Beyond the Spa and the South Bay bathing huts in Scarborough, is a large expanse of concrete. Now a star map, it covers what was once the South Bay Bathing Pool, one of the town’s most popular attractions.
Above: The South Bay Pool (source)
The pool was one of many masterpieces designed by Scarborough’s former Borough Engineer, Harry W. Smith, who was responsible for Peasholm Park, Floral Hall and Northstead Manor Gardens, to name just a few of the attractions that came to define his glittering career. Under his guidance much of the town was transformed into a haven for tourists, and his legacy can still be seen across Scarborough today.
Above: The pool was part of a large scale redevelopment of the area beyond the Spa (source)
Harry W. Smith apparently thought of the idea – for an outdoor pool – after a visit to Guernsey, which already had an open air tidal pool for bathers. The pool he proposed would be the first of its kind in Britain, and would include diving boards, water chute, different depths, changing rooms and showers etc. This would exceed existing seaside provision for bathers, which was rather meagre – the North Bay Bathing Pool would not be built until the 1930s and those who wanted to swim often headed for the sea, accompanied by a cumbersome bathing machine.
Above: The North Bay Pool did not open until the 1930s (source)
Construction began shortly before the outbreak of WWI, and was taking place in December 1914, when Scarborough was bombarded by German ships. Workers were able to shelter, coincidentally, behind the new wall they had recently constructed for the pool.
Above: The early days of the South Bay Pool (source)
The pool was part of a larger development including the Clock Cafe, gardens, cliffside paths and beach bungalows that had enjoyed such popularity when they were introduced along the North Sands earlier in 1910. This newly developed area in the south, just beyond the Spa, helped accommodate the growing crowds of holidaymakers, and the pool in particular was vast. Built in the Art Deco style, it measured 330ft long and 167 ft wide, and was filled naturally by fresh sea water, propelled into the pool by the tide each day. Officially opened in 1915, the pool later hosted national competitions, such as the Amateur Swimming Association championships, and provided a training ground for more serious swimmers, some of whom would go on to swim the Channel – more on this to come in a future post!
Above: One of the original diving boards at the pool (source)
It has also been reported that the pool may have been designed in such a way as to protect against coastal erosion . Either way, it provided a picturesque, family friendly spot, where visitors of all ages – bathers and non-bathers, could enjoy themselves.
Above: Many visitors simply came to admire the displays of swimming and diving (source)
In 1935, due to popular demand, the pool was subject to a number of improvements, which included additional seating for audiences, who enjoyed the many competitions and aquatic displays hosted at the venue, better changing facilities and new fountains for children.
Above: The pool provided substantial seating areas for visitors (source)
There are several videos online that offer tantalising glimpses of the pool at various stages in its history – some examples are included below:
Video 1 (1939) 1:33 onwards
Video 2 (1957) 5:19 onwards
Video 3 (1980s)
Video 4 (2000) shortly before demolition
Visitors to the Stories From Scarborough Facebook Page have shared some lovely memories of the pool.
Ah, many a day was spent during the summer hols in this pool. Who remembers being able to take inflatable’s into the pool; the Victorian changing rooms and the mangle to wring out your cossie?
I spent wonderful summers here, swimming all day and chatting with friends, leaning over the outer wall at high tide and watching enormous eels swim by…
Picture this, a foggy morning, the fog horn monotonous ghostly call and a crocodile fashion of school boys winding their way down the ‘south cliff’, the pool down in the distance, looking about as welcoming as the North Sea itself……The lighter green area is where we had to do 2 lengths in order to satisfy the teachers that all new boys could swim. So long ago, but the memory of chattering teeth and hyperventilation during the test (mid May 1969) and over active imagination….and this is before Peter Benchley’s Jaws!!… This picture is a fine example of how people wanted it to be like, but in reality…shhhhivvvvver!
I did the top board ! I remember sitting on the edge and slipping off ! I remember it was so cold ! My mother took me to the open pool every day in our summer holidays ! I also remember they may of had a small board around the pool apart from the main three !! Happy days I was only a very young man !
