From Turkey To India – Via Scarborough

In 1859 an exotic building was erected on Scarborough’s Foreshore. The new Turkish Bathing House, also known as Bland’s Cliff Baths, was created to meet the growing demand for bathing treatments in the town, and was accessed directly from the sands of the South Bay.

Above: Drawing of the Turkish Baths (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The baths were later adopted by Jimmy Corrigan, who turned the building into an amusements arcade, with a World of Holograms upstairs. Today the venue is named Coney Island, after the famous New York beach side theme park, but still hosts slot machines and amusements.

But what happened in between these two dramatically different attractions?

Just as the Turkish Baths had appropriated the idea of Turkish bathing, with its spiritual associations, Scarborough’s Indian Village attraction likewise capitalised on the obsession with all things Oriental and Eastern, which permeated the 1800s and early 1900s in particular. The ‘village’ in Scarborough operated during the early 1900s, after the building ceased to operate as a Turkish baths, but before it was taken over by Jimmy Corrigan. It has so far been difficult to establish the exact duration of the attraction.


Above: The Indian Village attraction (from the author’s collection)

Such an attraction would arguably be branded as crude and demeaning today, but back in the early 1900s, the idea of bringing India (albeit a stereotyped and overly simplistic version of the country) to the British seaside was an exciting one for tourists. Or so the then owners believed. In fact, the idealised Indian village – the notion of a primitive feudal settlement – represented for Victorians and Edwardians an antidote to the mechanised bustle of the (then) modern industrial age.

The Indian village has often been seen as the ultimate signifier of “authentic native life”, a place where one could see or observe the “real” India and develop an understanding of the way local people organised their social life.

(source – full reference at the end of the post)

The British Empire saw itself as the height of civilisation, colonising countries and people who were considered primitive and backward. Yet at the same time those of the so-called civilised West harboured romantic visions of many Eastern (and non-European) cultures, seen as exotic, strange, and in many cases, closer to Nature.

Above: This disturbing and demeaning plaque, which commemorates the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, shows Western colonialists ‘civilising’ native people, who are depicted as animal-like and inferior (source)

There were a number of Indian Village attractions across Britain during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Scarborough’s was typical in terms of the ‘entertainment’ offered. There were “jolly” Indian monkeys, a lion, “sixteen Indians”, native palmists and presumably other cultural appropriations. The lion was supposedly born on coronation day in 1937, a fact regularly advertised in press surrounding the attraction.

Above: Postage stamp commemorating the 1937 coronation of King George VI (source)

Due to the lack of documentation available it is difficult to speculate about the exact nature of the attraction, which sounds patronising and insulting towards the country it claimed to represent, reinforcing the British colonial idea of India as a wild, jungle-like expanse populated by superstitious natives and exotic animals. But this judgement itself is ill-informed, and lacks any concrete supporting evidence. Were there genuine Indian-born performers? Or was this a case of Westerners masquerading as their Eastern counterparts? Were these entertainers well treated? How about the animals? Indeed, Scarborough, like the rest of the UK, was no stranger to entertainment inspired by the far reaches of the British Empire (and beyond), with regular minstrel performances at the theatre(s) and Zulu warrior performances at Gala Land.

You can view an old poster for a minstrel show at Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre here.

Whilst entertainment preferences have long since changed, the desire for holiday snaps has not. They may have lacked camera phones and fancy digital devices, but Edwardian tourists were just as keen as the holidaymakers of today to get their picture taken – and the Indian Village offered a conveniently placed photography establishment, neighbouring the main attraction, where photographs could be taken and developed on the day. Sandwiched between this and the entrance to the village was the intriguingly titled Hall of Laughter. No details on that one. Yet.

On the other side of the attraction visitors could enjoy another tourist staple – waxworks. This small establishment was opened in 1921 by Ernest Gambart Baines, and later taken over by his daughter, a Mrs Dale, and her husband in 1929. Lifelike models of a policeman and fireman stood outside.

Indeed, Scarborough’s Foreshore has always been a lively and varied stretch of road, designed to lure in the tourists. The Indian Village represents a brief moment in this long and diverse history, which frequently references Chinoiserie, and the Victorian/Edwardian obsession (and reduction) of all things Oriental. This applies to Scarborough more broadly, and includes Peasholm Park (with its Chinese and Japanese inspired features), the Hindu-temple inspired aquarium, and ostensibly many more attractions (yet to be uncovered). All join the Turkish Baths and Indian Village in a colourful yet ultimately inaccurate attempt to bring the Far East to a British seaside town.

Do you know anything about the Indian Village attraction in Scarborough? Much of this article is based on guesswork, so it would be helpful to hear from anyone who knows more. Please get in touch if you have any information.


