The Grand Opening of Peasholm Park

Peasholm Park is one of Scarborough’s best loved and longest running attractions. From its conception in the early 1900s by Borough Engineer Harry W. Smith, the park has offered much to visitors, from features inspired by China and Japan, to lively naval re-enactments in the summer.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park (source)

When the park officially opened, on June 19, 1912, an unnamed journalist from the Yorkshire Post wrote a beautiful piece in the paper (Thursday June 20, 1912) about the park, its construction and the opening, selections of which are included here, as impressions of Peasholm Park during its earliest days of operation.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park during the early years (source)

Described as “an excellent bit of landscape gardening”, the article describes a site measuring 11.5 acres – 8 of which were purchased from the Crown (as part of the Northstead Estate) and a private firm, and the rest from the Corporation, which acquired the land “some years ago for allotments and other purposes.”

Apparently the site, known locally as Tucker’s Field, had also been used as a rubbish dump.

Laying out began in December 1911, and 60 men were employed to work on the park over the winter. By summer 1912, “residents have marvelled at the change brought about in so short time”, and the article notes that:

An outstanding feature of the park is a good-sized ornamental lake, with islands and waterfall, and a chain of smaller lakes extending at different levels up the glen, the total water area being 4.5 acres and the average depth 3ft.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

This was a much simpler park than that of today.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park – a view of the lake (source)

Furthermore, the process of creating the park uncovered some fascinating historical remains:

Archaeology has something to say in this improvement. It is stated that the larger lake is over the site of the Manor of Northstead, the stewardship of which is sometimes assigned to members of Parliament wishing to retire. In the course of the excavations the foundations of ancient buildings were unearthed.

What looked like the base of a tower bore traces of Norman origin, as did also the remains of a fireplace, built with tiles laid in herring-bone fashion similar to that seen in the Keep of Scarborough Castle. Small portions of painted glass of the 15th century were found, a large number of stone tiles, a silver penny of the reign of Edward II, a bronze spur, and many broken fragments of medieval pottery.

The remains showed that the whole of the buildings were surrounded by a wall enclosing a considerable area of ground, extending up the sides and across the large mound, which now forms the main island in the lake, and of which traces can still be seen.

Unfortunately the whole of these foundations could not be left exposed to view, as they were much below the water level of the lake. But the plan of them has been made, and will be preserved. Some portions of the tower foundations project above the water line.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

The author then goes on to describe the park in more detail.

The large island in the lake is of natural formation and rises above the water level to a height of some 45 feet. It has been ornamentally planted, and a series of winding walks lead to the top, from which there is a charming view of the district. The smaller island was formed out of material excavated to form the lake, and is intended as a refuge for the waterfowl.

The lagoon between the large and small islands is planted with a varied assortment of water lilies and other aquatic plants.The lake has been stocked with some 2,000 fish, chiefly perch, roach and tench, and it is intended later on to issue tickets for fishing.

A very pretty Japanese wooden bridge connects the island with  the mainland. A small shelter or arbour of quant design has been built. A boat-house of Japanese design  with landing stage is raised over the lake on brick piers. The lake is fed from the brooklet which rises in Raincliffe Woods and runs through the Ravine, and enters the large lake over a double waterfall some 9 feet in length. This waterfall is flanked on either side with extensive rockeries, beautifully furnished with ornamental shrubs, the  large clumps of New Zealand flax being very conspicuous.

Boating without risk can be indulged in. There are three Canadian canoes, two pair-oared rowing skiffs, three single-oared skiffs, three dinghies and one large family boat. Only £2,000 has been spent in making this interesting transformation, including the part purchase of the land, boats, buildings, etc., and it is, therefore, one of the most effective and economical of improvements the town has seen.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: The park later became a leafy paradise (source)

The opening, as with all new attractions in Scarborough during the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s, was of course a grand ceremonial affair:

The Mayor and Mayoress (Mr. and Mrs T.H. Good), accompanied the whole body of aldermen  and councillors in their scarlet and violet robes, and by the town officials, drove to the park from the Town Hall. At a rustic gateway the Mayoress untied a tricolour ribbon and declared the park open to the public. Alderman M. T. Whittaker, chairman of the Committeee which carried out the work, tendered to her the thanks of the Corporation, and in reply the Mayor observed that there was no health or pleasure resort in England where there were so many public parks and places of recreation and amusement as in Scarborough.

After these preliminaries, the Corporation forthwith took to the water. In other words, they had a trial trip on the boats round the lake, rowed by expert oarsmen. The stern of the boat in which the mayor and Mayoress, the Deputy Mayor, and the Town Clerk were seated,  sank deep in the water, and some onlookers feared lest civic dignity might be compromised by a capsize. But the entire voyage was made in safety.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: Local dignitaries at the opening of Peasholm Park in 1912 (source)

In contrast with the veteran father of the Corporation appeared a little lady in a canoe, shading herself with an umbrella (Japanese, of course, to harmonise with bridge and boat-house), privileged to be there by a part she had played in the ceremony in presenting the mayoress with a bouquet. Stepping ashore, the company walked over the bridge and round the island, and then left to discharge the second ceremony of the afternoon.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: A view of the lake and island – the pagoda was not constructed until 1929 (source)

The information in this post was obtained from an old edition of the Yorkshire Post (Thursday June 20, 1912) at the British Library and was verified by checking against various other sources used in the research for this project.

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One thought on “The Grand Opening of Peasholm Park

  1. Pingback: Scarborough’s Glorious Gardens: Part I | Stories From Scarborough

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