Treasured heritage

The Mary Fountain on Ramshill in front of St Andrew's Church 120818c.
The Mary Fountain on Ramshill in front of St Andrew's Church 120818c.

Just a short walking distance from Scarborough’s railway station and town centre, is the start of our Heritage Trail - the Valley Bridge.

1 Valley Bridge is the principal road linking the town centre and South Cliff. The driving force behind this bridge was Robert Williamson. Despite many difficulties and problems, he developed his master plan as the result of a dreadful tragedy in 1861. A road bridge being built across the River Ouse in York resulted in a 300 ton iron girder accidentally falling over and knocking three more similar girders into the river. Two men were crushed to death and three were missing, believed drowned. Williamson raised the girders and used them to begin construction. The bridge was opened on July 1, 1865, and cost £28,163. Tolls varied for buses and pedestrians. Scarborough Corporation bought the company and its bridge on June 12, 1891. Tolls remained in force until 1919.

The bridge was rebuilt and widened between 1926 and 1928, but continued in use during the operation. Read details on the plaque affixed to the wall on the town side of the bridge [ie on the Tesco side near white rails]. Having crossed Valley Bridge, continue up Ramshill Road. Pause to examine the charming little Victorian drinking fountain on the corner of the bridge. Shortly, you’ll see the tall spire of St Andrew’s Church to your right. Admire another lovely drinking fountain. Opposite is Albion Road. Walk down here to find St Martin’s Church on your right.

2 The Church of St Martin-on-the Hill was financed largely by a middle-aged spinster, Mary Craven in the 1860s. The church is most impressive, with its dignified exterior and magnificent interior. It’s treasured for its wealth of stained glass windows, a small painted pulpit and other interior decoration carried out by leading Pre-Raphaelite artists during the mid-19th century. Seek fine examples of work by Rosetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Maddox Brown and William Morris, among many others.

George Bodley, architect, and Miss Mary Craven came from Hull. Bodley employed William Morris and Company of Red Lion Square, London, to tackle most of the church’s interior design and decoration. The consecration service was in July 1863. Miss Mary Craven lived in St Martin’s Lodge on Craven Street which was named after her in later years.

Leaving the church, rejoin Albion Road, turn right, and 200 yards ahead is the centre of the Esplanade. Turn left here to the Crown Hotel- the focal point of the Regency-style Terrace, opened c1844. It’s a visual reminder that Scarborough was once known as the Brighton of the North. During the early 20th century, was the Sunday ‘Church Parade’, along the Esplanade, when ladies dressed in their finery and parasols and strolled along after morning church services. The tradition ended with the First World War.

Cross the Esplanade to an arched iron gateway. Enter, and walk down through the gardens to the Spa.

4 The Spa. It was Mrs Farrer who first observed water flowing from a spring in South Bay causing stones to be tinged brown. This water was said to be beneficial to one’s health, and so the Spa was born. In 1826 a company was formed to develop the Spa, and better access to it by means of the Cliff Bridge, erected in 1827. From a storm in 1836 to a fire in 1876 destroying Paxton’s Grand Hall, improvements to the buildings and promenade continued in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Spa became the property of Scar. Corporation in October 1957. Its long association with music continues to this day, along with its use as an entertainments and conference centre.

Leave the Spa area by a footpath leading up to the Cliff Bridge. Whilst on the bridge you’ll see the distinctive Rotunda Museum.

5 The Cliff Bridge was to provide a better approach to the Spa. The foundation stone was laid on November 29, 1826. The bridge was opened on July 19, 1827, to the sound of church bells and cannon fire. The coast was £9,089 - just over double the estimated cost! Tolls were imposed for almost 125 years until abolished in 1951. The 414ft long structure remains a much-used walkway.

Leaving the Cliff Bridge, turn left and descend to the Museum Terrace and you’ll soon arrive at the Rotunda Museum.

6 The Rotunda Museum was built in 1828-29 to the designs of York architect RH Sharp. Its design was inspired by William Smith, credited with being the father of British geology. It’s the finest surviving example of a Georgian purpose-built museum. It houses Scarborough’s local history and archaeological collections with information and attractive displays of great interest.

From the museum, walk back under the Cliff Bridge, turn left and walk along Foreshore Road to the Futurist Theatre which adjoins Bland’s Cliff. This was the site of Will Catlin’s Arcadia Theatre at the turn of the 20th century.

7 The Arcadia Theatre (now Futurist). Will Catlin, born William Fox in 1871, introduced Pierrot shows and the traditional white costume with its black pom-poms as the standard uniform for his entertainers. They delighted South Bay audiences from 1896 as a seashore attraction. By definition, pierrots were always bachelors! Later, Catlin decided to forsake the beach, and by 1908 his pierrots were performing indoors at the newly-built Arcadia Theatre on Foreshore Road. The Futurist occupies the former Arcadia site today. Will Catlin died in 1953 on his way to the theatre and his coffin bore a wreath in the shape of a pierrot’s hat.

Your Heritage Trail completed, do ponder the treasured assets we have in Scarborough. We should be justly proud of our heritage.

Should you wish to return to the town centre, the quickest and steepest route is up the adjacent Bland’s Cliff. At the top, turn left into Newborough, and the main shopping centre with many cafes!