Doorstep History . . .

On 11 May '98 the Scarborough Evening News announced that a research team from Cambridge University had uncovered evidence of an advanced community of stone age hunters at Starr Carr about 8 miles from Scarborough between Seamer and Flixton. This community is believed to be more advanced than anything else in Europe at the time and has drawn comparisons with Jericho and the Middle east – traditionally thought of as the cradle of civilisation. At this time Britain was still joined to Europe - the land to the East was mostly marsh.

Castle Rock
Castle Rock

Excavations in the area of the Castle Rock headland in the 1920's found Bronze Age relics.

The Romans built a series of signal stations along the East Coast so that fires could be lit in the event of an invasion from the North Sea. These beacons were built at Ravenscar, Scarborough (on Castle Rock) and Filey Brigg. The Scarborough site was abandoned around AD400.

650 Around AD650 the present day Yorkshire area was occupied by both Picts (ancient people of Northern England) and Saxons (Germanic in origin). In AD655 King Oswy of Northumbria defeated the Picts and then ruled the East Coast from Aberdeen down to the Wash. Around AD790 the Danes began attacking Northumbria and by AD880 they had occupied much of Northern England including York which they made their capital. A Danish prince called Thorgil was nicknamed 'Scarthi' which means 'hare lip'. The settlement established in AD966 took its name from "Scarthi's Burgh" or Scarthi's stronghold – hence Scarborough.

1066 Earl Tosti (the younger brother of King Harold) and Hardrada (King of Norway) attacked and completely destroyed Scarborough by setting fire to tree trunks and rolling them down the Castle Rock into the town below.

1136 William le Gros, Earl of Albermarle, built the first Scarborough castle.

The Castle today

1150 St Mary's Church built overlooking the Old Town – it had a single aisle. Holy Sepulchre Church was built at about this time on roughly the same site as the existing Quaker Meeting House. A triangular site bordered by St Sepulchre Street, Cooks Row (known then as Burgwellgate) and Springfield has been excavated by the Scarborough Archeological Society in recent years.

1158 –
King Henry II strengthened the castle by adding the large tower and a keep.

1180 St Mary's enlarged by addition of west front, towers, north and south aisles.
1200 Dominican friars founded a house known as Friargate – a street the same name is found north of St Sepulchre Street. The present day Queen Street was then known as Black Friar's Gate.

1450 – 1484 St Mary's enlarged by addition of perpendicular aisles and choir.
St Mary's
St Mary's today
King Richard III is reputed to have lived in a house on the foreshore during the summer of 1484 – though it is more likely he stayed in the castle. The house that now exists must be only a part of a much bigger mansion – and is now a restaurant.

Richard III House
Richard III House

1480 – 1550 During the reign of the 'boy king' Edward VI from 1547 – 1553 a market was held in Princess Street. The remains of the Butter Cross (now in Princess Square, opposite the Leeds Hotel pub) dates from this time. This was originally a stone cross beside which proclamations were read.
1600 The timbered house at 2 Quay Street dates from about 1600 – it was renovated in 1965. The Three Mariners Inn (now a museum) at 47 Quay Street boasts the title as the earliest licensed premises in Scarborough. The building dates from the 1300's although the Quay Street facade is more likely to be around late 1600's

Three Mariners Inn, Quay Street
Three Mariners Inn, Quay Street

1620 Elizabeth Farrer discovered a mineral spring flowing into the sea. Within twenty years the fame of the Spa had spread and rich people came from far and wide to benefit from the waters.
1640's During the Civil War, Olivers Mount, the hill which overlooks the South Bay of the town, is said to have been used by Oliver Cromwell to bombard the Castle – though there is no evidence this is true. St Mary's Church was certainly used for this purpose – return fire destroyed the choir and the north transcept and their ruins can still be seen today. The steeple and bells were so weakened at this time they collapsed in 1659.

1730's By 1732 the harbour pier had been extended to 1,200 feet. By this time visitors had started to come to Scarborough to drink the mineral water from the Spa and also to bathe in the sea for therapeutic reasons. In 1737 the mineral water spring was lost due to subsidence but rediscovered in 1738.

The Harbour today
The Harbour today

The first Wesleyan Methodist Church was built in Church Stairs Street - today the lower half of this street is called St Mary's Street but the other half is still called Church Stairs Steps where a plaque states 'John Wesley preached 14 times in a chapel on this site 1759 – 1790.'

late 1700's Some of the best examples of architecture from this time can be seen today in Princess Street and Castlegate. 'Interludes' dates from 1760 – 1785 and is now a grade II listed building.
The Theatre Royal stood in Tanner Street (now called St Thomas Street) and playbills have been found from as early as 1793.

