Sea Bathing and the First Bathing Machine at Scarborough: Part II

This is the second part of an article originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Spring Issue, 2012) by Sarah Harrison. She has kindly given permission for her work to be republished here. You can read Part I by clicking here.

Article Summary:

Scarborough rapidly became a fashionable spa town and the first original English seaside resort after the discovery, in about 1626, (by a Mrs. Farrer) of natural mineral springs at South Bay. It also saw the arrival of the first bathing machines in 1735. “Taking the Waters” quickly became Scarborough’s accepted medicine and its fame promptly spread.

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Above: This photo was taken by the well known photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe in about 1905. He has captured a crowed scene on the sands at Scarborough’s South Bay. Scarborough Castle and harbour can be seen in the distance. At the edge of the sea are a number of bathing machines and beyond, swimmers can be seen in the sea. There are stalls on the sands and two horse riders on the Foreshore. (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

The bathing machine was a mobile changing room for swimmers, it allowed people to change out of their usual clothes into their bathing costume and then wade into the sea from beaches. They were wooden carts with four big wheels, steps and small windows. In fact, there were many different designs, ranging from Royalty to the basic bathing machines which were to be seen on the majority of beaches. Some had a small flag which could be raised by the bather as a signal to the driver that they were ready to return to shore.

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Above: Bathing machines line the beach at high tide in the North Bay at Scarborough. Above the line of bathing machines can be seen Scarborough’s North Pier stretching a thousand feet into the North Sea. It opened in 1868 and in January 1905, the pier was wrecked in a severe gale. Above the pier stands Scarborough Castle on the headland which divides Scarborough into two bays, North Bay and South Bay (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

Below: Bathing machines on the sands and edge of the sea at Scarborough’s South Bay. A fisher woman with two baskets full of sea food can be seen in the foreground and fishing boats in full sail out at sea. Photo courtesy of NYCC Unnetie Digital Archive (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

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The machines were pulled by horses to the edge of the water or even into it, if the waves and tide permitted. When the machine stopped the bathers inside emerged through a doorway from the back of the machine directly into the water hidden from the view of others. After they had had enough time in the water they could re-enter the bathing machine, dry off, change back to their street clothing and be wheeled back to the rental establishment on the beach, emerging fully dressed and avoiding the stares of the crowd.


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Above: North Bay at Scarborough, looking north towards Scalby Mills. The north promenade and beach bungalows, which can just been seen on the left, were erected just before World War 1. Here a summer crowd enjoy the new facilities and the days of bathing machines are coming to an end. Photo courtesy of NYCC Unnetie Digital Archive (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

Bathing machines were rented out by operators whose livelihood depended not only on the renting of bathing machines, but also deck chairs, bathing suits and other beachfront paraphernalia. Their target market was the newly rising middle class and better off lower class holidaymakers, who now had the time and the transportation to go to the seaside once a year. The hiring charge for a bathing machine in 1770 varied from 9d for two or more gentlemen bathing by themselves to 1/6d for a gentleman taking a machine with a guide.

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Above: This old photo faces north towards Castle Hill, across a crowded beach that is full of holidaymakers and traders. Only three bathing machines can be seen. The nearest one has a raised flag indicating that the last bather had, had enough time in the water and had been returned to shore. Photo courtesy of NYCC Unnetie Digital Archive (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

The bathing machines remained in active use on beaches until the 1890s, when they began to go out of fashion. This was due to the ever-expanding nature of the bathing costume, first for women and then for men. The machines were then scrapped or became beach huts used as stationary changing rooms for a number of years. Legal segregation of bathing areas ended in 1901, and the bathing machine declined rapidly. Most of them went out of business and disappeared by 1914, but some have survived as a reminder of those prudish days.

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Above: The South Bay at Scarborough. To the north is Scarborough Castle and headland in the background. A number of bathing machines are at the water’s edge and three bathers can be seen next to one. Photo courtesy of NYCC Unnetie Digital Archive (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

Permanent, bathing/beach huts, first appeared in about 1910, but the idea of creating a series of cells in a permanent row was pioneered in Scarborough’s North Bay in 1911. This was followed closely at South Cliff in 1911-12. Beach huts represented a fundamental transformation from the wheeled bathing machines previously used, where people changed in private and modestly lowered themselves into the sea almost unseen. Beach huts were built well above the high tide mark which reflects changing ideas about social decorum: getting changed for bathing, in a hut at the top of the beach, and walking to the sea in full view became a new, liberating activity.

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Above: Brightly-painted beach huts, North Bay, Scarborough (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Spring, 2012). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough!

