Grandeur And Glamour At The Corner Cafe

In the early 1900s a small shack stood at the corner near Peasholm Gap. Here visitors to Scarborough’s North Bay could buy refreshments, although the selection was somewhat limited.

Above: The old shack is shown on the postcard above (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Peasholm Park had just been built, and the North Bay Bathing Pool (and nearby Northstead Manor Gardens) were yet to exist.

Above: Another view of the site in the early 1920s, as the area began to develop – (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

As Scarborough entered the 1920s, plans were brewing for an exciting new North Bay development; one which would eclipse the primitive shack and its meagre provisions.

Above: The site shortly before building began in the 1920s (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

The Corner Cafe was originally scheduled to open in 1924, but construction took longer than expected, due, according to the Scarborough Mercury, ‘untoward circumstances’. Apparently there was some disagreement regarding extensions and/or amendments to the original building plans. That aside, the opening in 1925 (June 5th to be exact) was a grand and lofty affair.

Above: The Corner Cafe in all its grandeur (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

The Mayor, Mayoress, Councillors and local dignitaries attended a civic ceremony, during which the building was opened with a golden key, and the manager’s daughter, Miss Betsy Riley, presented the Mayoress with a bouquet of flowers. A lengthy article in the Scarborough Mercury described the many speeches made in great length, and the various ‘labour-saving’ new kitchen devices that were demonstrated. These included machinery for dish-washing, and, for cutting and buttering bread electronically.

It is safe to say that all present were impressed by the splendid character of the building.

(Scarborough Mercury, June 5th, 1925)

The Corner Cafe structure was built from reinforced concrete with a front face of artificial stone, complete with bronze windows, leaded lights, counters for ‘the confectionery trade’, and, a soda fountain. There was ornamental trellis work designed to host resplendent floral displays, and also:

[a] dome…constructed of fibrous plaster in white and gold…six hundred fairy lamps…a floor of terrazzo [with a] bold ornamental design.

(Scarborough Mercury, June 5th, 1925)

Indeed, many paragraphs were devoted in local newspapers of the time to describing the cafe, which cost approximately £15,000 to build. That would amount to nearly £800, 000 today.

However, this was no ordinary humble cafe – this complex had a ballroom, a stage for an orchestra (and all kinds of live entertainment) and even spaces for shops.

The cafe boasted furniture of black, green and bronze, with enamelled cane and plate glass table tops, with enough space for 100 diners and room for 120 guests in the forecourt outside. The nearby soda fountain could accommodate 90, as could the ballroom, with the former characterised by its contrasting blue and white cane furniture. The staff were to be clothed in smart Corporation uniform, designed by Councillor Mrs Whitfield (and worn by all waitresses who worked for the forerunner of Scarborough Council back in the early 1900s). Even the crockery was emblazoned with the Borough coat of arms in blue, and it was from this that the first visitors to the cafe consumed their afternoon tea and listened to the orchestra in the brand new ballroom.

You can view the Borough Coat of Arms here.

By the 1990s the Corner Cafe, whilst still operational, was a shadow of its former self, and finally in 2007, the entire complex was demolished, to be replaced with another, ‘new’ development. Ballrooms, cane chairs and soda fountain have now been replaced by sea view flats, a convenience store and a modern cafe.

What do you think of the new corner complex? Do you remember the old one? Please comment or get in touch with thoughts, opinions and memories.


All information within this post was obtained from old copies of the Scarborough Mercury and the Scarborough News at the Scarborough Room in Scarborough Library.



A Corner Cafe Memory

The Corner Cafe opened in 1925. Located on corner, opposite Scarborough’s North Sands, the cafe sold food, drink and entertainment for decades until it was eventually demolished in 2007 to make way for the brand new Sands development.

Above: The Corner Cafe can be seen on the top and bottom left of this multi-view postcard (from the author’s collection)

The site now hosts apartments and modern retail units. You can read more about the cafe’s history by visiting the following links:

Have You Even Been To…?

Bertram Otto And His Model Railway

The Corner Cafe Soda Fountain

In this post, a regular contributor to Stories From Scarborough Mark – has kindly shared some more up to date memories of the cafe from the 1990s. You can read more of his memories about other former Scarborough attractions on the following links:

Memories From Atlantis

Memories From Marvel’s

Kinderland Memories

His first memory of the Corner Cafe references the its model railway. Having hosted the world’s (then) largest and most intricately constructed model railway in the 1960s, the Corner Cafe apparently acquired its own smaller model. What happened to the larger version, which was then on tour, is something of a mystery.