Check out the album for this attraction on the Stories From Scarborough Facebook Page for more memories and comments – there were too many brilliant ones to include them all here.
Above: The pool in its heyday (source)
The pool closed in 1989 – the diving boards were taken down, although the fountains remained and the facilities slowly fell into dereliction and decay. Attempts were made to save it from being filled in – the Twentieth Century Society, for instance, put forward some strong arguments for its historical value, but in the early 2000s it was redeveloped, and all traces of the pool, except for its distinctive outline, have since disappeared.
Scarborough Civic Society
The Twentieth Century Society
Materials held at the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library
Part I of this article outlined the history of Scarborough Fair – the yearly event that took place in Scarborough from the 13th century until the 18th. This part of the article discusses the famous song that the fair inspired.
It is likely that the song Scarborough Fair was first sung by Medieval bards – professional poets and singers whose job was to compose and sing verses in honour of the heroic achievements of royalty and brave men. This role was later taken on by wandering minstrels, who created popular ballads about chivalry and courtly love. Such performers were famous for memorising long poems based on popular myths and legends – just as the Medieval bards had done before them – and these epic poems were called ‘chansons de geste’.
Above: An illustration showing medieval musicians (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)
As the minstrels sang they typically accompanied themselves on an instrument, such as fiddle, and travelled through villages and towns singing songs such as Scarborough Fair.
Above: An illustration showing medieval musicians (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)
Locals would then imitate these ballads, and this is how songs such as Scarborough Fair were spread.
Lyrics and melodies were adapted and modified by those who sung them, which explains why there are now many different versions of Scarborough Fair today.
Prior to the 19th century, Scarborough Fair suffered from waning popularity, and became a relatively unknown folk song until many such songs were collected, written down and published in the 1800s. Frank Kitson published Collection Of Traditional Tunes in 1891, and included Scarborough Fair, reporting that the song was ‘sung in Whitby streets twenty or thirty years ago’. Since then many singers and musicians have produced their own versions of the song, the most familiar version being that by Simon & Garfunkel – created in 1966.
The lyrics refer to a man, attempting to attain his true love. The singer asks a friend who is attending Scarborough Fair to seek out a former love , and to let her know he still has feelings for her. However, for her to be his true love again she must carry out a number of impossible tasks.
To give one example, she must make him a cambric shirt with no seams or needlework and then wash it in a dry well. Cambric is a lightweight fabric that was used specifically for making lace and needlework. The fabric is tightly woven and when completed, it has a slight glossy finish.
Cambric was not actually available until 1520-30, when it was discovered by the French, so the word Cambric, or this particular verse was probably not in the original ballad but added to the song sometime after the mid 16th century.
In each verse, the second line mentions four herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. In the Middle Ages flowers and herbs were highly significant, and medieval people believed that they contained mystical properties that could influence emotions and feelings.
Above: Illustrations of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)
Parsley is the first herb mentioned in the song, and has long been associated with aiding digestion – indeed, eating a few leaves with a mean was thought to promote well-being, and this tradition survives to this day. The song, however, alludes to another meaning associated with the herb. Parsley was thought to remove feelings of bitterness and bad emotions. The singer of the song therefore expresses a desire to cleanse the bitterness between himself and his lost love.
Sage – the second herb – was a symbol of strength and wisdom according to Celtic tradition and was even associated with immortality. Today, it is more typically used for stuffing the Christmas turkey. Sage has drying properties and was used, in the past, to treat chest congestion. Furthermore, its antiseptic compounds were used to bind wounds and treat snakebite. In the context of the song, it seems that the singer wants to offer strength and wisdom to his lover, by evoking the qualities of this herb.
Rosemary is associated with love and fidelity. As its strong scent lingers, this herb was given as a token of remembrance between lovers. The singer evokes rosemary to helps his lover to remember what love and affection they had.
Thyme has been used for thousands of years to bind wounds and as an antiseptic. It was also a sign of love and courage. Our singer wants his lover to have courage to do what it will take in order to complete the tasks so that they will once again be lovers.
