Author and historian Simon Heffer calls North Yorkshire an 'architectural wonderland' and praises Scarborough's Grand Hotel

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An eminent historian and writer has described Yorkshire’s historic North Riding as an ‘architectural wonderland’ in a Telegraph comment piece.

Simon Heffer was following a recent updated edition of the Pevsner Architectural Guide to the North Riding, which was abolished as an administrative county in 1974. The area now covers parts of North Yorkshire such as Hambleton, Richmondshire and Ryedale.

Heffer writes about the Norman church at St Michael’s in Liverton, near Saltburn, and the great castles of the region, including Richmond, Middleham and Bolton, as well as the ruins of the abbeys the area was famous for in medieval times.

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He mentions Byland, Jervaulx and Whitby, but was most impressed by Rievaulx’s Cistercian remains, describing them as a ‘glorious sight’ that would once have been among the most imposing in England.

Grand Hotel, ScarboroughGrand Hotel, Scarborough
Grand Hotel, Scarborough

Moving into the 18th century, the Guide includes a section on Castle Howard, described as a ‘masterpiece’, before moving on to Scarborough and its spa town origins – which Heffer considers ‘the real gem of the region’ and picks out its Georgian architecture.

Both Heffer and the Pevsner Guide authors were very taken with the Grand Hotel, built in 1867 at the resort’s height of popularity and now owned by the budget chain Britannia. The book calls it ‘a high Victorian gesture of assertion and confidence’ and Heffer adds that ‘it set the tone for all such buildings in resorts around the country’.

The Grand has endured a difficult few years, with Scarborough Council in 2021 requesting a meeting with its management following concerns of poor hygiene and general standards at the hotel. It was once the largest in Europe, and Sir Winston Churchill was a guest in 1952.

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Its size worked against it in the post-war years, with its hundreds of bedrooms proving difficult to let once the town’s tourism industry began to lose out to foreign travel. Scarborough struggled to regain its Victorian and Edwardian reputation as a genteel resort for wealthy visitors who demanded the dining and entertainment the Grand offered in its heyday.