The North Bay Miniature Railway

Scarborough’s North Bay Railway is one of the town’s most enduring and well-loved attractions.  Passengers can board the train at either Northstead Manor Gardens (the stop, however is called ‘Peasholm‘, after nearby Peasholm Park) or Scalby Mills, and take a scenic ride through park, along the seafront and back again.

North Bay Railway

Above: The North Bay Railway (source)

The railway opened in 1931, as part of the brand new Northstead Manor Gardens (Pleasure Gardens), which would eventually include a water chute, open air theatre and boating lake. The gardens were the brainchild of Harry W Smith, a prolific engineer who designed many of the town’s most successful tourist attractions. However, the miniature railway proposals met with a mixed reception from locals, gaining the nickname ‘the Borough Engineer’s Toy’.

Northstead Manor Gardens

Above: From the early development of Northstead Manor Gardens at Hodgson’s Slack (source)

At 2pm, Saturday May 23, 1931, the railway began taking passengers. As with all of Scarborough’s opening ceremonies of this era, the occasion was a grand one, with the presentation of artefacts to the driver (see below). Neptune was the name of the original locomotive, and Alderman Whitehead, presiding over the occasion, made the following solemn decree:

“On behalf of the National Union of Drivers, Engineers and others, I have to present you, the first driver of the North Bay Railway Engine, with your insignia of office, your oil can and your ‘sweat rag’.”

Neptune is the oldest engine, having begun its service in 1931. Triton and Robin Hood followed only a year after, and in 1933, Poseidon. The first two locomotives are still owned by Scarborough Council (then the Scarborough Corporation), with the remaining two owned by the operators (North Bay Railway Company), to whom Triton and Neptune are leased.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train setting off from Peasholm station (source)

A number of companies were involved with the construction of the trains and carriages, including Robert Hudson Ltd (Leeds), Hudswell Clark, Slingsby and Armstrong and subsequent additions and restorative work completed by Rail Restorations North East Limited, of Shildon. The original carriages have undergone much restoration to ensure their survival to the present day. Furthermore, the Patent Enamel Company provided the station boards whilst advertising boards and posters were provided by LNER (London and North Eastern Railway).

North Bay Railway

Above: Passengers enjoy the picturesque Manor Gardens (source)

However, after only a year of operation disaster struck. In 1932, 10 July, a collision occurred at the now disused Beach station, overlooking the North Bay.

Driver Herbert Carr, only 25, lost his life, and numerous passengers were injured. Thankfully when a similar accident occurred in 1948, everyone survived and injuries were minimal.

On July 6, 1940, the attraction closed until Easter 1945. WWII no doubt led many to fear a repeat of the bombardment that occurred during WWI, and securing coastal defences took priority over the running of the railway. Interestingly enough, the small tunnel in Manor Gardens gained a new function – as a place for the Royal Naval School of Music to store their musical instruments whilst operating from the nearby Norbreck Hotel.

North Bay Railway

Above: The tunnel at Northstead Manor Gardens (source)

The railway was acquired from Scarborough Council in 2007 by the North Bay Railway Company, who also now operate the Water Chute, Boating Lake, Sky Trail and more. Thanks to their continuing hard work, the miniature railway still delights passengers today, and aspiring train drivers can even book a session at the controls.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train and the water chute in the background (source)

There are plenty of stories to be told about the railway – any memories are very welcome, as are corrections, additional details and so on.

Please comment below or get in touch via the Facebook Page.

Sources

North Bay Railway’s website

A short history of the North Bay Railway

In-depth history of the attraction here

Scarborough Civic Society

Materials held at the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library

 

A Splendid Promenade Pier

On July 10th, 1869, the Penny Illustrated Paper describes the opening of:

…a splendid promenade pier on the North Sands…which commands the whole of the rugged and bold scenery of the castle headland, hitherto unseen, except from the water…

Apparently Scarborough’s then new North Bay Promenade Pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, attracted scores of excursionists by rail, who were treated to two grand military prom concerts in the afternoon and evening.

North Bay Pier

Above: The North Bay Promenade Pier (source)

In the British Newspaper Archive, it’s possible to find a number of flattering accounts of the pier – its elegant design, splendid views and the excitement surrounding its early years of operation.

North Bay Pier

Above: The pier can be seen in the distance, to the left of Clarence Gardens (source)

Nearly forty years later, however, the pier became popular for a very differenct kind of reason, as described in the London Daily News on January 9th, 1905.

