Scarborough’s Glorious Gardens: Part II

Some of Scarborough’s many stunning gardens have already been explored in Part I, including Clarence Gardens, the Italian Gardens and the Rose Garden. This post discusses Valley Gardens, Holbeck Gardens, and a few others.

Valley Gardens

In 1862, shortly after the rennovation of the Spa in the late 1850s, the nearby Ramsdale Valley became home to Valley Gardens. Initially these gardens were known as ‘The People’s Park’. The Scarborough Corporation made the decision to decorate each side of Valley Road, with rockwork, plants and flowers, as well as a small pool, which had previously supplied water to Scarborough’s corn mills, which had closed a decade earlier.

Valley Gardens

Above: Overview of Ramsdale Valley (source)

Below: The People’s Park, later known as Valley Gardens (source)

Valley Gardens

Complete with a jet d’eau, lily pond, swans and small island, the final addition came in the form of a skeleton iron bridge, bought by Robert Williamson, or rather rescued, from the River Ouse in York, into which it had fallen. Then known as Lendal Bridge, its reincarnation in Scarborough is now known as Valley Bridge (not to be confused with the Spa Bridge, which connects the Grand Hotel with the Spa).

Below: The bridge across the valley affords excellent views of the gardens (source)

Valley Bridge

The Valley Bridge opened in 1865, just three years after the park, which was formally renamed Valley Gardens in 1912. There are more beautiful pictures of the park here, and the lily pond is pictured below:

Valley Gardens

Above: The lily pond (source)

Holbeck Gardens

The Scarborough Corporation commissioned Holbeck Gardens in the late nineteenth century, and they were designed by William Skipsey. Starting just south of Dickenson Point, the gardens soon encompassed a vast network of winding cliffside paths that stretched all the way to the Esplanade.

Holbeck Gardens

Above: Part of Holbeck Gardens (source)

On the left there is a touching memorial to a fallen soldier, and during the warmer months wild rabbits and squirrels can sometimes be seen on the grassy slopes.

Below: A view from the gardens towards the castle (source)

Holbeck Gardens

The paths lead all the way from the top of the cliffs to the beach below, and offer walkers enchanting views across the South Bay and Spa. However, the entrance to the vast network of paths is located next to the Esplanade.

Holbeck Gardens

Above: The Clock Tower at the entrance (source)

When George V was crowned in 1911, a special clock tower was built on Scarborough’s Esplanade to commemorate the event, and this was then donated to Holbeck Gardens in the same year, by William Shuttleworth. At the end of WWI a putting green was also added close by.

Below: A stunning floral display next to the Clock Tower (source)

Holbeck Gardens

Holbeck Gardens

Above: The Putting Green in the 1930s (source)

Although much of the gardens remains today, relatively unchanged, the furthermost end, closest to Holbeck Hall, has, since 1993, changed dramatically.

Holbeck Gardens

Above: Alternative view of Holbeck Gardens (source)

A landslide in 1993 transformed a large part of the gardens, and destroyed nearby Holbeck Hall.

Holbeck Hall and Gardens

Above: Holbeck Hall once overlooked Holbeck Gardens (source)

Built in 1879, by George Alderson Smith, Holbeck Hall was originally a private residence, eventually becoming a hotel in the twentieth century. The landslide began on June 3rd, following heavy rainfall, which eventually precipitated the collapse of the building two days later. Parts of the hotel fell into the sea, and the remainder was later demolished. Parts of the area still remain off limits to visitors.

Miniature Garden

As well as the clock tower, Alfred Shuttleworth was responsible for the miniature garden on the Esplanade.

Miniature Garden, South Cliff

Above: The Miniature Garden (source)

This intricate little garden features several small buildings and bridges as well as a small stream. All of the above gardens, as well as those featured in Part I, will be covered in more details soon.

Which garden is your favourite? Do you remember the Holbeck Hall landslide? Share your memories/thoughts in the comments section below…

Sources

Parks and Gardens

Ramsdale Valley

Historic England

Scarborough Civic Society

 

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Floral Hall’s Former Stars

In the heart of Scarborough’s Alexandra Gardens, now a bowling green, Floral Hall once stood.

Floral Hall

Above: The original Floral Hall theatre (source)

After beginning as an open air home for pierrot performances – then for George Royle’s popular fol-de-rol entertainers, Scarborough’s Floral Hall gained a roof, lost its floral decorations and welcomed a number of big name acts.

Floral Hall

Above: Floral Hall – with roof (source)

This post compares a number of the venue’s programmes from the 1970s, with those from the earliest days. These were the times of the summer season, the variety performance and the triumph of British seaside entertainment. However, the story of Floral Hall begins with pierrots – and Edwardian Scarborough was a good place to be one.

Scarborough Pierrot Performance

Above: Will Catlin’s pierrots perform on the South Sands (source)

These French and Italian inspired performers dressed in white and performed a mixture of comedy, music and mime, primarily on the beach. Will Catlin’s pierrots were a huge success on Scarborough’s South Sands, as were Carrick’s Original Pierrots. Catlin eventually built the Arcadia on the Foreshore, to showcase these performers, but with the development of cinema, he soon transformed the site into the Palladium Picture House, and the grander theatre that became known as the Futurist.

