King Richard III in Scarborough: Fact or Fiction?

This is the final 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. For Part II click here, and Part III 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.

After he was crowned in 1483, King Richard III made a northern tour. He arrived in Scarborough on May 22nd 1484, and visited again from June 30th to July 11th. The purpose of his visit was to assemble a fleet to defend against the expected invasion of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. It is reputed that King Richard III stayed in the house named after him on the foreshore during the summer of 1484.

He might well have found this location – beside the harbour and providing easy access to his ships – more convenient than the castle.

Nevertheless, he did stay for a time at Scarborough Castle because writs, warrants and other documents were sealed by him on May 22nd and July 5th, reportedly ‘given at the castel of Scardeburgh’. He was the last monarch to reside at the castle. However, further royal orders issued after 5th July were ‘given at Scardeburgh’ (without further mention of the castle) so it is possible that Richard did stay in the fifteenth century Sandside house for a few days. There is, however, no conclusive evidence to confirm this.

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Above: A facial reconstruction of the head of King Richard III with blond hair and blue eyes. DNA testing suggests that this would have been his colouring (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Although not recorded in documents, the original house is thought to have belonged to Thomas Sage (c.1430-1497), one of the town’s leading burgesses and the richest ship-owner. He was a very wealthy man who had property in the area and was well-disposed towards Richard.

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Above: Aerial view of the harbour at Scarborough. King Richard III house can be seen in the blue circle. To the right is the curtain wall of the castle, which extends along the whole length of the promontory overlooking the town. At the top right is the Barbican and Gatehouse to the castle (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

King Richard the III (2 October 1452 -22 August 1485) was King of England from 1483 until his death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. In 1485 he granted Scarborough a new charter, making it a county rather than a borough. This was subsequently revoked after his death by Henry VII.

Richard III was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field was the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses.

After the battle Richard’s body was taken to Leicester and buried in the Church of the Grey Friars. His body was found in 2012 during an archaeological excavation and on 26th March 2015 his remains were reburied in Leicester Cathedral rather than in York Minster as many of his supporters had hoped.

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Above: A plaque in remembrance of King Richard III inside Leicester Cathedral (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

When the building was taken over as a café in 1964 a few alterations were made to the interior on the ground floor. The stone fireplace was removed and replaced with a flight of stairs to a newly built kitchen at the rear. The stone-flagged floor was covered with wooden floorboards and the blocked-up doorways to the former antique shop next door were cleared to make entranceways to additional seating areas of the restaurant. The stone walls and the oak rafters which rest on a massive beam were retained in their original condition.

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Above: King Richard III house as a museum in the 1950s with an antique shop next door (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Below: King Richard III House as a café in 1986 (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

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Despite these alterations the house has retained its medieval appearance from the time of King Richard III, even though there it is uncertainty regarding whether or not he actually stayed here.

Today the restaurant is smartly decorated and has a good atmosphere. Full suits of armour are suitably placed while parts of armour decorate the stone walls.

However, the second floor, known as the King’s Bedchamber, which has the elaborately decorative plasterwork ceiling with the York Rose (the Arms of Richard III), is not open to the public. The remains of the fleur-de-lis scrollwork frieze can be seen on the ground floor of the restaurant on the east wall, above the stone doorway giving access to the additional seating area. There is also seating outside in front of the building with views of the harbour.

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Right: King Richard III restaurant today, with visitors setting outside (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

To see the article in its original format, and all original references, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Issue 4, 2015). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Jeremy for sharing this article!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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)

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To be continued…

Sources

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…

King Richard III House in Scarborough: Part II

This is the second 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.

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.

As mentioned in Part I of this article, King Richard III House in Scarborough was purchased by a Mr E. Booth Jones in 1914. However, he sadly died in the Lusitana disaster of 1915, after which his relative Mr. Edgar Burrows took over the lease.

