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.

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