I have a vague recollection of a larger scale, something like G scale I think, track going back and forth on a high up ‘shelf’ in the corner cafe, when me and mum used to call there to eat – I was always fascinated by it. At that point, I never knew the other model railway had existed.

Indeed, the original model came to Scarborough many decades earlier. Mark also remembers the entertainment at the cafe, which hosted names from both home and away, including early career performers and, during the cafe’s heyday in the 1960s and 70s, bigger stars also.

We usually went to a show there, most years – it wasn’t generally anyone famous, but kids/childrens entertainment, till I eventually became too old for them – at which point we transferred to shows at the futurist.

Sadly Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre closed early this year – its future at present remains uncertain. The Corner Cafe, on the other hand is now just a memory. Those who never visited will thus rely on those who did, to find out what it was like inside.

I remember always trying to sit in near the high windows, as we liked to look out onto the north bay as we ate – they used to do a kids lunch meal, and I often wound up taking some of it with me – I wanted to get onto the beach and build sand castles!

I remember there being something of a ‘square’ outside the Corner Cafe (although, it definitely wasn’t square) where there always used to be a booth, where an elderly gentleman sold newspapers and scratch cards – it used to be a daily treat, to get one of those scratch cards – we even won, sometimes!

The only other thing that really sticks in my mind about the Corner Cafe, is it (at one point, anyway) seeming to be a massive white ‘cliff’ almost, to a young me.

Thanks to Mark for continuing to share his memories with the project.

Did his recollections bring back any memories for you? Did you visit the Corner Cafe in Scarborough? Please get in touch or comment below.

The Corner Cafe Soda Fountain

The United States of America has provided much inspiration for Scarborough attractions – past and present. Scarborough Zoo was intended as a ‘mini Disneyland’ and its successor, Marvel’s boasted stars and stripes flags and colour schemes to match. Likewise the allure of the brash American funfair was emulated in the naming of Coney Island (formerly Jimmy Corrigan’s Amusements on the Foreshore) and Luna Park.

A little earlier, the Corner Cafe had its own taste of the American Dream – in the form of a Soda Fountain.

Above: An American soda fountain – the Corner Cafe version was modelled on such establishments (source)

A soda fountain is, quite simply, a machine that dispenses carbonated drinks. Although the idea originated in Europe, it was in the USA that it found fame. The design was developed during the 1800s, and soda fountains were typically found in chemist shops, ‘candy’ (sweet) stores and ice cream stalls. Sometimes the business itself was referred to as a Soda Fountain or Soda Bar.

Above: The more recognisable modern day version of a soda fountain (source)

Also known as the Soda Bar, the Corner Cafe Soda Fountain occupied a small booth alongside the main cafe area. Not only did it sell carbonated drinks, but there were also sundaes, iced drinks and a variety of egg cream drinks (including Horlicks and lemon flavour). The latter, surprisingly, may not have contained eggs at all; later versions of the drink (reputedly invented in the late 1800s by Louis Auster – American candy store owner) consisted of milk, soda water and flavoured syrup.

Above: A nostalgic egg soda drink kit – such beverages are no longer as popular as they once were (source)

Horace Gough was the proprietor behind Scarborough’s Corner Cafe Soda Fountain. He is pictured in an old newspaper article (with his establishment) in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.

Due to copyright restrictions the image cannot be reproduced here.

The exact dates of operation are somewhat unclear, but it is likely that the Soda Fountain was in business either during or just after WWII (the Corner Cafe was severely damaged during the war). Although the Corner Complex opened in 1925, Stories From Scarborough has thus far been unable to locate any records mentioning a soda fountain prior to the 1940s/50s.


Above: On the left you can see the Corner Cafe – the soda fountain would have been located in one of the booths inside the archways (from the author’s collection)

Gough wasn’t the only person in Scarborough to capitalise upon the success of the American soda fountain. Rival firm Evelyn’s was located on the South side – on the Windmill site at the Foreshore to be precise. This spot, next to the central cliff lift, now stands empty, but was once home to Scarborough’s Grand Restaurant – an impressive venue that could cater for 2000 people at a time. Built during the 1800s, it was badly damaged by the German bombardment in 1914, and was later bought by Scarborough Council in 1949. It was demolished shortly after to enable the widening of the Foreshore road.