It has been suggested that the name of the ballad, Scarborough Fair, along with the chorus ‘parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme’ dates to a 19th century version of the song. The chorus may have been borrowed from other ballads which have similar themes. There are a number of older versions that refer to locations other than Scarborough and many versions do not mention a place name at all, instead being given general titles such as ‘The Lovers’ Tasks’ and ‘My Father Gave Me an Acre of Land’.
Above: An illustration of Scarborough Castle and the town in the 1300s (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)
It has also been suggested that the lyrics of Scarborough Fair appear to have something in common with an obscure Scottish ballad, ‘The Elfin Knight’, which has been traced as far back as 1670 and may well be older. In this ballad, an elf threatens to abduct a young woman to be his lover unless she can perform an impossible task.
Whilst it is difficult to say exactly when Scarborough Fair was composed, it is likely that the song has been adapted and modified with more lyrics added as time went by. Likewise other ballads may have been inspired by Scarborough Fair, so tracing the respective histories of these long-running songs is complicated.
There has been much debate over the meaning of the song, but its title pays tribute to the days in which Scarborough hosted one of the most famous international fairs in England.The following is a typical modern version the ballad that most people will recognise.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Remember me to one who lives there,
She was once a true love of mine.
Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Without a seam or needlework,
She will be a true love of mine.
Tell her to wash it in yonder dry well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never spring water or rain ever fell,
She will be a true love of mine.
Tell her to dry it on yonder grey thorn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,
She will be a true love of mine.
This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 3, 2015) by Claire Mason. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here. You can read Part I of the article by visiting this link, Part II by clicking here, and Part III by clicking here.
As already mentioned in Part I, Anne Bronte visited Scarborough many times with the Robinsons, a family she worked for, as a governess, between 1840 and 1845. She came to love the seaside town, and on her final visit, in 1849, she died there, as detailed in Part II. Part III explored some of the places she may have visited, as will this current installment – Part IV.
Shortly before her death, Anne Bronte insisted on visiting one of Scarborough’s many baths, although there is some debate as to the venue in question. The sketch below shows Harland’s Baths at the corner of Falconer’s Road (on the right) and Vernon Place (now Vernon Road on the left). Winifred Gerin, one of Anne’s biographers, suggests that these were the baths Anne attended a few days before she died.
Above: Harland Baths (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
However, this may not necessarily be the case. It is certainly a possibility that Anne attended these baths when she visited Scarborough, with the Robinsons during the early 1840s. The tower, which can be seen above the buildings in the old sketch is Christ Church, where Anne and the Robinsons worshipped, and ultimately where Anne’s funeral was conducted. The illustration was sketched in about 1841, and appeared in various editions of Theakston’s ‘Guide to Scarborough’ throughout the 1840s. It is accompanied by the following description of Harland’s Baths:
This commodious and elegant establishment is situated in the New Road, near to Vernon Place. The interior of the Baths is fitted up with considerable taste, and the edifice has been much enlarged, and the accommodation for visitors augmented. The Baths are constantly supplied with pure sea-water, and no expense has been spared by the proprietor to render them worthy of an enlarged share of public support.
The next illustration, below, shows Travis’ Baths, situated at the top end of St. Nicholas Cliff, just over 100 yards from Wood’s Lodgings, which can actually be seen in the background, to the right of the baths. It is more likely that Anne bathed here with the Robinsons; and these are probably the baths she attended alone (rather than Harland’s), a few days before she died.
Above: Travis’ Baths (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
This building does not exist today. This sketch shows the view over St. Nicholas Cliff, on the right, with the sea and cliffs in the distance. The illustration was created in about 1841, and appeared, once again in various editions of Theakston’s ‘Guide to Scarborough’ throughout the 1840s. Theakston also presented this description of Travis’s Baths with the illustration:
This respectable establishment, situated at the entrance to St. Nicholas’ Cliff, was originally opened in 1798. It has since been re-built, and the interior fitted up with every attention to comfort and elegance. The Baths are of wood and marble, and are adapted either for plunging, sitting, or the recumbent position. Every tide, these baths are supplied with pure sea water, and admit of every variety of temperature. Rooms are also fitted up for Steam, the Douche, and Shower Baths.
