Friday, August 14, 2009

Having a Ball at the Beach, Part 2: Fair Scarborough

First things first: the winner of one of our lovely Nineteenteen fans is Dara! Dara, please drop me a note via my website at and I’ll mail that off to you. Thanks so much for your comments, everyone! Keep them coming! Any comment on any post in August is eligible to win.

So, let’s say you didn’t dash off to Lyme Regis or Cowes for the summer. England had plenty of beach towns in the nineteenth century. Scarborough in Yorkshire claims to be the first seaside resort, with bathing machines (covered wagons that were pulled into the surf to allow you to bath in privacy) as early as 1735. But it was the discovery of mineral waters at Scarborough’s South Bay that really put the elegant town on the map.

Scarborough is bisected by a headland that boasts its own castle. Thanks to German bombs in WWII, the castle is now a ruin, but, in the nineteenth century, it was still habitable and even boasted barracks for soldiers. So, not only could you get your fill of the sea, you could ogle men in uniform as well!

The mineral water spa itself was particularly impressive, not only in grandeur but in the fact that it kept rising from the ashes! Damage from storms and sea surges in 1808 and 1836 required the main building to be completely rebuilt. In 1827, the Cliff Bridge was opened, making it easier to reach the spa from the town. Architect Henry Wyatt built a Gothic Saloon with gorgeous turrets in 1839 that included a concert hall seating 500, a garden, a lovely promenade overlooking the sea, and an outside amphitheatre for orchestra concerts. But even these amenities proved too small for the crowds flocking to Scarborough.

In 1858, entirely new buildings opened to the public. These were on a grand scale and designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the landscape gardener and architect responsible for the grounds of major country estates and London pavilions. His assembly hall could seat 2,000. His promenade was double the size of Wyatt’s and included a carriage road, a colonnade for shops, and another amphitheatre. According to spa historians, Scarborough Spa was the second most popular concert hall outside London at the time. Unfortunately, those wonderful buildings were destroyed by fire in 1876!

That didn’t stop the intrepid people of Scarborough. They rebuilt again in 1879 and opened the current historic buildings in 1880. The town still welcomes visitors intent on playing on the beach and indulging in the waters of the spa.

And you don’t need parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme to go to fair Scarborough, either.


Sarah said...

Wow. That is one persistent town. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I've never even properly heard of Scarborough until your post. Only know about it through the old song Scarbourough Fair!! Interesting post, and great blog; just discovered it and it's awesome! I love history; the ninteenth century especially.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Sarah and Sara. And welcome to Sara! Glad you found us!

Dara said...

Very interesting! They are very persistent townsfolk with all that rebuilding :)

Angie Frazier said...

I haven't swung by your website in quite a time, but it's time for me to start doing some book research and THIS is the site I need. Thanks for being here and sharing everything you know!

Regina Scott said...

Angie, you're welcome! Glad to be of assistance!