Anne Bronte: Scarborough Connections – Part IV

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sources

For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Autumn, 2015). All copyright retained by the author.

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

Scarborough Aquarium Top: Bus Stop, Tram Stop, Car Park, Café?

There are few physical reminders of the Scarborough Aquarium (or its successor – Gala Land) around the base of the Cliff Bridge. Gone are the underground palatial arches and the overground entrance – the sunken wonderland is now an undergound car park, bearing little resemblance to its former self. However, the area itself is still known locally as Aquarium Top, and the current conversion of the St. Nicholas Cliff Lift (into a café, apparently) pays homage to this Victorian namesake.

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Above: The ongoing conversion of the St. Nicholas Cliff Lift (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: Detail (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

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Likewise the bus stop opposite the Rotunda Museum, also acknowledges a past that many holidaymakers and casual visitors to Scarborough, may be completely unaware of.

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Above: The Aquarium Top bus stop (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Indeed, whereas today the road is teeming with cars – and its underbelly houses a car park – the area was once the turning point for Scarborough’s electric tramway system.

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Above: From aquarium to car park (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Between 1904 and 1929, five miles worth of track carried electric trams around Scarborough, covering destinations such as Foreshore Road, North Marine Road and Eastborough. The trams also made their way past Scarborough Aquarium (later Gala Land) to make the steepest of all climbs – up Vernon Road.

You can view a picture of the tram climbing Ramsdale Valley here.

In 1925, streetcar number 21 (or 25, depending on which report you read) caused considerable damage to the glass roof of the aquarium ballroom, in the same year that the Scarborough Corporation purchased the site and re-named it Gala Land. According to the Scarborough News, greasy rails and brake failure were blamed for the accident, causing the vehicle to make a dramatic backwards descent whilst trying to climb Vernon Road. The wall that separated the aquarium from the road was also destroyed. Driver George Smith was still in the car when the crash occurred, although was not seriously hurt – several passengers and the conductor had managed to jump free before impact.

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Above: The aftermath – there has been difficulty locating the source of this image, given that the link on which it was found is no longer operational. If you own the copyright or know of any reason why it should not be included here, please get in touch, and it can be taken down.

Scarborough Aquarium or rather the stretch of land nearby, was also the destination and boarding point for the old St Nicholas Cliff Lift. Part of Scarborough’s collection of funiculars (which also included tramways on the North Cliff, Queen’s Parade, South Cliff, and Central Tramway – only the latter two still operate today). The South Cliff Lift was the first funicular railway to operate in Britain, and was created by the Scarborough South Cliff Tramway Company Limited in 1873. It didn’t open until 1875, by which point the Marine Aquarium Company Scarborough Ltd had formed to build the aquarium. Although they formed in 1874, the aquarium didn’t open until 1877.

It is worth noting that early tramway and aquarium plans were mooted by the Scarborough Sub Tramway Aquarium & Improvement Company Ltd – an organisation that formed in 1871. It has been difficult to establish what, if any, role(s) they played in the later establishment of both in Scarborough.

Above: Cliff Lift ticket (source)

However, whilst the Queen’s Parade (1878) and Central (1880) lines opened soon after, it wasn’t until 1929, shortly after the aquarium was renamed Gala Land, that the St. Nicholas line opened. Its boarding point at the base of the cliff was (and still is) referred to as the Aquarium Top, and passengers initially boarded the tram directly – there was no station and all mechanics were controlled from the top of the cliff. A station was later added however, and whilst the line closed in 2006, it is now being transformed into an aptly named Aquarium Top Café. A touching reminder of the former aquarium’s existence.

What do you think of the café idea? Should the St. Nicholas Cliff Lift Return? How about the aquarium – should it be commemorated more visibly in the landscape today? Ought tourists to be informed of it and its fascinating history?

Please comment and share your thoughts.

Sources

Scarborough News Article

Tramlines Found Under The Road

Scarborough Funiculars

South Cliff Railway

Café Plan For Old Cliff Lift