Jodhka, S.S. (undated) “Book-view” to “Field-view” – QEH Working Papers

Cannadine, D. (2001) Orientalism: How The British Saw Their Empire, Oxford University Press

Various articles and news clippings held in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library


Before The World Of Holograms

The World of Holograms was an attraction located in the upstairs gallery at Corrigan’s Amusements (now Coney Island Amusements) in Scarborough. There is very little information about it – minimal evidence of its operation spans across the late 1980s and early 1990s, although exactly when and for how long it was open have yet to be uncovered by Stories From Scarborough.

Above: Inside the World of Holograms (source)

The building that housed the attraction is distinctive. The exotic architectural details and suggested tower serve as reminders of its former status – it was once a Turkish Baths. You can view a picture of what it once looked like by visiting this link.

Below: The Turkish Baths can be seen in the centre of this image from the early 1900s – note the prominent tower (from the author’s collection)


Known as Bland’s Cliff Turkish Baths, the bathing facilities were created by the Scarborough Public Bath Company and were open between 6am and 10pm daily, except on Sundays. They first opened in 1859 and closed in 1931. Visitors paid 6d. to swim in a large seawater pool, with numerous personal bathing options added in subsequent years, including vapour baths, showers of various kinds and freshwater alternatives. All incurred an additional charge, and access was directly from the beach – the foreshore road did not exist when the baths first opened (it was built in 1879).

You can view an even earlier picture of the baths here.

Turkish baths were popular in Victorian Britain, as was the appropriation of Oriental architecture (also found in Scarborough’s spectacular underground aquarium). The baths were designed to cleanse and relax visitors, who would immerse themselves in seawater, and take advantage of the various treatments on offer. The exotic, otherworldly surroundings emulated a temple-like atmosphere, a nod perhaps to the religious roots of Turkish bathing, and the notion of spiritual (as well as physical, and emotional) cleansing and purity.

[The building] brought more than a touch of the mystic East to Scarborough’s sea front, with its Moorish arches, red-and-white brickwork, and mosque-like water tower crowned with a dome.


Like many of Scarborough’s former attractions, the baths eventually succumbed to financial losses, and were sold first in 1904. They operated under a different company until 1931. Two years earlier the Scarborough Corporation had opened a Turkish baths at nearby Londesborough House, and Scarborough offered a range of bathing options and alternative entertainments, which perhaps eclipsed the Bland’s Cliff Baths. Indeed, such attractions significantly declined in popularity as the twentieth century unfolded, and only a handful of original Turkish baths remain in England today, one of which is located in Harrogate. A glimpse at the stunning interior hints at what Scarborough’s own equivalent might once have looked like. Perhaps.

Above: A lounge area at Harrogate’s Turkish baths (source)

What happens next is somewhat unclear – the building was altered on numerous occasions, and much of the ornamental detail was lost in favour of a simpler design. The tower in particular was severely diminished. During the latter part of the twentieth century, the baths were taken over by the Corrigan family, who established a small empire of amusement sites and fairgrounds in Yorkshire. Initially working as travelling showmen, Jimmy and Albert Corrigan settled in Scarborough during the 1950s – the former acquired the Turkish Baths as well as founding the Luna Park fairground site on the seafront.

Above: Luna Park – see below for image credit (source)

It was during the Corrigan tenure that the World of Holograms made its debut. Above the noisy chaos of the slot machines downstairs, visitors could marvel at optical illusions and light displays on the second floor. Rumour has it that live action was also involved at one point.

As is the case with many attractions in Scarborough, documentation is frequently located in personal, rather than public collections. This is why each article on this site is accompanied by an appeal for information and images. There is only so much available in public collections, so if you know anything or have any kind of documentation (leaflets, tickets, images), please get in touch. You don’t even have to share anything publicly – even a small piece of information would help.

Although the World of Holograms has been and gone, its home still remains as an amusements site. The Corrigan tenure ended in 2008, and the building was sold to Stade Developments – a company based in Hastings. Prior to being sold the name had changed from Corrigan’s Amusements to Coney Island – the same name as a Brooklyn beach destination in New York, USA. Coincidentally, the real life Coney Island also has a Luna Park fairground attraction, although the shared names are undoubtedly an intentional emulation.

Just as Marvel’s Amusement Park (and indeed, its predecessor Scarborough Zoo) sought to emulate all things American (particularly Disneyland), it seems that this is a continuing trend. Note that the copying of Eastern styles seems to have been firmly left behind in the Victorian era.

Above: Today’s Coney Island – see below for image credits (source)

Scarborough’s Coney Island is still an amusements attraction, but the building is a shadow of its former self, and neither interior nor exterior bear much resemblance to the imposing (and intricate) temple-like bathing house that once graced the sandy foreshore. The World of Holograms was but a flicker in this long history – the lack of available evidence surrounding its existence makes one wonder how many other attractions have vanished without a trace.

Sources & Credits

Luna Park Image – © Copyright Rob Newman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Coney Island Image – © Copyright Pauline E and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Victorian Turkish Baths

Turkish Bathing Culture

Scarborough News Article

Turkish Bath

Site Planning Proposal