The sea-water for these baths would have been transported beneath the Cliff Bridge (now Spa Bridge), and up Falconer’s Road (now Vernon Road).
Above: This drawing shows the South Bay, but this time from the castle entrance. The date given with the picture is ‘c.1850’, although Anne’s grave does not appear to be present in the graveyard, so it could have been produced earlier, that is, assuming that the artist produced an accurate portrayal of the scene (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Nonetheless, pictures such as the one above represent the Scarborough that Anne knew. All the main landmarks are visible, St. Mary’s church on the right; a little way to the left of this, in the distance, the tower of Christ Church (dark coloured), where Anne worshipped with the Robinsons and where her funeral was conducted. Just left of the centre is the Cliff Bridge, with Wood’s Lodgings immediately to the right. On the extreme left is Henry Wyatt’s Gothic Saloon (on the site of the current Spa buildings); and, of course, Oliver’s Mount stands behind the new buildings on South Cliff.
Above: This painting is undated but was likely produced around the mid to late 1840s, around the same time that Anne made her visits to Scarborough (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
In the above picture, a group of people appear to be having a picnic on one of the more level sections of the South Cliff. On the right, a young lady with a parasol takes a stroll along one of the cliff pathways. Just left of the centre, on the beach, is Henry Wyatt’s Gothic Saloon, now ‘The Spa’. Beyond this is the Cliff Bridge; and a little to the right, in white, and the re-structured Wood’s Lodgings with its new down-the-cliff extension clearly visible.
Above: Anne’s signature, taken from one of the educational books she used while employed as a governess at Thorp Green – dated 19th September 1843 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Anne loved Scarborough and portrayed the town in her novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Above: An aerial view of the St. Nicholas Cliff, Scarborough from 1935 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
The Grand Hotel, which replaced Wood’s Lodgings (where Anne stayed) and Christ Church (where Anne’s funeral was conducted) are indicated in the above image. The Spa Bridge, where Anne took many walks, is on the left, with the Rotunda museum just beyond it (extreme left). In the foreground are the South Sands, where Anne loved to walk beside the sea, and this part of the landscape inspired some of the concluding scenes of her novel, Agnes Grey.
Above: This plaque is mounted on the wall of the Grand Hotel, indicating that Anne ‘died in a house on this site on May 28th. 1849’. The author would like to acknowledge Michael Armitage for permission to use this copyrighted material from his website on Anne Bronte at www.mick- armitage.staff.shef.ac.uk (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
According to Ellen Nussey’s diary, on the day following Anne’s burial, she and Charlotte Bronte visited Scarborough Castle, and would have passed Anne’s grave along the way. Also, on that day, the Scarborough Gazette reported in its ‘Visitors List’ the arrival of “Miss Bronte” at No. 2 The Cliff, and provided a short obituary for her:
On the 28th inst, at this place, of consumption, Miss Anne Bronte of Brookroyd, Birstall near Leeds.
This address in fact belonged to Anne’s travelling companion, Ellen Nussey, mentioned above, who arranged this entry in the Gazette. Ironically, on the front page of this same edition was an advertisement for the Scarborough Circulating Library, which put Jane Eyre – written by Anne’s sister Charlotte, at the top of its list of new popular novels.
Above: The walkway leading towards Scarborough Castle in about 1889 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
The above image includes Anne Bronte’s grave. Her sister Charlotte and travelling companion Ellen would have taken this path the day after Anne’s burial. They would have entered the castle through the gateway seen in the centre of the picture.
Above: A view of St. Mary’s Church from the entrance to Scarborough Castle (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
The above image is from around 1887, and in the detached part of the burial ground Anne’s gravestone can be seen. In the middle of the roadway is a drinking fountain with a conical shaped roof. It was erected in 1860 to commemorate Scarborough’s first historian, Thomas Hinderwell. His history of the town first appeared in print in 1798.
