Now onto Scalby Mills…
If it was possible to travel one hundred years into the past, then Scalby Mills – located just beyond the North Sands in Scarborough – would look very different indeed.
Above: Scalby Mills – undated (from the author’s collection)
It may not be immediately obvious in the above picture, but if you look to the left of the image you will notice an ascending part of a small hill which is now the flat car park of the Sea Life Centre. Known as Monkey Island, this bizarre hunk of rock was presumably once part of Scalby Beck river bank, having been separated by the process of erosion. The unusual name has invited many attempts at explanation – the most popular of which involves a monkey, brought to Scarborough by a sailor from foreign climes, that made its escape via the island (although technically it is not really a true island).
Over the years Monkey Island became the site of cricket and football matches, picnics and wartime defence (in the form of a machine gun bunker during WWII). However, when local fairground entrepreneur Albert Corrigan (his brother Jimmy acquired, amongst other things, the former Turkish Baths on Scarborough Foreshore – now Coney Island Amusements) set his heart on building an amusements site at Scalby Mills, Monkey Island became an unwelcome obstacle.
Above: Monkey Island can be seen in the distant centre of the above image (from the author’s collection)
By the 1960s, Scarborough’s North Side was teeming with attractions – the North Bay Bathing Pool had been going strong for thirty years, and Peasholm Park for even longer. Northstead Manor Gardens offered a boating lake, outdoor theatre, water chute and miniature railway, and the end of the decade would also bring Scarborough Marineland and Zoo to the vicinity. Clearly visitors were spending more and more time in what was once the more remote and uncultivated part of Scarborough, and the miniature railway already took passengers towards the Scalby Mills area.
Above: The miniature railway already travelled to Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)
Sensing the potential for a lucrative investment, Corrigan eventually secured rights to develop Monkey Island and the land nearby into an amusements site. The destruction of the landmark would provide a large, level area on which to develop a comprehensive complex, and a new station for the miniature railway could also be built – making it the ideal way in which to travel to this exciting new attraction, which opened in 1963.
Above: Passengers travel to the brand new site (from the author’s collection)
The complex was extensive, and included a cafe, slot machines, paddling pool, fairground rides and later, an impressive Astro Slide, not unlike the one at nearby Scarborough Zoo (although it is unclear whether this Astro Slide arrived later, when the zoo became Marvel’s Amusement Park; it was also considerably smaller than the Scalby Mills equivalent).
Above: The impressive Astro Slide at Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)
The Scalby Mills Amusements enjoyed just under thirty years of business, but eventually closed in 1990, to make way for the Sea Life Centre that still stands on the site today. Once again the area was redeveloped, as was the Scalby Mills station for the miniature railway. There is even pirate-themed miniature golf for visitors, and the aquarium – with its distinctive, pyramid-esque architecture – is an ideal destination for rainy days (or otherwise) – the Sea Life Centre is still going strong and there is no sign of its success abating.
Above: The white pyramids of the Sea Life Centre (from the author’s collection)
Albert Corrigan died in 2008, and whilst the Corrigan name is still well known in Scarborough (the family have established various attractions in the town), the same cannot be said for Monkey Island. For many of us it is difficult to imagine the shoreline as it was – old pictures show a hill that looks out of place and strange. Even more intriguing is the question of the monkey who supposedly escaped there. Where did he or she arrive from? And where did the creature go?
You can see dozens more excellent photographs of the Scalby Mills Amusement site by visiting this link.
Do you remember Monkey Island? Or Scalby Mills Amusements? What was it like? Please share your stories!
All other information sourced from old newspaper clippings at the Scarborough Room (Scarborough Library) and the Doris and Cyril Prescott Collection.