Above: The restaurant below the Grand Hotel (from the author’s collection)

Evelyn’s soda fountain operated at a similar time to Gough’s, although the former opened before the latter. However, whilst Evelyn’s establishment likely ended when the adjoining restaurant was demolished (if not before), the Corner Cafe has maintained a long tradition of fizzy drinks and ice cream. It is unclear when the Soda Fountain disappeared, but an ice cream stall remained a consistent fixture at the Corner Complex until its closure and subsequent demolition.

You can view pictures of the demolition process here.

Today the Corner looks completely different. The old building was demolished in 2007, as part of the Sands redevelopment project, and was replaced by modern apartments and shop units, including the Waves Cafe. Coincidentally the mother and son duo who opened it in 2009, previously worked in the Corner Complex ice-cream parlour.

Above: Promotional image depicting the new Sands development (source)

Soda fountains and egg cream drinks may have been relegated to the misty realms of nostalgia, but their legacy has shaped the consumption of seaside beverages in the present day.

Do you remember the Corner Cafe? Did you visit the ice cream parlour or even the soda fountain? What do you think of the new Sands development? Please comment below.


Scarborough News

Scarborough’s Vanished Buildings

Old newspaper articles at the Scarborough Room in Scarborough Library

Bertram Otto And His Miniature Railway

As mentioned in this post, Stories From Scarborough is in the process of adding further former attractions to its collection; one of which includes the Corner Café. Built in 1925, this venture went from being a humble cafe to a popular entertainment complex hosting live music and various forms of entertainment before it closed in 1997.


Above: Postcard image of the Corner Café, date unknown (from the author’s collection)

One of the highlights of this history was the miniature railway exhibition in 1967; a touring creation called The Spectrackular. This impressive model was engineered by entertainer Bertram Otto, who turned a childhood hobby into a venture which took him across the world, and saw his spectrackular world of trains showcased to millions.

The scaled-to-life settings include 24 churches, 148 country cottages and farm buildings, 400 shops and stores of all descriptions, 200 schools, fire stations and other public buildings, 150 factories and administrative buildings, 100 skyscrapers, supermarkets and multiple-business structures, and over 500 railroad stations and siding sheds.


Otto was born in London (in 1902), to a Swiss father and an English mother, but grew up in both Switzerland and India due to his father’s job. A life-long model-railway enthusiast (he later became president of Thames Ditton Model Railway Society in Surrey), Bertram initially built a career for himself as a theatrical entertainer, specialising in illusions, magic, and later TV. He was well known for his ‘professional pickpocketing’ tricks, and was a regular performer at Eastbourne:

The Redoubt Bandstand was well used, for every morning Monday to Saturday, Uncle Bertie (Bertram Otto) entertained the children with magic, Punch and Judy, a talent contest and sing a long, again for one shilling.


It was only later in life that Otto’s hobby made the transition to a full-blown business enterprise, with the assistance of his wife and mother-in-law. Both he and his wife jokingly suggested that the latter take on the role of chief miniature railway operator – imagine their surprise when she calmly agreed!

Mrs Palmer came by this most unusual occupation – only woman scale-model chief engineer in the world – most unexpectedly. In addition to being the Spectrackular’s most dependable and accomplished operator, Mrs Palmer has also become her son-in-law’s right hand in maintenance, modelling and even the complex logistics of moving the Spectrackular, as when it was recently shipped over the Atlantic for display at the Fair.


In 1951 Otto exhibited a small model of his work in Eastbourne before travelling the world to seek out inspiration for a bigger, more comprehensive railway system. Visiting different countries enabled him to put together a truly global model, illuminated by 6000 bulbs, with moving traffic, skiers on Swiss slopes and a sailing ship. Naturally there were also trains – 100 of them to be precise, and 8000 model inhabitants of this bizarre miniature world. Not only were countries and landscapes from across the world featured, but there was also a City of the Future.

The City of the Future featured a flying saucer, rocket launch pad and a monorail, amongst other things; evidently anticipating developments in space travel that would soon follow. You can see a video of the railway here, and read more about it.

Returning to Eastbourne in 1959, Otto premiered his new, improved railway in the southern seaside town once more. It was displayed in the Gold Room of the Winter Gardens there from June 29 until September 19, 1959. Five years later it was in New York, making an extended appearance at the Better Living Centre as part of the city’s grandly titled World Fair.

You can read more about the New York appearance here.

The then Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (Hampshire, UK) saw the railway on a visit to New York, and arranged for it to be put on display at Beaulieu’s Motor Museum – an institution he founded. However, it didn’t stay there for long.