The fountain was badly positioned, and when horse-drawn vehicles gave way to automobiles, it was frequently knocked by passing traffic, until finally a reversing lorry demolished it entirely.
The landscapes depicted in this article may have changed considerably since Anne’s visits to Scarborough, back in the mid 1800s, but her grave still remains at St. Mary’s Church, and is frequently visited by tourists to this day.
This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 3, 2015) by Claire Mason. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here. You can read Part I of the article by visiting this link.
As already mentioned in Part I, Anne Bronte visited Scarborough many times with the Robinsons, a family she worked for, as a governess, between 1840 and 1845. She came to love the seaside town, and on her final visit, in 1849, she died there.
Anne is the only member of the Bronte family not to be buried at Haworth. Charlotte had chosen to bury Anne at St. Mary’s Church in Scarborough, but at the time of her death, major restoration work was being carried out at the church. So for this reason the funeral was held at Christ Church, also in Scarborough, on Wednesday 30th May, 1849.
Above: The graveyard at Haworth – Anne was buried many miles away from her family, in Scarborough to be exact (source – this has been added to the original article, copyright belongs to Sarah Coggrave, who took the photograph during a visit to Haworth)
The church was situated near the top of Vernon Place, now Vernon Road, only a few minutes’ walk from Wood’s Lodgings, the place where Anne had died. This seems inadvertently appropriate, as it was in this church that Anne had worshipped with the Robinson family on their annual visits to Scarborough some five to nine years earlier.
Above: The interior of Christ Church in the mid-1900s. Several times during the final days of her life, Anne expressed a wish to attend this church but Charlotte dissuaded her, due to her frail state of health. Ironically, Anne’s wish was finally granted, as her funeral service was conducted here. Christ Church never had its own churchyard, and was demolished in October 1979. The site is now occupied by a supermarket and a fish-and-chip restaurant (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Sadly Anne’s father Patrick was unable to make the 70 mile (110 km) journey in time for the funeral. Instead, a Miss Wooler – former schoolmistress at Anne’s childhood school, Roe Head – happened to be in Scarborough and was the only other mourner at the funeral. Anne’s body was taken by horse and carriage to be buried in St Mary’s churchyard, beneath Scarborough Castle, overlooking the bay. Charlotte commissioned a stone to be placed over her grave, with a simple inscription, although a mistake was made – more on that later…
Above: Christ Church in 1970. This image shows the top end of Vernon Road with the tall Christ Church tower, above what is now the Scarborough Public Library, formerly Oddfellows Hall, which was built in 1840. In the foreground is a car park, the site of which is now occupied by part of the Brunswick Shopping Centre complex (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Below: St. Mary’s Church – front view with Scarborough Castle in the distance on the left. The full story of the Church has been published in the Yorkshire Journal, Spring edition, 2011 (image via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Anne’s sister Charlotte only revisited the grave once on 4th June 1852, a few days after the third anniversary of Anne’s death. She did not stay in Scarborough, the memories being too painful, but spent the following three to four weeks in a cottage at the southern end of Filey. On her arrival at Scarborough she discovered five errors in the inscription on Anne’s headstone, and had to arrange for it to be refaced. Anne’s age at death had been written as 28 when, in fact, she was 29 when she died. In April 2013, a new inscribed plinth was laid by the Bronte Society in front of the original (although now significantly eroded) headstone, complete with all correct information.
Above: Anne Brontë’s weathered and eroded headstone, and beneath it, the new plaque, which was installed in 2011 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Throughout the summer months there is an almost continuous stream of visitors to Anne’s grave. It is not uncommon to see bouquets of flowers placed on her grave.
Above: Floral tributes on Anne’s grave (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Below: A watercolour by Paul Braddon from 1840, showing the main Seamer/York road as it entered Scarborough from the south-west (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
The road in the above picture was the one Anne used when travelling to and from Scarborough on her annual visits with the Robinson family. It is shown here in 1840 – the year she made her first visit to the resort.
