Anne Bronte: Scarborough Connections – Part IV

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 3, 2015) by Claire Mason. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here. You can read Part I of the article by visiting this link, Part II by clicking here, and Part III by clicking here.

As already mentioned in Part I, Anne Bronte visited Scarborough many times with the Robinsons, a family she worked for, as a governess, between 1840 and 1845. She came to love the seaside town, and on her final visit, in 1849, she died there, as detailed in Part II. Part III explored some of the places she may have visited, as will this current installment – Part IV.

Shortly before her death, Anne Bronte insisted on visiting one of Scarborough’s many baths, although there is some debate as to the venue in question.  The sketch below shows Harland’s Baths at the corner of Falconer’s Road (on the right) and Vernon Place (now Vernon Road on the left). Winifred Gerin, one of Anne’s biographers, suggests that these were the baths Anne attended a few days before she died.

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Above: Harland Baths (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

However, this may not necessarily be the case. It is certainly a possibility that Anne attended these baths when she visited Scarborough, with the Robinsons during the early 1840s. The tower, which can be seen above the buildings in the old sketch is Christ Church, where Anne and the Robinsons worshipped, and ultimately where Anne’s funeral was conducted. The illustration was sketched in about 1841, and appeared in various editions of Theakston’s ‘Guide to Scarborough’ throughout the 1840s. It is accompanied by the following description of Harland’s Baths:

This commodious and elegant establishment is situated in the New Road, near to Vernon Place. The interior of the Baths is fitted up with considerable taste, and the edifice has been much enlarged, and the accommodation for visitors augmented. The Baths are constantly supplied with pure sea-water, and no expense has been spared by the proprietor to render them worthy of an enlarged share of public support.

The next illustration, below, shows Travis’ Baths, situated at the top end of St. Nicholas Cliff, just over 100 yards from Wood’s Lodgings, which can actually be seen in the background, to the right of the baths. It is more likely that Anne bathed here with the Robinsons; and these are probably the baths she attended alone (rather than Harland’s), a few days before she died.

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Above: Travis’ Baths (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

This building does not exist today. This sketch shows the view over St. Nicholas Cliff, on the right, with the sea and cliffs in the distance. The illustration was created in about 1841, and appeared, once again in various editions of Theakston’s ‘Guide to Scarborough’ throughout the 1840s. Theakston also presented this description of Travis’s Baths with the illustration:

This respectable establishment, situated at the entrance to St. Nicholas’ Cliff, was originally opened in 1798. It has since been re-built, and the interior fitted up with every attention to comfort and elegance. The Baths are of wood and marble, and are adapted either for plunging, sitting, or the recumbent position. Every tide, these baths are supplied with pure sea water, and admit of every variety of temperature. Rooms are also fitted up for Steam, the Douche, and Shower Baths.

The sea-water for these baths would have been transported beneath the Cliff Bridge (now Spa Bridge), and up Falconer’s Road (now Vernon Road).

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Above: This drawing shows the South Bay, but this time from the castle entrance. The date given with the picture is ‘c.1850’, although Anne’s grave does not appear to be present in the graveyard, so it could have been produced earlier, that is, assuming that the artist produced an accurate portrayal of the scene (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Nonetheless, pictures such as the one above represent the Scarborough that Anne knew. All the main landmarks are visible, St. Mary’s church on the right; a little way to the left of this, in the distance, the tower of Christ Church (dark coloured), where Anne worshipped with the Robinsons and where her funeral was conducted. Just left of the centre is the Cliff Bridge, with Wood’s Lodgings immediately to the right. On the extreme left is Henry Wyatt’s Gothic Saloon (on the site of the current Spa buildings); and, of course, Oliver’s Mount stands behind the new buildings on South Cliff.

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Above: This painting is undated but was likely produced around the mid to late 1840s, around the same time that Anne made her visits to Scarborough (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

In the above picture, a group of people appear to be having a picnic on one of the more level sections of the South Cliff. On the right, a young lady with a parasol takes a stroll along one of the cliff pathways. Just left of the centre, on the beach, is Henry Wyatt’s Gothic Saloon, now ‘The Spa’. Beyond this is the Cliff Bridge; and a little to the right, in white, and the re-structured Wood’s Lodgings with its new down-the-cliff extension clearly visible.

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Above: Anne’s signature, taken from one of the educational books she used while employed as a governess at Thorp Green – dated 19th September 1843 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Anne loved Scarborough and portrayed the town in her novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

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Above: An aerial view of the St. Nicholas Cliff, Scarborough from 1935 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The Grand Hotel, which replaced Wood’s Lodgings (where Anne stayed) and Christ Church (where Anne’s funeral was conducted) are indicated in the above image. The Spa Bridge, where Anne took many walks, is on the left, with the Rotunda museum just beyond it (extreme left). In the foreground are the South Sands, where Anne loved to walk beside the sea, and this part of the landscape inspired some of the concluding scenes of her novel, Agnes Grey.

