Scarborough’s Glorious Gardens: Part I

Aside from Peasholm Park, Northstead Manor Gardens and Alexandra Gardens, which have already been covered here, Scarborough has, over the years, boasted numerous splendid gardens. In this post you can enjoy a visual feast of some of the others, whose histories will be covered in more depth soon.

Clarence Gardens

In the nineteenth century, Britain was still coming to terms with the effects of rapid industrialisation, and problems associated with urban growth led public officials across the country to develop public parks. Such places offered respite from gruelling city life, as well as fresh air, flowers and trees. Scarborough was no different, and in the 1800s and early 1900s, a plethora of parks and gardens appeared, including Clarence Gardens.

Clarence Gardens

Above: Clarence Gardens (source)

Clarence Gardens was located on the North Bay, overlooking the doomed North Bay Pier. It was laid out by Leonard Thompson, Superintendant of Scarborough Cemetery (1865 – 1911) and opened in 1896 alongside the Royal Albert Drive.

Clarence Gardens

Above: View of the gardens and Royal Albert Drive, plus the remains of the pier, in approximately 1905 (source)

The gardens featured a bandstand and a stage, winding walkways across the cliffs and even a small bridge.

Clarence Gardens

Above: Performers entertain a small audience (source)

Although the bandstand, much of the seating and the live entertainment are now long gone, the winding pathways remain, and the nearby Clarence Gardens Hotel, keeps the name alive.

Italian Gardens

Italian Gardens

Above: The Italian Gardens Lily Pond (source)

The Italian Gardens were yet another creation of Scarborough’s legendary Borough Engineer, Harry W. Smith. During his tenure he set about transforming areas of wasteland into beauty spots for tourists and locals, and his successes include Peasholm Park, Alexandra Gardens and the South Bay Pool.

Italian Gardens

Above: The statue of Mercury (source)

The centrepiece of the gardens is a lily pond surrounding a pedestal which sports a statue of Mercury – Roman god of financial gain, poetry, communication, and travel, amongst other things. Since 2000 a resin cast has replaced the original statue, but before it was constructed, Smith had one of his staff pose on the pedestal to check positioning and measurements.

Italian Gardens

Above: Edwardian visitors at the gardens (source)

Two raised platforms at each end of the gardens feature pergola shelters with teak seats, which were added in 1914 and enabled visitors to enjoy views across the garden. Interesting fact – the stone used in the development of this area was excavated from the site of what would later become the South Bay Pool.

Rose Gardens

Rose Garden

Above: The Rose Garden (source)

Below: In colour (source)

Rose Garden

Measuring 57m by 13.4m, the Rose Garden, located close to the Esplanade on the South Cliff, features 32 rose beds, including 10 circular beds in the centre, 18 side beds and 4 corner beds. The garden is sheltered by conifers and deciduous trees and was the subject of a major restoration project, completed in 2015. Originally known as the Belvedere Rose Garden (or, The Large Rosary), the garden was part of a larger site acquired in 1883 by Lord Beeforth.

Part II will include Holbeck Gardens and Valley Gardens, and of course, many more pictures of beautiful Scarborough gardens.

Have you ever visited any of these gardens? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Sources

Historic England

Friends of South Cliff Gardens

South Cliff Gardens Leaflet

Scarborough Civic Society

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The Grand Opening of Peasholm Park

Peasholm Park is one of Scarborough’s best loved and longest running attractions. From its conception in the early 1900s by Borough Engineer Harry W. Smith, the park has offered much to visitors, from features inspired by China and Japan, to lively naval re-enactments in the summer.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park (source)

When the park officially opened, on June 19, 1912, an unnamed journalist from the Yorkshire Post wrote a beautiful piece in the paper (Thursday June 20, 1912) about the park, its construction and the opening, selections of which are included here, as impressions of Peasholm Park during its earliest days of operation.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park during the early years (source)

Described as “an excellent bit of landscape gardening”, the article describes a site measuring 11.5 acres – 8 of which were purchased from the Crown (as part of the Northstead Estate) and a private firm, and the rest from the Corporation, which acquired the land “some years ago for allotments and other purposes.”

Apparently the site, known locally as Tucker’s Field, had also been used as a rubbish dump.