The beginning of the year had been a time of turmoil for much of Britain, the paper describes a church flooded in Great Yarmouth, sea walls overwhelmed at Cleethorpes and an unusually high water level for the River Thames in London. A huge storm had caused extensive flooding and misery for many across the country. Indeed, the destruction of Scarborough’s pier was not an isolated incident.

The London Daily News describes eight hundred feet of the pier as washed away, having been recently purchased by the Mayor of Scarborough for £3500.

Iron railings on the foreshore were snapped like matchwood and thousands of tons of water were thrown over Marine Drive, pouring down the roadway into the houses in proximity…

Indeed, parts Marine Drive were also severely damaged. The road, designed to connect the two sides of the town via its picturesque coastline, had, in the main part apparently been completed in 1904. However, this and other damages inflicted by stormy weather, delayed the official opening until 1908, to account for repairs being made.

North Bay Pier

Above: The storm caused widespread destruction beyond the pier (source)

The destruction of the pier had an unintended advantage for Scarborough – crowds flocked to the town to survey the remains of the pier and the damaged section of Marine Drive. Tramcars even carried a sign in their windows to advertise their routes towards the disaster.

North Bay Pier

Above: Crowds survey the damage (source)

The story was a less pleasant one for local workers – builders on the Marine Drive project spent their working hours knee deep in water, making the necessary repairs, and presumably, someone had to clear up the wreckage of the damaged pier, all under the curious gaze of onlookers.

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Above: Stormy seas at Scarborough (from the author’s collection)

Homeowners too were affected.

Those living close to the site at the time reportedly suffered severe loss. Costs of repairs to homes, Marine Drive and other affected areas were apparently unprecedented within the town, having faced one of the most destructive storms to date.

The pier too, had cost around £250000 to build, although it had struggled commercially for decades. Needless to say, it was not rebuilt.

Sources

All of the above information was sourced via newspaper articles from the British Newspaper Archive, located at the British Library in London.

The Tragic Tale of the North Bay Pier

Piers were once built solely as functional structures, enabling access to boats for passengers and cargo. The idea of a so-called ‘pleasure pier’ is a relatively recent one, emerging in the 19th century alongside the rising popularity of the British seaside holiday. Not only did the pleasure pier enable tourists to enjoy proximity to the sea, but these interesting structures often featured amusements and theatrical entertainment, as well as benches from which the fresh air and seaside ambience could be enjoyed.

For Scarborough, building a pier on the South Side (construction began in 1863) was largely a practical endeavour, linked to harbour activities.

Ideas for a pier on the North Side, however, represented recreational possibilities. Before the days of Marine Drive, Peasholm Park and the North Bay Bathing Pool, this part of Scarborough was, compared to the South Side, far less developed. Nonetheless, the idea of a pier close to the North Bay was presumably a way of capitalising on Scarborough’s expanding tourist empire and a complementary addition to the sea view offered by nearby Clarence Gardens.

Clarence Gardens and North Bay Pier

Above: The pier as viewed from Clarence Gardens (source)

Construction began in 1866. The structure was designed by Britain’s foremost seaside architect, Eugenius Birch, who also designed the town’s new aquarium, this opened over a decade later, in 1877.

Birch is now renowned for designing, amongst other things, Brighton Aquarium and piers at Blackpool, Hastings, Margate and more.

Compared to more elaborate affairs in Brighton and Blackpool, for instance, Scarborough’s North Bay Pier was a small, simple structure. Reports suggest that visitors were unwilling to pay to use it in significant numbers, nor were they particularly eager to venture out over the choppy waters of the North Sea. The venture was not a commercial success.

North Bay Pier

Above: Another view of the pier (source)

In January 1905, a tremendous gale destroyed it. Large crowds gathered to view the desolate aftermath, which left the end of the pier severed from the shore – a lonely building at the mercy of the waves.

North Bay Pier

Above: Crowds examine the wrecked pier (source)

The structure was never rebuilt.

North Bay Pier

Above: The remains of the structure in 1905 (source)

Visitors to the Stories From Scarborough Facebook Page have noted that it’s still possible to see the foundations of the pier during low tide.

Have you ever spotted them?

Sources

Scarborough News

Materials viewed in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library

A Cable Car Conspiracy?

On Monday May 22nd, Scarborough’s brand new North Bay chairlifts suffered what initially appeared to be a minor setback.

Above: A leaflet for the zoo advertises the new chairlifts (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

A bizarre malfunction briefly hospitalised four adults and two young children, passengers on the cable car system that connected Scarborough Zoo and Marineland with the North Bay Promenade.