Five years later, the town’s railway station would be erected – indeed, Anne travelled to Scarborough by train on her final visit, with her sister Charlotte and friend Ellen Nussey in May 1849, and died just three days after her arrival.
In the 1800s, this section of road was called Falsgrave Walk, today it is named Westborough, and the area behind the railings on the left is Alma Square.
Above: The same view sketched several years later. A surprising number of changes have taken place, including the appearance of street lamps, and ‘The Bar’ (the archway seen a few hundred yards down the road) which was built in 1843 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
Below: The same view again, but this time sketched from about 400 yards further back, and at a much later date, around the turn of the century. On the right is Scarborough Railway Station, and, once again, the castle is visible on the distant left (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 3 Autumn 2015)
It was at this station, in the early afternoon of Friday, 25th May 1849, that Anne, Charlotte, and Ellen Nussey arrived on the ill-fated visit. Anne would never make the return journey.
Many thanks to Clare for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! Watch out for Part III, coming soon…
This is an article originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Spring Issue, 2010) by Sarah Harrison. She has kindly given permission for her work to be republished here.
Above: The Scarborough Spa Complex (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)
It happened by chance, in about 1626, when a Mrs. Farrer discovered natural springs bubbling out beneath the cliff to the south of Scarborough. She saw that the waters stained the rocks a reddish-brown colour and that it tasted slightly bitter. The spring water was later found to cure minor ailments.
Mrs. Farrer was the wife of one of Scarborough’s leading citizens, John Farrer who was several times Bailiff of Scarborough.
When she told her neighbours and friends about the beneficial effects, they too drank the waters, and this became a widely accepted medicine for local townspeople.
The mineral waters were analysed by medical professionals and found to contain a high level of magnesium sulphate – its healing properties were just as effective as Andrews’ Liver Salts are today.
Dr Robert Wittie of Hull was the main medical supporter promoting the mineral waters and in 1660 he published his book “Scarborough Spa”, in which he proclaimed the waters as a cure for all ills. He recommended that the waters were best drunk in the summer season, mid-May to mid-September. He also began promoting the health benefits of sea bathing, and by the middle of 1660 the resulting publicity made the town’s wells famous.
Scarborough developed not only as a fashionable spa town but as the original English seaside resort. “Taking the Water” quickly became a popular medicine, and attracted a flood of visitors to the town
The first Spa House was built on or near this site in about 1700. This basic wooden structure designed for the sale and dispensing of the waters, and to provide basic amenities to visitors. The water was also bottled and sold further afield. Dickie Dickinson was appointed the first Governor of the Spa and was responsible for keeping order and collecting money from visitors.
Above: Dickie Dickinson, first Governor of the Spa (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)
All went well until a massive landslide buried the Spa House, conveniences and the springs in 1737. Fortunately the water source was quickly located again, and in 1739 a sizeable building or saloon was built. This offered fine views over the sea and a long flight of stairs to reach the wells.
Above: The Spa, depicted in a plate from the Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813 (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)
Scarborough was now well established as a seaside resort and Spa town providing every fashionable amenity. There was a Long Room in St Nicholas Street that provided nightly dancing, music, gaming tables and billiards. In the afternoon, plays were acted under the management of Mr. Kerregan in 1733, and from 1776, evening performances were given in the theatre.
There was also a whole range of accommodation to suit every pocket – board and lodgings, rooms at inns and hostelries, a Georgian house for rent, and later, top quality hotels. Tourists could visit coffee shops and bookshops with circulating libraries, and, enjoy the added attractions of horse racing on the beach, alongside boating and sea-bathing. Scarborough was one of the first places, if not the first, to use bathing machines.
During its Victoria heyday the Spa was considered the most popular music hall venue outside London. The first orchestra appeared in the 1830s, but a series of mishaps and disasters plagued the Spa each time redevelopment occurred. The initial saloon was damaged by heavy seas in 1808, but the worst storm; according to some, of the century, devastated the building, which, as a result, had to be completely re-build in 1836.
