The Man Behind The Madhouse?

The Madhouse is perhaps the least documented of all the former Scarborough attractions included in the Stories From Scarborough archive project.

Above: A sketch of the Madhouse by the author (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

This obscure little attraction sat next to the Princess Cafe on Scarborough Sandside, and the building it occupied is now part of the Penny Arcade Amusements – see far left on the illustration below.

Above: A sketch of the current day amusements on the site, by the author (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Dates of operation are sketchy, but references are made to its existence from as early as the 1970s until the first few years of the 1990s. The front sign was bright yellow with red text, and visible from the outside was a ticket booth and an escalator, ascending into darkness. According to some, this escalator (deliberately) ran backwards, making entry somewhat complicated. This detail has yet to be verified, however.

Above: A rough copy of the sign in the author’s studio (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

There is some speculation as to what was inside – some recall wobbly floors and comedic obstacles, designed to make navigation difficult. However, this may be a case of mistaken identity – similarly named Funhouse rides boast such features, and are often found at fairgrounds and amusement sites. Coincidentally the first one, which operated in 1900, opened at the real life Coney Island in New York, USA – the site that gave Scarborough’s former Turkish Baths (now amusements) its current name.

Above: An example of the Funhouse ride (image credit below)

Others make the case for a dark, maze-like interior in which terrifying figures (attraction staff) emerged from the gloom. These varying accounts make the Madhouse all the more intriguing. In the absence of official accounts or documents, the only clues left are memories – often flawed and mixed up with other recollections.

Do you remember the Madhouse? What do your recollections tell you? What was really inside?

Even the proprietor’s name has been difficult to verify. A number of sources suggest that the Madhouse was the brainchild of amusements owner Charles Enoch Doubtfire. Like other local seafront entrepreneurs, such as Jimmy Corrigan and Henry Marshall, Doubtfire had a fairground background, and operated arcades on the South Bay. In the late 1970s, according to telephone directories, he owned or at least rented the building in which the Madhouse once stood, and a nearby arcade bore his name.

Sometimes referred to by his middle name, Enoch, Doubtfire married the daughter of another fairground supremo – Enoch Farrar, and later inherited at least one of his father-in-law’s rides.

You can view images of some of Doubtfire’s rides at the National Fairground Archive.

He caused controversy in 1981 for putting up a waxwork version of the Yorkshire Ripper at the Madhouse entrance. Considering that Peter Sutcliffe, the aforementioned murderer, had only just been arrested in January of the same year – the waxwork was considered in poor taste.

In a further twist, whilst memories of the Madhouse may or may not be mixed up with memories of the similarly named Funhouse fairground staple, there was also, apparently a Funhouse in Scarborough – it stood on the Foreshore, possibly during either the 1960s or 1970s. Once again, like the Madhouse, it has so far proved virtually impossible to trace.

This is where you, the readers come in. Tell Stories From Scarborough about these places. A sentence, a rumour, even a guess. Anything and everything provides valuable clues and helps with the research. Many of you have got in touch with little pieces of information which have opened up entire new research directions – please keep these clues coming! If you’ve been to either the Funhouse or the Madhouse, please share what you know – otherwise these places will vanish into obscurity.

Sources & Image Credit

Funhouse image © Copyright Colin Grice and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

National Fairground Archive

Scarborough News


Drawing The Past

In addition to collecting stories about Scarborough’s former attractions, Stories From Scarborough has also been experimenting with more creative ways to present Scarborough’s history, including:

A chairlift costume

A fictional character

A third Hispaniola

Sandcastle memorials

Water samples

Replica signs

Many of the experiments never make it online, and a significant number are posted on my artist website.

More recently I’ve been drawing. Often archival images are not available to reproduce – however, drawing is permissible, and has allowed me to share with you some of the images I can’t post as photographs due to licensing regulations. I can also do a little editing of my own, such as change the viewpoint, or remove obstacles (such as cars). In this post are some examples of the work so far.

Just in case you’re wondering – all these drawing are on the back of old printouts. I’m a big fan of recycling and low on money. And after all, they are merely experiments.


Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

Kinderland stood on Burniston Road between 1985 and 2007. Here we can see the distinctive clock tower in the background, the cafe and gift shop on the left and the indoor play area on the right. In the centre, is a wishing well, alongside a tyre swing and helter skelter-style slide.

This reader recalls the attraction in exquisite detail – click here for his memories.

The Historic Water Chute And Boating Lake

Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

The water chute opened in 1932, and is still in operation today. It was owned by Kinderland between 1985 and 2007, but is now owned by the North Bay Railway Company. Likewise the boating lake has a similar history – its original fleet of small motorised boats were originally based at the North Bay Bathing Pool.

The Mere

Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

One of the last vestiges of the great Lake Pickering, the Mere was developed into a tourist spot during the early 1900s, initially serving keen anglers, then boasting a whole host of activities including boating, water-skiing, a dry ski slope and, of course, the Hispaniola. It has since become a quieter place once more, still popular with fishing enthusiasts.

The Hispaniola

Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

From 1949 until 1993, the Hispaniola took children to Treasure Island to dig for gold doubloons. Now it sails along the South Bay, minus pirates or treasure.

A kind reader donated some pictures of the Hispaniola (and the Mere) here.

The Madhouse

Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

A bizarre little attraction on the Sandside, next to where the Princess Cafe stands today. Open from the 1970s until the early 1990s, little documentation of this wacky place survives. It is now the Penny Arcade Amusements.

The Turkish Baths

Above image – © Stories From Scarborough

On Scarborough Foreshore stands Coney Island Amusements, once adorned with the name of Scarborough’s fairground entrepreneur Jimmy Corrigan. During the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a spectacular World Of Holograms on the first floor. However, back in 1859, the building was originally designed to be a Turkish bathing house, called the Bland’s Cliff Baths.

Recently I’ve been adding colour to some of my drawings – see some of them here on my artist website.

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.