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.

A Little North Bay History

As previously mentioned here on the website, Peasholm Park, the North Bay Bathing Pool, and much of the surrounding land, were once all part of the large Northstead Estate.

North Bay Bathing Pool

Above: The former North Bay Bathing Pool (source)

The roads, landscaped gardens and footpaths of today were once fields accommodating livestock.

One – upon which the North Bay Bathing Pool was later built – was known as Rawling’s Field. You can read more about it here, including an account by Mr Rawling’s great grandson.

The other, where Peasholm Park now stands, was referred to as Tucker’s Field. Andrew, great grandson of Mr Tucker himself, was kind enough to share some more details about this area’s pre-Peasholm Park history:

A little about peasholm Park and Tuckers field. My Great grandfather John Tucker of Tennyson avenue used to rent the land known as Tuckers field . He kept livestock and chickens there . Also family stories tell that he used to charge people to ice skate on the lake that formed in the winter when he dammed the small stream. There is a link here to a report about a theft from his land in 1907 which predates SBC buying the land .

The story describes two men –  Thomas E Luntley and Joseph Lindsay – being charged with stealing six ‘fowls’ from Mr Tucker. Luntley denied theft but admitted helping to take the birds away, apparently being drunk at the time.

Lindsay too blamed intoxication for his actions.

The report also includes a testament by an Inspector Henderson, who describes finding one of the hens concealed under a mattress at Lindsay’s house on Dumple Street, another having been taken away to Quay Street. The remaining birds were apparently thrown into the sea.

According to this source, Dumple Street, where Lindsay lived, historically suffered from a somewhat dubious reputation.

Both of the accused had already accrued multiple convictions in the past, and for their crime were sentenced to several months of hard labour.

However…

…the opportunity to steal livestock would not remain for long – only a few years later the construction of Peasholm Park would transform Tucker’s Field, after the Scarborough Corporation purchased the land.

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Above: Peasholm Park (from the author’s collection)

Indeed, Scarborough’s landscape has experienced such incredible transformations across the decades – the buying, selling and renting of land; the building, demolishing or abandoning of attraction structures – imagine all the stories that still lie hidden…

Sources

Scarborough News

Also many thanks to Andrew for sharing this story.

North Bay Pool: For Bathing or Boating?

When Tucker’s Field became Peasholm Park in 1912, the transformation of the medieval Northstead Estate had truly begun.

Above: The early days of Peasholm Park (source)

This muddy patch of farmland, and the neighbouring Rawling’s field were both eventually purchased by The Scarborough Corporation in the 1920s, eager to build on their Peasholm Park success by developing a tourist haven in and around Scarborough’s North Bay.

Above: Some of the original North Bay attractions, including the doomed pier (source)

Away from the grand hotels and seaside amusements of the South Bay, the North Bay was already becoming a draw for visitors, with multiple gardens, a short-lived pier and a revolving viewing tower. The new bathing pool, however, which opened in 1938 on the former Rawling’s Field site, was more successful, and endured for nearly seventy years under a variety of names, including Waterscene and Atlantis.

Above: Atlantis was worlds away from the humble North Bay Bathing Pool (source)

Although the North Bay Bathing Pool opened for bathers in 1938 – it operated for several years before this as a pool for tiny ‘speedboats’ – a somewhat exaggerated description given in various sources, given that both boats and pool were too small to allow for any excessive speeding.

motor boat pool

Above: Here, more aptly named as the ‘Motor Boat Pool’ (from the author’s collection)

This boating pool or pond (as it was sometimes referred to) opened in 1935, and allowed riders to step aboard miniscule two-person motor boats for a jaunty circular trip. The idea seems somewhat humorous now – indeed, this lasted less than three years before the boats were transferred to the more ample boating lake in nearby Northstead Manor Gardens. Then the swimmers moved in.

Above: There was plenty of space for the boats at Manor Gardens (source)

Before the boating (and eventual bathing) pool was built, out of service fishing vessels were frequently left on the site, either to be fixed and returned to their seafaring duties, or to be left to rot, alongside other unwanted items. In a continuation of this tradition Scarborough’s own Hispaniola spent a period ‘moored’ here, next to Water Splash World (later Atlantis) after its banishment from the Mere in 1993. Now it sails once more, along the South Bay.

Above: The Hispaniola did not remain ‘dumped’ for long (source)

The land had further uses during the early 1900s – travelling circuses would pitch up and perform there. There are also rumours of an archery range, where champion archers such as Jack Flinton would compete during the summer months. Possibly. Other sources suggest that the archery was a summer activity for novices. Perhaps there was a bit of both. If indeed it happened here, on the site of the future bathing pool.

Above: Scarborough archer Jack Flinton at a Lancaster tournament – second from right (source)

Either way, this former field (once owned by the Rawling family) and small part of the former Northstead Estate has hosted plenty of ‘fun’ since the early 1900s. From bows and arrows to miniature boats; from circus tents to water slides. And, today, military-themed adventures.

Above: One of the old bathing pool buildings in the Military Adventure Park – top right (source)

Memories of the swimming pool(s) will inevitably endure – after all, there was a pool of some sort on the site from 1935 until 2007 – over seventy years in total. Although the slides and majority of the buildings were eventually demolished, remnants of the original 1930s structure still remain. But for how much longer?