Before this disaster, such was the Spa’s popularity, that in 1827 the iron Cliff Bridge was erected across the valley, giving easier access from the cliff and the town, where elegant hotels and Georgian lodging houses were becoming popular.
Above: The Cliff Bridge across the valley (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)
The completion of the new “Gothic Saloon”, designed by Henry Wyatt, was opened in 1839 and included a concert hall to seat 500, a garden, promenade and an external area in which orchestras were to perform. However, by the time it opened, the impressive turreted building, was already too small. Consequently, Sir Joseph Paxton, the landscape gardener and architect responsible for the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire and the Crystal Palace, London was called in to redesign the complex. The new, improved venue officially opened in 1858.
Above: The Gothic Saloon (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2010)
To be continued…
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! Look out for Part II, coming soon.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above: Brightly-painted beach huts, North Bay, Scarborough (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough!
This is 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.
Sea Bathing and the First Bathing Machine at Scarborough
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 the 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.
Dr Robert Wittie of Hull was the main medical supporter promoting the mineral waters, and in 1660 he published his book Scarborough Spa, in which he proclaimed “the waters” as a cure for all ills. He also began promoting the health benefits of sea bathing. Furthermore, at around 1730, Peter Shaw, a popular spa doctor and chemist in Scarborough wrote about the advantages of ‘Bathing in the Sea’ at the end of his ‘Dissertation upon the Scarborough Waters’.
Indeed, at this time, doctors began promoting sea-bathing as a healthy pastime. They gave plenty of advice on the best way to bathe: briefly, healthy males for five minutes before breakfast daily; the ‘weaker sex’, invalids and children for three dips of two minutes duration three hours after breakfast three times a week!
To encourage sea bathing a horse-drawn box on wheels could be hired to take the bather out into the sea, enabling the occupier to undress before ‘dipping’ in the sea.
Above: John Setterington’s engraving of the first bathing machine at Scarborough, 1735. The engraving shows an elaborate wooden hut on four wheels, with a window, located close to the water with an attendant holding the door open for a bather. A carriage rider and three people, one with a horse, are visible on the beach. In the sea nearby are four swimmers. This engraving s the first recorded evidence of the use of a bathing machine, and can be seen in Scarborough Public Library where copies are available for sale (published here via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)
The bathing machines was first pioneered at Scarborough’s seaside resort for women, who entered the sea clad in vast garments, helped by female servants, from horse drawn wooden sheds on wheels. It was quite acceptable for men to bathe or swim naked from boats or the sands. When the railways came, in 1845, greater numbers of trippers crowded onto the beach. Rules were quickly introduced specifying bathing areas, distances to be kept between men and women and bathing clothes to be worn, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Above: The gentry at the popular seaside town of Scarborough in 1776. A number of bathing machines can be seen on the seashore – two are close to the sea itself (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)
Respectability was enforced, but attitudes changed in 1871 when it was thought absurd that a ‘house’, a horse and an attendant were necessary to get someone into the sea. By 1904 Scarborough had bathing tents beyond the Spa and on the North Sands.
Above: The North Bay at Scarborough, looking south towards Castle Hill on the headland and the new Marine Drive. This old photo shows the beach populated with holidaymakers, deck chairs and bathing machines (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)
Above: This old photo shows the Grand Hotel, which was completed in 1867, being one of the largest hotels in the world and one of the first purpose-built hotels in Europe. The cliff tram does not appear in the photo – it was built in 1875 after this photo was taken. On the sands below are a number of bathing machines awaiting the day’s bathers. The horses await their turn to draw the machines with their occupants into the sea (via the Yorkshire Journal, Spring Issue, 2012)
The bathing machines in the photo are Walshaw’s and Browne’s. Other Scarborough proprietors were Morrison, Crosby and Rawling. Mr Rawling also owned Rawling’s Field, close to the North Bay, which he eventually sold to the Scarborough Corporation for the development of the North Bay Bathing Pool.
To be continued…
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough! Look out for part 2, coming soon…