Burrows decided to rebuild the bay windows at the front, which were removed in the mid-1800s, when the house was repaired and modernised, and to uncover the stone walls. The replica bay windows he installed were based on an early drawing of the house by a Miss Wharton, published in the Scarborough Philosophical Society Reports of 1846-1865.

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Above: Miss Wharton’s drawing of the house, dating from about 1835 – before the bay windows at the front were removed. There are steps leading up to the front door of the house and another set of steps with a banister on the sides leading to the entrance to the building on the left. The ground level is much lower compared with more recent photographs of the building, and the projecting boards and plinth indicate that the sea was in closer reach of the building during the early 1800s (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Miss Wharton also made a drawing of what has been called the King’s Bedchamber, on the second floor, in about 1808. It was then furnished with an elegant heavy legged table, a cupboard and a four poster bed.

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Above: Miss Wharton’s drawing of the ‘King’s Bedchamber’ illustrating the
furniture, decorated plastered ceiling and pattern on the chimney breast. To the
right of the fireplace is the entrance door to the room, and further to the right are the steps leading to the attic door (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

This furniture was disposed of by former owners – the Tindalls – in about 1808. The table went to Troutsdale Manor House and later acquired by John Wharton. It was passed on to Mr Roberts, late curator of the Scarborough Museum, who sold it to Mr William Flounders – an antique dealer. He in turn sold it to Major Brooke of Leeds

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Above: Detailed drawing of the table by Miss Wharton, illustrating its scrolling foliage front frieze, adored with what appear to be lion faces. In style and design it is likely to be Dutch and dates to about 1600-1650 (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

The four poster bed and cupboard went to Joseph Taylor, who presented them to the Duchess of Leeds before his death in 1810. They were reported to be in Hornby Castle in 1879. When the Hornby Castle estate was broken up in 1930, the furniture was sold off at auction.

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Above: Drawing of the four poster bed by John W. Whaley, illustrating the beautiful design with its intricately carved head board (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Miss Wharton’s original drawings of the house also depict the steeply-gabled roof, which had a decorated plastered ceiling below the attic. There is also decorative plasterwork on the chimney breast.

Furthermore, the drawings completed by Miss Wharton and John W. Whaley suggest that the furniture examples in the King’s Bedchamber were genuine seventeenth century pieces. The four poster bed is typically English in style, dating to approximately 1560-1620. The cupboard is probably later, perhaps 1600-1650,  but more Dutch than English in style and design.

The table is about the same date – 1600-1650 – and again, is of a type more typically found in Holland than England. The Dutch connection with the furniture may have something to do with the Cockerill and Tindall families being shipbuilders in the seventeenth century and possibly trading with the Netherlands. It also seems likely that the furniture was installed in the house when it was owned by the Cockerills in the seventeenth century.

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Above: This is the earliest plan of Scarborough – drawn in 1538 for Henry VIII as part of a military survey of the coast. It clearly shows the town wall with two gates and the harbour beneath the castle on the headland. This plan was drawn at the time the original house was standing, where Richard is reputed to have stayed in 1484. There is a tall building illustrated near the harbour and in design and style it looks remarkably like the King Richard III house (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

When Mr. Burrows began restoring the interior in 1915, he discovered blocked-up old stone doorways on one side of the building, and on the other side, early windows (also filled in), showing that it was once part of a much larger, detached house. The earliest detailed illustration of this is in John Setterington’s pictorial engraving of Scarborough dated 1735 (see below).

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Above: Setterington’s engraving (via Yorkshire Journal, Issue 4, 2015)

Here the building features a two storey hall and extended west-wing. These extensions, shown on this engraving, do not remain today, but the accurate portrayal of St. Mary’s Church on the same image suggest that King Richard III house was fairly represented. Between 1780 and 1800 the adjoining two storey hall and the rear west-wing of the building were demolished, leaving, in part, the original fifteenth century house which remains today, with the surrounding area redeveloped. To the east side a lower small building was attached and to the west a larger building was constructed.

Today the King Richard III house is a Grade I listed building.

To be continued…

Sources

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 part 3, coming soon…