Laying out began in December 1911, and 60 men were employed to work on the park over the winter. By summer 1912, “residents have marvelled at the change brought about in so short time”, and the article notes that:

An outstanding feature of the park is a good-sized ornamental lake, with islands and waterfall, and a chain of smaller lakes extending at different levels up the glen, the total water area being 4.5 acres and the average depth 3ft.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

This was a much simpler park than that of today.

Peasholm Park

Above: Peasholm Park – a view of the lake (source)

Furthermore, the process of creating the park uncovered some fascinating historical remains:

Archaeology has something to say in this improvement. It is stated that the larger lake is over the site of the Manor of Northstead, the stewardship of which is sometimes assigned to members of Parliament wishing to retire. In the course of the excavations the foundations of ancient buildings were unearthed.

What looked like the base of a tower bore traces of Norman origin, as did also the remains of a fireplace, built with tiles laid in herring-bone fashion similar to that seen in the Keep of Scarborough Castle. Small portions of painted glass of the 15th century were found, a large number of stone tiles, a silver penny of the reign of Edward II, a bronze spur, and many broken fragments of medieval pottery.

The remains showed that the whole of the buildings were surrounded by a wall enclosing a considerable area of ground, extending up the sides and across the large mound, which now forms the main island in the lake, and of which traces can still be seen.

Unfortunately the whole of these foundations could not be left exposed to view, as they were much below the water level of the lake. But the plan of them has been made, and will be preserved. Some portions of the tower foundations project above the water line.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

The author then goes on to describe the park in more detail.

The large island in the lake is of natural formation and rises above the water level to a height of some 45 feet. It has been ornamentally planted, and a series of winding walks lead to the top, from which there is a charming view of the district. The smaller island was formed out of material excavated to form the lake, and is intended as a refuge for the waterfowl.

The lagoon between the large and small islands is planted with a varied assortment of water lilies and other aquatic plants.The lake has been stocked with some 2,000 fish, chiefly perch, roach and tench, and it is intended later on to issue tickets for fishing.

A very pretty Japanese wooden bridge connects the island with  the mainland. A small shelter or arbour of quant design has been built. A boat-house of Japanese design  with landing stage is raised over the lake on brick piers. The lake is fed from the brooklet which rises in Raincliffe Woods and runs through the Ravine, and enters the large lake over a double waterfall some 9 feet in length. This waterfall is flanked on either side with extensive rockeries, beautifully furnished with ornamental shrubs, the  large clumps of New Zealand flax being very conspicuous.

Boating without risk can be indulged in. There are three Canadian canoes, two pair-oared rowing skiffs, three single-oared skiffs, three dinghies and one large family boat. Only £2,000 has been spent in making this interesting transformation, including the part purchase of the land, boats, buildings, etc., and it is, therefore, one of the most effective and economical of improvements the town has seen.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: The park later became a leafy paradise (source)

The opening, as with all new attractions in Scarborough during the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s, was of course a grand ceremonial affair:

The Mayor and Mayoress (Mr. and Mrs T.H. Good), accompanied the whole body of aldermen  and councillors in their scarlet and violet robes, and by the town officials, drove to the park from the Town Hall. At a rustic gateway the Mayoress untied a tricolour ribbon and declared the park open to the public. Alderman M. T. Whittaker, chairman of the Committeee which carried out the work, tendered to her the thanks of the Corporation, and in reply the Mayor observed that there was no health or pleasure resort in England where there were so many public parks and places of recreation and amusement as in Scarborough.

After these preliminaries, the Corporation forthwith took to the water. In other words, they had a trial trip on the boats round the lake, rowed by expert oarsmen. The stern of the boat in which the mayor and Mayoress, the Deputy Mayor, and the Town Clerk were seated,  sank deep in the water, and some onlookers feared lest civic dignity might be compromised by a capsize. But the entire voyage was made in safety.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: Local dignitaries at the opening of Peasholm Park in 1912 (source)

In contrast with the veteran father of the Corporation appeared a little lady in a canoe, shading herself with an umbrella (Japanese, of course, to harmonise with bridge and boat-house), privileged to be there by a part she had played in the ceremony in presenting the mayoress with a bouquet. Stepping ashore, the company walked over the bridge and round the island, and then left to discharge the second ceremony of the afternoon.

(from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday June 20, 1912)

Peasholm Park

Above: A view of the lake and island – the pagoda was not constructed until 1929 (source)

The information in this post was obtained from an old edition of the Yorkshire Post (Thursday June 20, 1912) at the British Library and was verified by checking against various other sources used in the research for this project.