King Richard III House in Scarborough: Part III

This is the third installment of an article originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 4, 2015) by Jeremy Clark. He has kindly contributed his work to be republished here.

For Part I of this article, please click here, and for Part II, click here.

Article Summary:

A comprehensive investigation of the history and characteristics of the house, as well as the popular belief that King Richard III stayed here during the summer of 1484.

Following from Part II, Richard III House was restored in 1915, by the then owner Mr Edgar Burrows. This was no easy task, as the thick walls were covered with boarding, plaster and wallpaper, and the rooms had been sub-divided into several sleeping quarters. All of this was stripped away, revealing old stone doorways, fireplaces, beamed ceilings and windows. On the ground floor oak rafters rested on a massive beam from around 1600, supported by stone corbels that showed traces of bullocks’ blood – applied as colouring.

Only two sections of a decorated plasterwork frieze survived. They were identified just below the rafters, above the stone doorway that formerly led to steps up to the second floor. This now gives access to an additional seating area for the current-day restaurant. The decoration features fleur-de-lis scrollwork and a frieze that probably ran around the four walls of the room.


Above: Decorated plasterwork frieze of fleur-de-lis scrollwork above the stone doorway, image courtesy of Sara Griffiths (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

The elaborate plasterwork on the ceiling of the second floor, known as the King’s Bedchamber, survived all previous alterations. However, it was hidden beneath coats of whitewash, which had obscured the finer details. When Mr Burrows cleaned away the dirt and whitewash, the impressive ceiling decoration was revealed.


Above: Drawing of the decorated ceiling on the second floor (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

The pattern’s central feature is the York Rose, the well known heraldic symbol that featured on Richard III’s coat of arms. Also, prominently displayed at each of the four corners is the bull of the Nevilles (the family arms of Anne of Warwick, Richard’s Queen), with other features including fleur-de-lis, foliage, sea serpents, parrots and a group of three rabbits – each complete but possessing only three ears between them. The plasterwork was probably the work of local plasterers, undertaken in about 1600.


Above : Illustrating the multi-curve pattern with a central rose, image courtesy of Sara Griffiths (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Below: This photo shows one of the bulls, fleur-de-lis, flowers and the central rose, image courtesy of Sara Griffiths (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)


The decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast also survived, but suffered some damage. The decoration consists of a gothic pointed arch, with scroll work, and the centre piece depicts a figure on a plinth.


Above: Decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast, image courtesy of Sara Griffiths (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Below: Detail drawing of the decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)


After restoration work was completed in the three large rooms within the house, Mr. Burrows equipped each with antique furniture of various periods, and with collections of domestic pewter, copper, and brassware. These were displayed alongside suits of armour, swords and curiosities.


Above: The ground floor, including the original oak beams and stone fireplace with a roasting spit in front. A suit of armour stands to the right of the fireplace. The decorated plasterwork frieze can just be seen below the rafters and above the stone doorway leading to the second floor stairs. Furthermore, in the stone-flagged floor, half concealed by an oak chest, which can be seen on the right, is a trap-door to the cellar, where it is said, although without foundation, that there is an underground passage that leads to the castle (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Below: This first floor room was named the King’s Hall, and in the above image the fireplace can be seen, set in the middle of the wall, with steps on the right leading to the second floor King’s Bedchamber. It is full of furniture and objects set around the room. To the left of the fireplace, standing against the wall is what looks like an Egyptian sarcophagus (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)


Below: This room is known as the King’s Bedchamber – the decorated ceiling can be seen at the top, as well as the decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast. To the right of the fireplace is the entrance door and farther right are stairs leading to the attic. As with the other rooms it has been furnished with antiques and furniture (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)


One curious feature that Mr Barrows included was a stone carving of King Richard III he had bought in the Midlands. He set the sculpture on the outside wall next to the entrance, protected by an iron grill. This grotesque stone figure, with a crooked body,  was chained by the neck and held a skull in one hand. The feet were cloven, and a metal crown sat on top of his head. This was supposed to have portrayed King Richard III himself, although the effigy was sadly stolen a few years ago and has not been recovered.

It is believed that it may have been thrown into the harbour. The iron grill was removed after it was stolen. Rather than being an original feature of the house, its intention was to intrigue visitors and encourage them to enter the museum.


Above: The grotesque stone effigy before the protective iron grill was put in place (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Over the years the museum attracted a small number of visitors and the antique shop next door helped to finance the museum. When Mr Burrows died, his son, C. H. Burrows took over the business with his wife. They produced a booklet for visitors to the museum, outlining the history of the building and King Richard III’s stay in Scarborough. Regrettably Mr Burrows and his wife sold the building in 1964 and it became a café and then restaurant, which remains today.

Below: The museum booklet outlining the history of the building, written and published by C. H. Burrows (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)


To be continued…


For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Issue 4, 2015). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Jeremy for sharing this article! Look out for the final part, coming soon…