The exact details of the accident were murky from the outset. Passengers, witnesses and those responsible for the chairlifts all disagreed as to what happened. It seemed that one car, carrying a Mr and Mrs Thompson (who were staying at Colley’s Holiday Camp in Scarborough) slid backwards, knocking into another car and the chairlift station below. This was followed by another car, carrying Mr and Mrs Child (from Dringhouses, York) and their children Sarah and Michael, aged five and eight respectively. Varying accounts describe passengers flung from the chairlifts, suspended in precariously rocking carriages, and in some accounts the cable car partially, if not fully, came away from the cable that carried it.

Above: The original North Bay chairlifts (from the author’s collection)

The only certain facts were that the two women mentioned above – Mrs Child and Mrs Thompson – sustained greater injuries than their partners and children (to the back and chest respectively), and all concerned were treated for shock.

However, the accident and its coverage in local press uncovered a can of worms for Scarborough Zoo.

Zoo director Don Robinson stressed that the cable cars did not and could not escape the cable – in this case, he argued, they merely slipped backwards. However, he did not take the incident lightly, and the system engineer, Norman Dicken, travelled from Sheffield to inspect the chairlifts. His company, McKenna & Sons, had created the infrastructure, and he reported the following:

Yesterday one of the cars slipped on the bottom section, but we have not found the cause. The people were rocked about quite alot.

(Mr Dicken, quoted in the Scarborough Evening News, May 23rd, 1972)

No one was able to discover any fault with the chairlifts, in spite of numerous tests on the system, during which bags of sand were used to simulate the presence of passengers.

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Above: The chairlifts were later revamped several times, changing shape and colour (from the author’s collection)

Following the accident, a number of witnesses came forward with further information. Mrs B. Patrickson (from Sheffield) was staying with her family at one of the North Bay Chalets at the time of the incident, and watched the events unfold. She claimed that after the chair carrying the Thompsons slipped, the Child family, whose car was further up the cable, were:

…stuck in the car for twenty minutes, several pylons up after the first car accident

Then…

The second car slipped back down the cable, hit part of the support, and came right off the cable, falling to the ground and throwing the four people [the Child family] out.

(Quoted in the Scarborough Evening News, May 24th, 1972)

This version of events was further supported by a Mrs Rickatson and her son Neil, the former adding:

…it was completely untrue to say that the car did not come off the cable. [We] saw it happen.

(Quoted in the Scarborough Evening News, May 24th, 1972)

To make matters worse, another witness came forward to describe an earlier accident. Mrs V. Simmonds (of Scarborough) reported that on Sunday April 9th, during the early days of operation, her two sons, daughter in law and granddaughter also suffered an accident whilst riding the chairlifts to the zoo.

The car slipped off the cable and ran back to the starting station, damaging the railings and the car. This was all kept very hush, and nothing was done about it. It ought to be looked into before a serious accident occurs involving someone’s life.

(Quoted in the Scarborough Evening News, May 25th, 1972)

This ‘first’ accident was brought to the attention of Scarborough’s then Safety Officer by two witnesses, but was dismissed on the grounds that the lift had passed all safety tests. Apparently nothing was found wrong after this initial incident, and owner Don Robinson was reportedly unaware of this earlier accident.

So what became of the chairlifts?

The last report stated that the ride would be closed for further tests, and whilst no date of reopening was mentioned in subsequent weeks, the chairlifts went on to enjoy nearly thirty years of operation. You can still see the struts today. Were the accidents merely flukes? Was a secret problem fixed? The 1972 cable car malfunction remains an unsolved mystery.

Did you ride the chairlifts? Do you remember any accidents or faults? What do you think the explanation might be for this strange little story?

Sources

All information in this post was obtained from old copies of local newspapers held in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.

Grandeur And Glamour At The Corner Cafe

In the early 1900s a small shack stood at the corner near Peasholm Gap. Here visitors to Scarborough’s North Bay could buy refreshments, although the selection was somewhat limited.

Above: The old shack is shown on the postcard above (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Peasholm Park had just been built, and the North Bay Bathing Pool (and nearby Northstead Manor Gardens) were yet to exist.

Above: Another view of the site in the early 1920s, as the area began to develop – (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

As Scarborough entered the 1920s, plans were brewing for an exciting new North Bay development; one which would eclipse the primitive shack and its meagre provisions.

Above: The site shortly before building began in the 1920s (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

The Corner Cafe was originally scheduled to open in 1924, but construction took longer than expected, due, according to the Scarborough Mercury, ‘untoward circumstances’. Apparently there was some disagreement regarding extensions and/or amendments to the original building plans. That aside, the opening in 1925 (June 5th to be exact) was a grand and lofty affair.