Princess Street-  today
Princess Street- today

  The Spa suffered serious storm damage in 1808, 1825 and 1836. In 1856 Sir Joseph Paxton surveyed the Spa and work started immediately to transform the building according to his plans. The New Spa Hall was opened in 1858 but the Grand Hall was gutted by fire in 1876. Work on the present Spa building was started in 1877 with design by Thomas Verity & Hunt of London.

The Spa -  today
The Spa - today

The York to Scarborough railway was officially opened on 7th July 1845 by a train consisting of 35 carriages (all first class). The journey took three and a half hours. Day trippers had arrived !

On May 24th 1849 Anne and Charlotte Bronte left their home on Haworth for a holiday in Scarborough. They stayed in the cottages which stood on the site of the present Grand Hotel. Anne was already seriously ill with consumption and died on 28th. She is buried in St Mary's churchyard

Anne Bronte's grave
Anne Bronte's grave

The Victorian Era saw the opening of many of the landmarks familiar to today's visitors:-
  • 1853 – Market Hall
  • 1863 – St Martin's Church (pre-Raphaelite)
  • 1865 – Valley Bridge
  • 1867 – Grand Hotel
  • 1874 – Foreshore Road from Cliff Bridge to Eastborough
  • 1876 – Royal Opera House (as the Prince of Wales Circus)
  • 1880 – New Spa Grand Hall & Theatre
  • 1890 – Royal Albert Drive

Spa theatre
Spa theatre

The increasing affluence of the Scarborough, particularly in the South Bay, is typified by the building of 17 houses on Crown Crescent in 1850

Crown Crescent
Crown Crescent

early 1900's In 1911 Scarborough Council bought land known as 'Tuckers Field'. Using local unemployed labourers, plus the inspired imagination of the Borough Surveyor Harry Smith, Peasholm Park was created in the style of a Japanese garden. Smith also created the Italian Garden in the South Bay.
  • 1915 – South Bay swimming pool opened (now demolished)
  • 1916 – Boyes Department store opened
  • 1928 – Valley Bridge widened
  • 1932 – Open Air theatre opened
  • 1951 – Cliff Bridge purchased by the council
  • 1952 – North York Moors National Park designated

Peasholm Park
Peasholm Park

On 10th October 1940 a lone German bomber dropped a land mine on Potter Lane (now Castle Terrace) in the Old Town. Four people died and over 500 houses damaged – most of which were demolished and new houses built.

late 1900's
  • 1955 – Theatre in the Round gave first summer season as the Library Theatre
  • 1957 – Spa purchased by the council from Cliff Bridge Co.
  • 1962 – Charles Laughton famous actor of stage & screen died, born in Scarborough 1899
  • 1976 – Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round moved from the Library to Westwood
  • 1981 – £3m restoration of the Spa Grand Hall completed.
  • 1991 – Interludes opened
  • 1993 – Holbeck Hall hotel destroyed by landslide.
  • 1996 – Stephen Joseph Theatre moved from Westwood to the converted Odeon Cinema

Holbeck Hall
Holbeck Hall landslide

early 2000's
  • 2008 Winner of Britain's Most Enterprising Town
  • 2009 Winner of Europe's Most Enterprising Place and
    International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) Project of the Year Award.
  • 2010 Academy of Urbanism - 'The Great Town' - Winner
  • 2010 Open Air Theatre renovated and re-opened by HM the Queen
  • 2016 Alpamare Waterpark opened in the North Bay
  • 2016 Coventry University Scarborough campus due to open in September
  • 2016 Scarborough University Technical College due to open in September
  • 2017 Sports Village (sports centre, swimming pool, stadium) due to open in the summer

The Castle – today

The buttressed walls and the remains of the great keep dominate the skyline. English Heritage maintain the property and it is open most of the year. See the spectacular views along the coast and inland to the Moors.

St Mary's Church – today

The ruins are of the mediaeval choir and the north transcept. The church has been developed over the centuries with rebuilding in 1669 but it was not until 1848 that the external walls were built to the present design. It is the Parish Church of Scarborough.

The Spa - today

The Grand Hall, Theatre and smaller halls are used throughout the year for conferences, trade fairs and the music concerts made famous by Max Jaffa in the 60's.

Castle entrance
Castle entrance