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Above: This plaque is mounted on the wall of the Grand Hotel, indicating that Anne ‘died in a house on this site on May 28th. 1849’. The author would like to acknowledge Michael Armitage for permission to use this copyrighted material from his website on Anne Bronte at www.mick- armitage.staff.shef.ac.uk (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

According to Ellen Nussey’s diary, on the day following Anne’s burial, she and Charlotte Bronte visited Scarborough Castle, and would have passed Anne’s grave along the way. Also, on that day, the Scarborough Gazette reported in its ‘Visitors List’ the arrival of “Miss Bronte” at No. 2 The Cliff, and provided a short obituary for her:

On the 28th inst, at this place, of consumption, Miss Anne Bronte of Brookroyd, Birstall near Leeds.

This address in fact belonged to Anne’s travelling companion, Ellen Nussey, mentioned above, who arranged this entry in the Gazette. Ironically, on the front page of this same edition was an advertisement for the Scarborough Circulating Library, which put Jane Eyre – written by Anne’s sister Charlotte, at the top of its list of new popular novels.

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Above: The walkway leading towards Scarborough Castle in about 1889 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above image includes Anne Bronte’s grave. Her sister Charlotte and travelling companion Ellen would have taken this path the day after Anne’s burial. They would have entered the castle through the gateway seen in the centre of the picture.

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Above: A view of St. Mary’s Church from the entrance to Scarborough Castle (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above image is from around 1887, and in the detached part of the burial ground Anne’s gravestone can be seen. In the middle of the roadway is a drinking fountain with a conical shaped roof. It was erected in 1860 to commemorate Scarborough’s first historian, Thomas Hinderwell. His history of the town first appeared in print in 1798.

The fountain was badly positioned, and when horse-drawn vehicles gave way to automobiles, it was frequently knocked by passing traffic, until finally a reversing lorry demolished it entirely.

The landscapes depicted in this article may have changed considerably since Anne’s visits to Scarborough, back in the mid 1800s, but her grave still remains at St. Mary’s Church, and is frequently visited by tourists to this day.

Sources

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

Many thanks to Clare for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough!

Scarborough Spa and the First British Seaside Resort: Part II

This is an article originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Spring Issue, 2010) by Sarah Harrison. She has kindly given permission for her work to be republished – for Part I of the article please click here.

When the York and North Midland Railway established links with Scarborough in 1845, it became much easier for visitors to reach the town, which, in turn, led to large-scale investment in tourism. However, hotels and entertainment facilities had been increasing steadily since the 1700s, following the discovery of Scarborough’s natural springs in the 1600s.

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Left: In the late 1700s, wealthy visitors whiled away the afternoon at the theatre on Tanner Street, now St Thomas Street, where many famous actors performed. In 1825 a seat in the boxes cost three shillings, in the pit two shillings and in the gallery one shilling. The theatre was demolished in 1929 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

In 1867 the Grand Hotel was completed – then one of the largest hotels in the world and one of the first in Europe to be purpose-built. Another first for Scarborough was the cliff tram, built in 1875, to link the South Cliff Esplanade to the Scarborough Spa. There would eventually be five cliff lifts in operation – three on the South side and two near the North Sands. Only two operate today – one by the Scarborough Spa (referred to as the South Cliff lift), and the other near at the side of the Grand Hotel (not to be confused with the one pictured below).

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Above: The Grand Hotel and the Cliff Bridge. The Cliff Tram in the centre of the photo is now closed (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

Only eighteen years after the official opening of the Scarborough Spa on 8 September 1876 the building was destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt. By June 1879 the new Grand Hall was opened to the public, with the formal opening ceremony taking place on August 2nd, 1880. So began a great era of music and entertainment – indeed, a range of leading musicians, conductors and performers all performed at Scarborough Spa.

Additions and alterations have been made over the years and a major restoration programme was carried out in the early 1980s to reinstate some of the original features and decorative styles.

Today the Scarborough Spa complex is a Grade II listed building which includes the Spa Theatre, the Grand Hall for concerts, the Ocean Room, the Promenade Lounge, Sun Court (for open air concerts), and various other rooms. It is also home to the Scarborough Spa Orchestra, the last remaining seaside orchestra in Britain. The orchestra gives 10 concerts every week during the summer months, playing from an extensive repertoire of classical and light music.

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Above: Sun Court for open air concerts (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

Although taking the waters declined in popularity during the 19th century, the Spa’s reputation as a fashionable location for entertainment and relaxation grew in popularity. Also, the chemical composition of the water has altered considerably over the years and so the practice of “Taking the Water” came to an end in the late 1960s.