Above: One of the original gates from the 1938 bathing pool (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Sources

All new information in this post (see highlighted links for existing sources/information) has been retrieved from old newspaper clippings held at the  Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library. Most were from the Scarborough News (various dates), others from unnamed publications.

Please read the disclaimer to find out this project’s policies on sourcing and copyright issues.

Before The North Bay Bathing Pool: The Northstead Estate

When the North Bay Bathing Pool opened in the summer of 1938, Scarborough’s North Bay was rapidly becoming a haven for holidaymakers.

Above: The North Bay Pool was also known as Scarborough Children’s Lake (source)

Across the road was the relatively new Peasholm Park, initially developed in 1912. Around the corner was a miniature railway, water chute and open air theatre, all part of the new Northstead Manor Gardens, or Pleasure Park, as it was then otherwise known.

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Above: The early days of Northstead Manor Gardens (from the author’s collection)

However, only a few decades earlier, this patch of land had looked very different indeed, nor was it even ‘officially’ part of Scarborough. Part of it was purchased by the Scarborough Corporation in 1911 for the development of Peasholm Park, and the remainder of the estate was bought by the same organisation in 1921. Prior to these transactions, Scarborough legally ‘ended’ at Peasholm Beck.

Above: Bridge over Peasholm Beck, now part of Peasholm Park (source)

There were no adventure playgrounds or water slides here – the land was used for more practical matters before the twentieth century arrived. Piggeries, allotments, farming – thick boggy mud and hard work. All of this seems an antithesis for what was to follow.

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Above: 1913 Northstead, in blue, before it became part of Scarborough, in pink (source)

The area in which the North Bay Bathing Pool later stood was known as Rawling’s Field. Located next to Tucker’s Field (which later became Peasholm Park), the site belonged to a Mr Rawling. A reader kindly contacted Stories From Scarborough to clarify this further:

This was a piece of land owned by my great grandfather’s brother – George Blackett Rawling (1853-1916) – who owned and managed the bathing machines on the North Bay in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  He sold the land to the then Scarborough Corporation for a few shillings (I understand).

Many thanks to Phil for getting in touch with this information, and also for sending an old newspaper article outlining the origins of the pool.

Rawling’s Field and Tucker’s Field once formed part of the sprawling Northstead Estate.

Above: Tucker’s Field, shortly before being developed into Peasholm Park began (source)

The origins of the estate are somewhat murky – some sources suggest that the area was originally named Hatterboard; the Northstead moniker emerging much later. Local friars gained permission to build a priory in the area in 1245, and the land was bestowed upon a series of noblemen before being purchased by King Richard III in the fifteenth century.King Richard reputedly favoured Scarborough and was the last known monarch to stay in the town’s castle.

Above: The earliest known portrait of Richard III (source)

At the centre of the Northstead estate stood a manor house, although few accounts describe it in any great detail:

At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign ‘the Northstead’ had a ‘parliour,’ an old chamber reached by wooden stairs, and ‘a lowe house under it’ unfit for habitation; Sir Richard Cholmley’s shepherd dwelt in it until it fell down. Adjoining were an old decayed barn and the walls of other houses, which shortly afterwards fell, and an old chapel. Sir Richard Cholmley, lessee of Edward VI, used the timber of these decayed buildings to build ‘an hall house, adjoining it to the said parliour.’

(source)

A survey in 1650 did not record a manor house, with earlier reports suggesting that it may have fallen into disrepair. However, in spite of the lack of historical records, the construction of Peasholm Park in 1911 did reveal the remains of medieval buildings of a domestic nature, although little conclusive information could be deducted about their purpose or significance. These ruins were found in the centre of today’s Peasholm Lake.

Above: The lake at Peasholm Park (source)

Although the manor house disappeared long ago, the accompanying position – Stewardship of the Manor (of Northstead) remains an official one, bestowed upon MPs to relieve them of their duties.

Above: A plaque in Peasholm Park acknowledges the stewardship (source)

Northstead has indeed witnessed many transformations; from its early days as a medieval estate to its later manifestations as a magnet for seaside holidaymakers. Peasholm Park in particular is a lasting legacy of the latter, although its early neighbours – the North Bay Bathing Pool and the attractions located in and around the Northstead Manor Gardens, have endured mixed fortunes.

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Above: The North Bay Bathing Pool at night (source)

The opening of the North Bay Bathing Pool in 1938, for instance,  was reputedly a grand affair – with a band and underwater lighting. Likewise its transformation into Waterscene in 1984, featured a visit from holiday camp legend Fred Pontin. The succession of glitzy rebrandings was followed by closure in 2007. As the site fell into disrepair, and the bright blue slides faded, a return to the boggy fields of old was no longer so unlikely. However, the birth of the Military Adventure Park continued the evolution of the area, and new investment (including the redevelopment of the old outdoor theatre, and the updating carried out by the North Bay Railway company) is preserving what was once little more than a muddy field for generations of holidaymakers to come.

It has been difficult to verify some of the information in this post – if you know anything more about Northstead’s history, or have any thoughts or corrections, please comment below.

Sources

English Heritage

British History Online

Pastscape

Scarborough Book of Days

The National Archives