Above: The Corner Cafe in all its grandeur (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

The Mayor, Mayoress, Councillors and local dignitaries attended a civic ceremony, during which the building was opened with a golden key, and the manager’s daughter, Miss Betsy Riley, presented the Mayoress with a bouquet of flowers. A lengthy article in the Scarborough Mercury described the many speeches made in great length, and the various ‘labour-saving’ new kitchen devices that were demonstrated. These included machinery for dish-washing, and, for cutting and buttering bread electronically.

It is safe to say that all present were impressed by the splendid character of the building.

(Scarborough Mercury, June 5th, 1925)

The Corner Cafe structure was built from reinforced concrete with a front face of artificial stone, complete with bronze windows, leaded lights, counters for ‘the confectionery trade’, and, a soda fountain. There was ornamental trellis work designed to host resplendent floral displays, and also:

[a] dome…constructed of fibrous plaster in white and gold…six hundred fairy lamps…a floor of terrazzo [with a] bold ornamental design.

(Scarborough Mercury, June 5th, 1925)

Indeed, many paragraphs were devoted in local newspapers of the time to describing the cafe, which cost approximately £15,000 to build. That would amount to nearly £800, 000 today.

However, this was no ordinary humble cafe – this complex had a ballroom, a stage for an orchestra (and all kinds of live entertainment) and even spaces for shops.

The cafe boasted furniture of black, green and bronze, with enamelled cane and plate glass table tops, with enough space for 100 diners and room for 120 guests in the forecourt outside. The nearby soda fountain could accommodate 90, as could the ballroom, with the former characterised by its contrasting blue and white cane furniture. The staff were to be clothed in smart Corporation uniform, designed by Councillor Mrs Whitfield (and worn by all waitresses who worked for the forerunner of Scarborough Council back in the early 1900s). Even the crockery was emblazoned with the Borough coat of arms in blue, and it was from this that the first visitors to the cafe consumed their afternoon tea and listened to the orchestra in the brand new ballroom.

You can view the Borough Coat of Arms here.

By the 1990s the Corner Cafe, whilst still operational, was a shadow of its former self, and finally in 2007, the entire complex was demolished, to be replaced with another, ‘new’ development. Ballrooms, cane chairs and soda fountain have now been replaced by sea view flats, a convenience store and a modern cafe.

What do you think of the new corner complex? Do you remember the old one? Please comment or get in touch with thoughts, opinions and memories.

Sources

All information within this post was obtained from old copies of the Scarborough Mercury and the Scarborough News at the Scarborough Room in Scarborough Library.

 

 

Kinderland Opens!

On May 25th, 1985, queues of excited children and families could be seen on Burniston Road in Scarborough. As clocks across the town struck 10am, Kinderland – the North Bay’s newest attraction – opened its doors for the first time.

Above: An early advert for Kinderland from 1985 (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

It had been a nail-biting few days for Dudley Wallis (the park’s founder) and his team. Construction workers, impeded by poor weather, had been laying grass and installing fixtures up until midnight on May 24th. Some parts of the attraction, such as the swing ball and quoits games, were yet to be installed, and finishing touches were needed. Not only that, but the park had faced fierce opposition from local residents – from the early planning stages right up until the opening day.

Nonetheless, the first visitors to Scarborough’s latest children’s attraction were greeted by sunny skies and warm weather – perfectly timed for Kinderland’s big day.

Kinderland was dreamed up in the early 1980s, when founder Dudley Wallis was watching TV. A German attraction with the same title provided the name, and an idea formed that Wallis described as follows:

…good old fashioned fun, the way it used to be, with no slot machines or electronic wizardry.

(Scarborough Evening News, May 1, 1985)

However, Wallis was initially unsure about how he, as an adult, could truly imagine what the children of the 1980s wanted from a seaside attraction in Scarborough.

The problem in being 58 years of age is in seeing things through the eyes of a five-year old, so I have spoken to my own children about the design. I hope Kinderland will be an asset to the total holiday scene.

(Scarborough Evening News, May 25, 1985)

The attraction truly was a family affair, with Dudley’s brother Stanley and his mother Edith both contributing to the financial investment required to create the park. Funding was given a substantial boost by the English Tourism Board, who awarded a grant of £125,000. The Board’s chairman Duncan Bluck even arrived in a helicopter to tour the site on Burniston Road, award the cheque and plant a maple tree to mark his visit. The location of this tree was not specified – perhaps it still exists somewhere in Scarborough?