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Above: Steps leading down to the well (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

Today the only visible evidence of the Spa water – that made Scarborough the first seaside resort in Britain – is a well set in the wall and the steps leading down to the beach on the north side of the Spa Complex. The strong mineral content of the water has stained the wall’s stones a reddish-brown colour. Likewise, it was this same staining that led to the discovery of the waters close to this site back in 1626.

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Above: The spa well set in the wall (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

Today, the spa water is no longer recommended for drinking – there is a sign above the well which reads “Not Drinking Water”. The waters may have changed somewhat, but without Mrs. Farrer’s discovery in the seventeenth century, Scarborough would not have developed into the first English (and arguably, in its time, most famous) seaside resort.. Maybe one day the Spa will open again when the water is safe to drink and the well given a new look.

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Spring, 2010). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough!

Scarborough Spa and the First British Seaside Resort: Part I

This is an article originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Spring Issue, 2010) by Sarah Harrison. She has kindly given permission for her work to be republished here.

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Above: The Scarborough Spa Complex (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

It happened by chance, in about 1626, when a Mrs. Farrer discovered natural springs bubbling out beneath the cliff to the south of Scarborough. She saw that the waters stained the rocks a reddish-brown colour and that it tasted slightly bitter. The spring water was later found to cure minor ailments.

Mrs. Farrer was the wife of one of Scarborough’s leading citizens, John Farrer who was several times Bailiff of Scarborough.

When she told her neighbours and friends about the beneficial effects, they too drank the waters, and this became a widely accepted medicine for local townspeople.

The mineral waters were analysed by medical professionals and found to contain a high level of magnesium sulphate – its healing properties were just as effective as Andrews’ Liver Salts are today.

Dr Robert Wittie of Hull was the main medical supporter promoting the mineral waters and in 1660 he published his book “Scarborough Spa”, in which he proclaimed the waters as a cure for all ills. He recommended that the waters were best drunk in the summer season, mid-May to mid-September. He also began promoting the health benefits of sea bathing, and by the middle of 1660 the resulting publicity made the town’s wells famous.

Scarborough developed not only as a fashionable spa town but as the original English seaside resort. “Taking the Water” quickly became a popular medicine, and attracted a flood of visitors to the town

The first Spa House was built on or near this site in about 1700. This basic wooden structure designed for the sale and dispensing of the waters, and to provide basic amenities to visitors. The water was also bottled and sold further afield. Dickie Dickinson was appointed the first Governor of the Spa and was responsible for keeping order and collecting money from visitors. 

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Above: Dickie Dickinson, first Governor of the Spa (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

All went well until a massive landslide buried the Spa House, conveniences and the springs in 1737. Fortunately the water source was quickly located again, and in 1739 a sizeable building or saloon was built. This offered fine views over the sea and a long flight of stairs to reach the wells.

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Above: The Spa, depicted in a plate from the Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

Scarborough was now well established as a seaside resort and Spa town providing every fashionable amenity. There was a Long Room in St Nicholas Street that provided nightly dancing, music, gaming tables and billiards. In the afternoon, plays were acted under the management of Mr. Kerregan in 1733, and from 1776, evening performances were given in the theatre.

There was also a whole range of accommodation to suit every pocket – board and lodgings, rooms at inns and hostelries, a Georgian house for rent, and later, top quality hotels. Tourists could visit coffee shops and bookshops with circulating libraries, and, enjoy the added attractions of horse racing on the beach, alongside boating and sea-bathing. Scarborough was one of the first places, if not the first, to use bathing machines.

(You can read Sarah’s article on Sea Bathing by clicking here for Part I and here for Part II)

During its Victoria heyday the Spa was considered the most popular music hall venue outside London. The first orchestra appeared in the 1830s, but a series of mishaps and disasters plagued the Spa each time redevelopment occurred. The initial saloon was damaged by heavy seas in 1808, but the worst storm; according to some, of the century, devastated the building, which, as a result, had to be completely re-build in 1836.

Before this disaster, such was the Spa’s popularity, that in 1827 the iron Cliff Bridge was erected across the valley, giving easier access from the cliff and the town, where elegant hotels and Georgian lodging houses were becoming popular.

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Above: The Cliff Bridge across the valley (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

The completion of the new “Gothic Saloon”, designed by Henry Wyatt, was opened in 1839 and included a concert hall to seat 500, a garden, promenade and an external area in which orchestras were to perform. However, by the time it opened, the impressive turreted building, was already too small. Consequently, Sir Joseph Paxton, the landscape gardener and architect responsible for the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire and the Crystal Palace, London was called in to redesign the complex. The new, improved venue officially opened in 1858.

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Above: The Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)

To be continued…

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Spring, 2010). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! Look out for Part II, coming soon.