Anne Bronte: Scarborough Connections – Part III

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, and Part II 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.

There is much misconception surrounding which members of the Bronte family actually visited Scarborough. Anne visited at least four or five times with the Robinson family, followed, five years later, by her final, visit with Charlotte and their friend Ellen Nussey. The latter occasion was Charlotte’s first visit to the resort, and she only returned once, three years later, to visit Anne’s grave. Branwell was at Scarborough on two occasions, when he accompanied Anne and the Robinson family. Emily had planned to accompany Anne on a short visit during the summer of 1845, but the venue was changed to York.

There is no indication, therefore, that Emily, or Patrick, Anne’s father, ever visited Scarborough.

The Scarborough that Anne knew was in many ways different from the town today. This part of the article explores some of the areas she is likely to have visited.


Above: A sketch showing the view across the Cliff Bridge from Wood’s Lodgings in around 1849, the year Anne died (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Beyond and below the bridge in the picture, is Henry Wyatt’s ‘Gothic Saloon’, beside which are the Spa Wells. At the bridge entrance is the Toll Booth where tickets could be purchased allowing unlimited access to the bridge and Spa Wells for a one, two, or four week period, or indeed the entire season. Anne took many walks across this bridge; indeed, the day before she died, she accompanied Charlotte, and their friend Ellen Nussey, along it. Today, the bridge is known as the Spa Bridge and it leads to several footpaths, one of which gradually descends to the Spa buildings, which stand on the site of the old Gothic Saloon.


Above: Henry Wyatt’s ‘Gothic Saloon’ (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The Gothic Saloon, which stood on the site of today’s Spa, opened with dancing and fireworks on 16th August 1839, the year before Anne’s first visit to Scarborough. On the extreme right of the above picture is the Cliff Bridge (now Spa Bridge), above and to the left of it can be seen the tower of Christ Church, indicated in the picture, at the top of Vernon Place (now Vernon Road). This was the church in which Anne and the Robinsons worshipped, and ultimately where Anne’s funeral was conducted.


Above: An illustration dated around 1845, showing the view from a bridge-like structure which led from the cliff pathway to the roof of the Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Whilst in Scarborough Anne had stayed at Wood’s Lodgings, which is clearly marked on the above picture, along with St. Mary’s Church (her burial place) and the castle on the right. In the foreground is the entrance to the underground room which contained the Spa Wells. In 1626, a natural spring was discovered here by Elizabeth Farrow, and the water was believed to have great healing properties. From this time until around the mid-1800s, many summer pilgrimages were made to the ‘Spa’and people would take the waters in the hope of a cure for a multitude of ailments.

The full story of Scarborough Spa, originally published in the Yorkshire Journal, is available here on Stories From ScarboroughPart I is here and Part II here.

Although it is not recorded, it is quite possible that Anne may have tried the famous spa waters in 1849, hoping they might assist in her recovery from consumption. She may also have sampled them when visiting Scarborough with the Robinsons some years earlier, as she also suffered from asthma, an ailment the spa water reputedly cured.


Above: The Spa’s water pipe today (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

If Anne had indeed visited the Spa, then she would have walked down a flight of steps which still survive today and are pictured later in this article. The overflow of the spa water came out of a small pipe in the wall, as shown above. The water is no longer used for medicinal purposes.


Above: The Spa, from, ‘The Poetical Sketches of Scarborough’,1813. Later the steps and wooden fencing were replace in stone (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Below: Steps leading down to the well and beach, far right the spa well set in the wall (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)


Before the Spa as it is today, the Gothic saloon (pictured below) was the place to go for Scarborough’s visitors as they sought out the healing properties of the town’s waters. It proved to be far too small to cater for the crowds and was redeveloped in 1858 to accommodate more visitors. However, as Anne died in 1849, she would have only seen the original saloon building.


Above: A view across Scarborough’s South Bay from just beyond the Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above sketch was drawn in 1839, just after the saloon had been opened.


Above: A sketch of a view from the South Bay seafront by Francis Nicholson, c.1832. (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The above picture shows Anne’s former accommodation, Wood’s Lodgings (top right), the Spa Bridge in the centre. and the Gothic Saloon on the left. Even the pathway that leads from the Spa Bridge down to the Saloon and the Spa Well, can easily be identified. This pathway remains today. Also in this sketch are a number of bathing huts on the sands with horse riders, and carriages.


Above: Undated sketch, estimated to have been drawn between 1845 and 1850 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

The Rotunda Museum (shown above on the left) was described by Anne’s brother, Branwell, in an unfinished novel. It is inconceivable to think that Anne would not have paid a visit here with the Robinsons, if not alone, she may have taken the Robinson children there as an educational exercise. The building was erected, specifically as a museum, in 1829, and the rectangular side wings were added in the 1860s.

The building still serves as a museum today and was renovated in 2006.

The full story of Rotunda Museum has been published in the Yorkshire Journal, Winter 2011 edition.


Above: A crayon sketch by W. Tindall, produced around 1840, the year Anne made her first visit to Scarborough. Once again, to the right of the museum, on the cliff, is the early Wood’s Lodgings ‘house’. On the right is a pool created by the ‘Mill Beck’, the water gradually making its way beneath the Cliff Bridge (now known as the Spa Bridge), and across the South Sands to the sea (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)

Below: The Rotunda Museum with the two rectangular side wings which were added in the 1860s. It is overlooked by the Grand Hotel, which was later built on the site of Wood’s Lodgings House, where Anne spent her final days (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)


In 2006 the Rotunda Museum was renovated and is as a centre of geology for the region.


Above: The Rotunda today (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)


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! There is one final installment of this article to come, so watch this space…

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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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

To be continued…


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.