However, before building could commence in October of 1984, extensive plans were made. There was to be an indoor play area containing 47, 000 plastic balls and fibreglass slides. There would be new boats and canoes for the boating lake in Northstead Manor Gardens, which was leased out to Kinderland during the attraction’s tenure, along with the Water Chute – both this and the boating lake had been in existence since the 1930s.

Above: The Water Chute was constructed in the 1930s (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Kinderland was to be as visitor and family friendly as possible, with baby changing areas, a lost child point, first aid centre and extensive provision for disabled visitors, including wheelchair-friendly walkways and accessible entrances. Bizarrely Wallis also purchased 3 traditional red telephone boxes – in the 1980s many of these were being decommissioned and sold off. Bought for £500 apiece, these were placed around the park for the use of visitors.

The venue was capable of hosting 1450 people and was to have two entrances – one near to the Water Chute and the other further up Burniston Road. There were even plans to create a Kinderland Club, with savings to be had for frequent visitors and local Scarborough residents.

Above: Kinderland had plenty of frequent visitors (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

May 25th must have been an exciting day for the Wallis family – perfect weather and plenty of visitors, no doubt drawn in following an extensive advertising campaign that included numerous adverts in local papers and beyond. The North Bay was then becoming a tourist haven – Marvel’s, Waterscene, Peasholm Park, Manor Gardens and more. The area is a much quieter one today.

Above: Former entrance to Kinderland in 2014, seven years after closure (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Courtesy of the North Bay Railway Company, visitors to Scarborough can still enjoy the Water Chute, but the gates leading to the former Kinderland site remain closed. Once a lively adventure park, and before that, allotments, this overgrown patch of land sits waiting amidst long held promises of re-development.

What do you think should be done with the Kinderland site? Did you visit when the park first opened? Do you remember the allotments that stood on the site before 1984? Please comment or get in touch.

All information from this post comes from old articles in the Scarborough News, viewed in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.

The Kinderland Controversy

In the early 1980s, Dudley Wallis – former owner of the Wallis Holiday Camp at Cayton Bay – proposed a new attraction for children in Scarborough.

Kinderland was to be an adventure playground for youngsters, and plans were made to transform local allotments on Burniston Road into a thrilling play area for tourists and locals alike. However, for those who lived in the nearby area, the North Side’s status as a peaceful residential location, was under threat.

A protest group, consisting of local residents, and led by Major Ron Soper, objected strongly to proposals concerning both Kinderland and the new water slides at the North Bay Bathing Pool – part of a larger scale development that would transform the venue into Waterscene later that year (subsequently known as Water Splash World and then, in 1995, Atlantis). Protestors were concerned about noise levels, and the effect that the attraction would have on the area.

Above: Waterscene’s slides were impressive, but not everyone welcomed them (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

In spite of these concerns, a leaflet campaign (around 2000 were distributed locally) and a petition to stop Kinderland being built, Scarborough Council approved the proposal and granted permission for the development of the site. Construction began in October, 1984. C. B. Booth Ltd was the Beverley-based contractor overseeing the work, and a Leeds firm known as Architectural Design Partnership designed the park.

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Above: Kinderland was designed to facilitate old-fashioned outdoor play and games (from the author’s collection)

Accepting that Kinderland would be built regardless, local objectors, later known as the North Side Action Group, turned their attention towards other matters. Firstly they sought out an old statute (the Sunday Entertainments Act of 1932), to prevent the proposed park from opening on a Sunday. In doing so they hoped to secure some peace and quiet from the anticipated noise and commotion that Kinderland was predicted to attract. However, subsequent amendments to these regulations allowed the park to remain open all weekend; indeed, times were changing and many businesses had flouted the act for years.

Undeterred, objectors turned their attention to the size and proposed placement of attraction signs – namely those marking the two entrances on Burniston Road, and one opposite the boating lake and water chute in Northstead Manor Gardens. Chairman of the action group, Leslie Binns, made the following statement to the Scarborough Evening News in 1985:

We have written to the council objecting to the plans. We think these three signs are absolutely staggering. They will be totally out of place both in the area and in the gardens which are there for both residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

(Scarborough Evening News, 1 May 1985)

It is easy to see both sides of this argument in retrospect. On one hand, Dudley Wallis wanted to create a play area for old-fashioned fun – climbing frames and real physical play away from the slot machines and noise of the newer attractions on the South Bay. Local residents wanted a quiet place to live and were worried about the impact of yet another North Bay attraction on their doorstep. They were frustrated and felt ignored by the council, who, along with Wallis and those supporting the development appeared to have little regard for public opinion on the matter. It is understandable that they would feel compelled to voice their concerns by protesting.