Futurist and Palladium Picture House

Above: The Futurist and Palladium Picture House (source)

George Royle also led a troupe of pierrots, and when Harry W. Smith – Borough Engineer extraordinaire – set about designing Alexandra Gardens, the open air theatre was to provide a home for Royle’s performers. However, Royle quickly rejected the idea of continuing with the pierrot performances, instead preferring his troupe to dress in eccentric period costumes. Top hats for the men and bonnets and crinoline for the women. Known as the Fol-de-Rols they were Floral Hall’s original resident act.

Fol-de-rols

Above: The Fol-de-Rols in the traditional white usually associated with pierrot performances (above)

Below: Looking slightly more like pierrots, the troupe were also known as George Royle’s Imps (source)

Fol-de-rols

The Fol-de-rols were immensely popular, but WWI changed everything – audiences dwindled (the 1914 Scarborough bombardment was a stark reminder of the dangers of wartime) and George Royle signed up to join the army. When he returned he was invited back to Floral Hall, but rents were rising and tastes were changing – the Fol-de-rols would not return.

Fol-de-rols

Above: Dresses and top hats (source)

Below: An early programme (source)

Floral Hall Programme: Fol de Rols

Fast forward to the 1960s and 70s, and seaside entertainment had been completely transformed. Gone were the old fashioned music hall acts, replaced by an altogether more modern form of variety. Furthermore, another huge influence was television – which was where many budding performers made their name. Talent shows such as Opportunity Knocks and New Faces provided many big breaks. Programmes from Floral Hall provide a fascinating insight into the seaside summer circuit at this time, and how stars of the day broke into the entertainment industry.

Floral Hall Programme: The Krankies

Above: The Krankies – a Floral Hall programme (source)

The Krankies are a Scottish husband and wife duo. They starred in TV’s Crackerjack, amongst other things, and Stu Francis, is another comedian who also featured in the same programme. Joe Longthorne, a singer from nearby Hull, found fame in TV shows such as Junior Showtime, and Search for a Star, while American singer Diane Solomon, made a name for herself on the BBC.

Freddie Starr was another act who was ‘discovered’ on a TV show – Opportunity Knocks. See below:

Floral Hall Programme: Freddie Starr

Above: Freddie Starr programme (source)

He was joined in Floral Hall for the 1979 summer season by a puppet show, Mike Lancaster (another comedian), and Patsy Ann Scott, known for her appearances on 1970s TV shows. The Maurice Merry Orchestra are mentioned on most of the programmes here, as is the director Peter Sontar.

Floral Hall Programme: Les Dawson

Above: Les Dawson programme (source)

Les Dawson, like Freddie Starr, benefitted hugely from an appearance on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, and was a comedian famed for his ‘mother-in-law’ jokes and piano playing. Dougie Squires, on the other hand, was a contemporary version of George Royle or Will Catlin. Instead of leading a troupe of pierrots, he created a singing and dancing group called The Young Generation, who were TV regulars in the 1960s and 1970s. Second Generation was an ill-fated attempt to reform the group.  As for Bobby Bennett, he presented Junior Showtime, another TV show with strong Floral Hall connections. Finally, Kenneth McKellar was/is a singer who represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1960s, and made numerous television appearances.

Floral Hall Programme: Peters & Lee

Above: Peters & Lee programme (source)

1970s folk duo Peters & Lee were Opportunity Knocks alumni – indeed, Floral Hall seemed to recruit heavily from TV talent contests, and featured in the Royal Variety Performance of 1973. Roy Walker is today perhaps best known as the former presenter of Catchphrase, the popular long-running TV gameshow. but he started off as a comedian, and yet another TV talent show alumni – New Faces this time. Lee Wilson was also a comedian and another former New Faces contestant. Singer-songwriter Berni Flint had a record number of wins in Opportunity Knocks, whereas Janet Brown was an actress and impressionist famed for her impressions of Margaret Thatcher.

Below: Frank Ifield and Ken Goodwin programme (source)

Floral Hall Programme

In this final programme, Frank Ifield – a singer who represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. He came a respectable second in 1962, during the decade that made him famous, but in 1976 he was less successful and finished twelfth. Opportunity Knocks gave Floral Hall another performer in Mancunian comedian Ken Goodwin, and Luie Caballero is/was an actor and impressionist. Bert Weedon was a guitarist and a regular performer for the BBC.

As the above selection of programmes demonstrates, Floral Hall hosted an impressive array of performers for nearly eighty years, but sadly closed in 1987 – there were insufficient funds to restore the building, and the heyday of the British seaside holiday was slowly slipping away.

Who would have thought that a simple open air theatre from 1908 would last so long and provide so much entertainment?

Floral Hall

Above: The sun sets on Floral Hall (source)

Do you remember Floral Hall? Do you have any old programmes, or recall the performers you saw?

Please get in touch if you’ve got any information to share…

Sources

Scarborough Civic Society

Scarborough News

Arthur Lloyd Music Hall and Theatre History Website

This wonderful Fol-de-Rols website