

(source)

A survey in 1650 did not record a manor house, with earlier reports suggesting that it may have fallen into disrepair. However, in spite of the lack of historical records, the construction of Peasholm Park in 1911 did reveal the remains of medieval buildings of a domestic nature, although little conclusive information could be deducted about their purpose or significance. These ruins were found in the centre of today’s Peasholm Lake.

Above: The lake at Peasholm Park (source)

Although the manor house disappeared long ago, the accompanying position – Stewardship of the Manor (of Northstead) remains an official one, bestowed upon MPs to relieve them of their duties.

Above: A plaque in Peasholm Park acknowledges the stewardship (source)

Northstead has indeed witnessed many transformations; from its early days as a medieval estate to its later manifestations as a magnet for seaside holidaymakers. Peasholm Park in particular is a lasting legacy of the latter, although its early neighbours – the North Bay Bathing Pool and the attractions located in and around the Northstead Manor Gardens, have endured mixed fortunes.

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Above: The North Bay Bathing Pool at night (source)

The opening of the North Bay Bathing Pool in 1938, for instance,  was reputedly a grand affair – with a band and underwater lighting. Likewise its transformation into Waterscene in 1984, featured a visit from holiday camp legend Fred Pontin. The succession of glitzy rebrandings was followed by closure in 2007. As the site fell into disrepair, and the bright blue slides faded, a return to the boggy fields of old was no longer so unlikely. However, the birth of the Military Adventure Park continued the evolution of the area, and new investment (including the redevelopment of the old outdoor theatre, and the updating carried out by the North Bay Railway company) is preserving what was once little more than a muddy field for generations of holidaymakers to come.

It has been difficult to verify some of the information in this post – if you know anything more about Northstead’s history, or have any thoughts or corrections, please comment below.

Sources

English Heritage

British History Online

Pastscape

Scarborough Book of Days

The National Archives

 

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