Above: Kinderland advert from the early days of the attraction (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Nonetheless, Wallis still hoped to create an attraction for Scarborough that would be loved by both tourists and locals. It has certainly left a legacy of memories, and it is touching to know that local residents campaigned to save it in 2001. Sadly, just as the campaign to prevent its creation ultimately failed, so too did the fight to keep it. Kinderland closed in 2007 and the site now lies dormant – a barren wasteland like the former Marvel’s site, which occupies the hill at the other side of Northstead Manor Gardens.

Now it is newer designs and planning proposals that attract disapproval and concern, as Scarborough continues to juggle its dual role as both a tourist destination and as a place to live and work. The question, as always, remains – who has the right to decide what is best for a seaside town such as Scarborough? Tourism boosts the local economy, but which types of attraction are truly best for Scarborough as a whole?  Is it possible to satisfy visitors and locals in equal measure?

Sources

The information above is based on articles in the Scarborough News (1983 – 1986), viewed in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.

 

A Corner Cafe Memory

The Corner Cafe opened in 1925. Located on corner, opposite Scarborough’s North Sands, the cafe sold food, drink and entertainment for decades until it was eventually demolished in 2007 to make way for the brand new Sands development.

Above: The Corner Cafe can be seen on the top and bottom left of this multi-view postcard (from the author’s collection)

The site now hosts apartments and modern retail units. You can read more about the cafe’s history by visiting the following links:

Have You Even Been To…?

Bertram Otto And His Model Railway

The Corner Cafe Soda Fountain

In this post, a regular contributor to Stories From Scarborough Mark – has kindly shared some more up to date memories of the cafe from the 1990s. You can read more of his memories about other former Scarborough attractions on the following links:

Memories From Atlantis

Memories From Marvel’s

Kinderland Memories

His first memory of the Corner Cafe references the its model railway. Having hosted the world’s (then) largest and most intricately constructed model railway in the 1960s, the Corner Cafe apparently acquired its own smaller model. What happened to the larger version, which was then on tour, is something of a mystery.

I have a vague recollection of a larger scale, something like G scale I think, track going back and forth on a high up ‘shelf’ in the corner cafe, when me and mum used to call there to eat – I was always fascinated by it. At that point, I never knew the other model railway had existed.

Indeed, the original model came to Scarborough many decades earlier. Mark also remembers the entertainment at the cafe, which hosted names from both home and away, including early career performers and, during the cafe’s heyday in the 1960s and 70s, bigger stars also.

We usually went to a show there, most years – it wasn’t generally anyone famous, but kids/childrens entertainment, till I eventually became too old for them – at which point we transferred to shows at the futurist.

Sadly Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre closed early this year – its future at present remains uncertain. The Corner Cafe, on the other hand is now just a memory. Those who never visited will thus rely on those who did, to find out what it was like inside.

I remember always trying to sit in near the high windows, as we liked to look out onto the north bay as we ate – they used to do a kids lunch meal, and I often wound up taking some of it with me – I wanted to get onto the beach and build sand castles!

I remember there being something of a ‘square’ outside the Corner Cafe (although, it definitely wasn’t square) where there always used to be a booth, where an elderly gentleman sold newspapers and scratch cards – it used to be a daily treat, to get one of those scratch cards – we even won, sometimes!

The only other thing that really sticks in my mind about the Corner Cafe, is it (at one point, anyway) seeming to be a massive white ‘cliff’ almost, to a young me.

Thanks to Mark for continuing to share his memories with the project.

Did his recollections bring back any memories for you? Did you visit the Corner Cafe in Scarborough? Please get in touch or comment below.

Scarborough’s North Bay Chairlifts

Scarborough’s North Bay chairlifts transported holidaymakers to the town’s Marineland and Zoo (later Marvel’s Amusement Park) between 1972 and 2002. Although the Zoo opened in 1969, the chairlifts took a little longer to arrive. When they did, the first passengers embarked at a small station close to the beach, and paid a small fee to ascend (or descend) the hill behind the Open Air Theatre in Northstead Manor Gardens.

Above: The North Bay chairlift route (source)

At the summit were animals – dolphins, bears, parrots and more. When the site was renamed Marvel’s Amusement Park in 1984, the zoo was replaced by a multitude of rides, and in the mid 1990s a second chairlift departure point was added at Peasholm Gap – squeezed between Water Splash World (later Atlantis) and the entrance to Manor Gardens.