Above: Inside the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu (source)

In 1967 Bertram’s model railway came to Scarborough’s Corner Café, where it attracted 100, 000 visitors across the summer season. This was a major coup for the town – local press pictures from the time depict young visitors eagerly observing the moving trains, and reporters covering the event were full of praise for the model.

Due to copyright restrictions Stories From Scarborough is unable to re-publish any of the images here, but local press coverage can be viewed at Scarborough Library.

After this point history becomes rather murky. Otto was already in his sixties when he brought his railway to Scarborough, and some sources have suggested that the Corner Café had a smaller miniature railway on display during later years. So what exactly happened to the original model? How long did it stay for? There are rumours that it also visited Colchester and Brighton in later years. This source states that the railway moved to Ireland in 1996. The question is, where is it now?

Do you have any answers? Maybe you know what happened to Bertram Otto’s famous railway? How long did it stay at the Corner Café? Please get in touch.


1964 New York World Fair Press Document

1964 New York World Fair Web Page

Beaulieu Light Railway

Material from the Scarborough News and the Doris and Cyril Prescott Collection at Scarborough Library.

Have You Ever Been To…?

After requests from several readers, Stories From Scarborough is aiming to add some new attractions to its growing list. In order to do this effectively, the project needs your help!

Have you ever been to, or do you know anything about the following former attractions:

1) The Corner Cafe

Scarborough’s Corner Cafe opened on June 5th, 1925. It was opened by the then Mayoress. Located on the corner between Peasholm Gap and the North Sands, there couldn’t be a more suitable place for a cafe during the busy summer season.


Above: The early days of the Corner Cafe (from the author’s collection)

In 1967 it hit the news courtesy of an incredible miniature railway exhibition that consisted of 100 trains, an entire mile of track, 8000 tiny people (models naturally!) and a whole array of landscapes based on real and imaginary places. Designed by Mr Bertram Otto it cost £6000 to build and attracted 100,000 visitors over the first summer season on display. Following this success the cafe became a popular club venue, hosting live music and entertainment. Singers, acrobats and folk groups all joined the bill, and the venue had a reputation for showcasing local talent as well as bigger names. It was demolished in 2007 and replaced with apartments and shops, although the cafe itself closed a number of years earlier.

2) Scalby Mills Amusements

In 1963 local amusements king Albert Corrigan engineered the Scalby Mills Development – which involved the creation of various family-friendly attractions, including a cafe, paddling pool and astroslide. The complex was built at the far end of Scarborough’s North Sands.

Above: Entertainment for all at Scalby Mills (source)

This attraction required the land to be levelled, and in the process Scarborough lost local landmark Monkey Island, and the North Bay (Miniature) Railway terminus changed accordingly. However, the site was once again developed to make way for today’s Sea Life Centre, which opened in 1991, and remains a popular attraction to this day.

3) The World Of Holograms

Located upstairs in Corrigans Amusements (South Bay seafront), this bizarre attraction featured lighting and visual illusions.

Above: The World of Holograms in 1992, donated by Leonie (source)

Stories From Scarborough has thus far been unable to establish the dates of operation for this attraction, or indeed any substantial amount of information about it.

4) Peasholm Park Tree Walk

A popular summer evening event at Peasholm Park, the Tree Walk, or Tree Walk Wonderland as it was otherwise known opened in 1953 at the cost of £7,000.

It was the most amazing place to visit. On the island in Peasholm Park. Only able to visit at night. Had to pay to cross the bridge, high bridge walks amongst the trees and illuminated scenes, some moving. It was magical as a child. We were allowed to visit on our last night before going home, if we had been good.

A reader’s memory (source)

This attraction enjoyed great success, particularly in the 1960s and 70s, but eventually closed in 1990. It took visitors up onto the island at the centre of Peasholm Lake where they could view a number of illuminated displays. Even the waterfall had its own set of coloured lights.

Above: Some of the illuminations; from a distance (source)

5) The Madhouse

A wacky attraction on the seafront, on the South Side, where visitors could confront backwards escalators, wobbly floors and a whole range of hilarious obstacles. Its signage was red and yellow. The Madhouse caused controversy in 1981 by displaying a waxwork model of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe – according to the Scarborough News, this attracted many complaints. Dates of opening and closure have so far eluded Stories From Scarborough.

The inclusion of these attractions in the project will depend upon the availability of information and sources. This is where you, the readers can really help. No matter how vague or uncertain the memory, even if you recall a snippet or a single sentence, please send it in. Every lead is potentially helpful, especially given that many of these attractions are not very well documented.

The information on this page comes from readers and old newspaper articles in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.