Above: The new chairlift route is mentioned on the right (source)

Local businessman and Scarborough Zoo creator Don Robinson was the man behind Scarborough’s chairlifts. Indeed, cable car rides had become a popular addition to UK seaside resorts from the 1960s, and after the zoo opened in 1969, Robinson was keen to capitalise on this. Yet in order to understand their appeal and development, it is necessary to look even further back.

Above: The first chair lift at Sun Valley, Idaho, with designer James Curran (source)

Airborne cable car systems were originally designed for skiing enthusiasts. The development of ski lifts, which began in the 1930s, enabled skiers to travel to the tops of mountains more efficiently and effortlessly than was possible on foot. Funnily enough the single rider lift was based on devices that unloaded bananas from cargo ships! The first functioning design was, according to the sources viewed, designed by American James Curran, and was installed at Sun Valley – a resort town in Idaho (US).

Above: Examples of cargo conveyer devices upon which the first chair lifts were based (source)

These new chairlifts were typically installed at ski resorts, and it was not until the 1960s that they became more widely popular, largely assisted by new ‘gondola’ designs that enabled several riders to board a single lift. These new developments occurred in the late 1960s, by which point chairlifts began appearing across the UK at various resorts and tourist destinations.

Above: One of the early chair lift models at Alton Towers in the UK (source)

Alton Towers had chairlifts from 1963, and the company that provided them – the London Company of British Chairlifts Ltd (a subsidiary of British Ropeway Engineering Company Ltd) – also supplied a number of popular tourist destinations, including many of the Butlins camps. The camp at Filey, only a few miles from Scarborough, also boasted its very own set of chairlifts.

Above: Former chairlifts at Butlins in Filey (source)

The popular chairlift systems were thought to add an exotic, sophisticated and perhaps continental flavour to British resorts. Certainly these airborne cable cars conjured up images of Alpine (or American) adventures, stunning panoramas and dramatic heights. However, whilst Scarborough’s views are certainly worthy of great praise, the hill ascended by its chairlifts was far removed from the mountains of Switzerland for instance, or even some of the dramatic routes taken by other UK-based chairlift systems.

Above: An impressive view from the chairlifts at Butlins Pwllheli in the 1970s (source)

It is not known if the British Ropeway Engineering Company Ltd supplied Scarborough’s original system, although it has been reported that the structure and cable cars were constructed in Sheffield, before being transported in pieces and re-assembled on site. Furthermore, the cabin styling and colouring changed several times during the duration of the attraction.

Above: The early chairlifts were similar to the ones above, pictured at Alton Towers (source)

This initial, box-like design gave way to a more minimal, curving structure – similar to the Skyride at Pleasureland, Southport and the system at Butlins in Skegness.

Above: The former Skyride at Southport (source)

Below: Similar designs at Butlins in Skegness (source)

Like those pictured above, Scarborough’s chairlifts were initially multi-coloured. The Marvel’s rebranding of 1984, in line with its American theme, gave the cars a red hue. The newer alternative route – introduced in the 1990s –  was painted green.

Above: The red route at Scarborough (from the author’s personal collection)

The UK still boasts a number of operational cable car systems, suggesting that there is still a demand for this kind of ride, particularly when impressive views are involved.

Above: The cable cars in Llandudno are still in operation (source)

Dreamland, in Margate, collects, restores and re-imagines former rides and paraphernalia – its collection includes the chairlifts from Pleasureland in Southport, which were similar in design to Scarborough’s own. It is reassuring to know that projects such as this are working hard to preserve the rich heritage of UK attractions. Sadly it is too late for Scarborough’s chairlifts, and the rides at Marvel’s, which have long gone following the park’s closure in 2002.

marvelsderelict

Above: The site shortly after most of the main structures were cleared (source)

The mild hill behind the Open Air Theatre makes any potential resurrection of the chairlifts an overly optimistic endeavour. Even back in the 1970s, Don Robinson noted that the novelty of riding them seemed to wear off quickly, with many passengers opting to walk back from the attraction, rather than take the chairlift both ways. Yet it is the chairlifts, or rather the remnants, that endure today, the rusting structures still standing tall against the North Bay skyline.

You can read about one reader’s chairlift memory here, and another here. Maybe you’d like to share a memory of your own? If so, please do get in touch.

Sources

Butlins Memories

Cableway Information Page

The World’s First Chair Lift

Dreamland

Alton Towers History

Please see other posts about Marvel’s and Scarborough Zoo for further sources used.