PERHAPS IT was appropriate, though overdue, that Tindall Street first appears in Scarborough’s records in 1871, the same year as the death of Robert Tindall, the last of the shipbuilding and seafaring family.
For six generations, from William in the 1680s until Robert, the Tindalls had made the greatest contribution to Scarborough’s employment and prosperity and its world-wide fame as the builders of the finest sailing vessels.
Such was the sterling reputation of Tindall ships that the War Office and the East India Company preferred to hire them as military transports and commercial carriers.
Not only were they robust, speedy and manageable, the Tindall owners and captains ensured that their crews were disciplined, clean and healthy. Two of the six transports which took the first convicts to Australia in 1787-8 were launched from Tindall yards on Sandside. One of them was called Scarborough.
Shipbuilding was not the only, or for some of them even the main occupations of the Quaker Tindalls. James (1750-1815) was one of the joint owner-founders of Scarborough’s first successful bank, a colonel in Scarborough’s Volunteers, a North Riding justice and three times bailiff of the borough. Robert, sen. (1764-1828), his brother, was president of both Trinity House and the Merchant Seamen’s Hospital.
Robert, jun. (1789-1871) was a South Ward councillor for more than 30 years and mayor of the borough for four years during the 1840s.
Apart from their street off Victoria Road, the many houses once lived in by the Tindalls have now lost their association with the family. John Tindall (1722-73) for many years lived in the King’s House on Sandside and his cousin Gentleman John once occupied Ivy House; William (1786-1853) owned Paradise House; and several Tindalls had addresses in Longwestgate. But none of these acknowledge their important residents. Tindall Lane (1871) and Tindall Yard (1892) no longer exist.
At least the Scarborough home of the Sitwells is still acknowledged as such, though inexplicably and regrettably, Wood End has become Woodend. Dame Edith was the only Sitwell to be born there in 1887, but her family owned and occupied the house, which was built in 1835, for much of the time between 1870 and 1925.
The Sitwells had been coming to Scarborough from their principal home, Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, at least from the time that Francis stayed at the New Inn in Newborough in 1736. He was here again in 1737 and 1738 to drink the spa waters, attend the theatre and play billiards in the Long Room. His son, Francis Hurt, also favoured the New Inn in 1774 and 1777. Between 1823 and 1843, Sir George Sitwell, the second baronet, hardly missed a season at Scarborough.
However, it was the widow of the third baronet, Lady Louisa, who first put down residential roots in the town. In 1867 she had a villa built at the top of Bleach House Lane (3, Westbourne Grove after 1881) and called it Sunnyside. Three years later, at a local auctions sale, she bought Wood End.
Lady Louisa was a deeply religious women actively engaged in many charitable concerns. Among her many beneficiaries were cabmen, postmen and so-called ‘fallen women.’ Her ‘Home of Hope’, better known as Red House, at the top of Sitwell Street, she made into a refuge for town girls thought to be in moral danger. A second ‘home for bad girls’ she founded in the old Quaker Meeting House in St Sepulchre Street. Lady Louisa died in 1906 and her refuges were closed in 1911 and 1914, but at least we still have Sitwell Street (1892) and a century later Sitwell Court (1993) in Acworth Street. Red House now serves other purposes.
Lady Louisa’s only son, the fourth baronet, Sir George Sitwell (1860-1943), was the most famous occupant of Wood End. As a Tory he stood for Scarborough’s parliamentary seat five times and won it twice in 1885 and 1892. After his defeat in 1900, he withdrew from active politics and devoted himself to landscape gardening, writing history and renovating his castle in Tuscany where he took up permanent exile in 1925. He died in Switzerland.
Sir George’s three children, Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell, all achieved literary success. Edith published and wrote poetry, historical biographies, toured the USA and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire before her death in 1964.
Osbert was even less of a poet than his sister and wrote a multi-volume autobiography which is nearly forgotten. Parkinson’s Disease was diagnosed in 1950 and from then on he went into a slow, sad decline until his death in 1969.
Sachie was born in 1897 at 5 Belvoir Terrace (1832), then known as Belvoir House and today as part of the Bedford Hotel. His literary reputation will probably survive better than that of his siblings. Author of more than a hundred well-written books on art, architecture, music and travel, he died at the age of 90 in 1988. In 2004, Sir Reresby Sitwell unveiled a plaque to his father on the wall of the Bedford Hotel.
The Tindalls built ships, the Sitwells wrote books and the Woodalls once virtually owned and ran Scarborough. For five generations they dominated the Town Hall, accumulated an estate in the borough bigger than the Corporation’s and part-owned the town’s only bank. An investigation by the Crown’s Commissioners in 1833 revealed that Scarborough was ‘a closed shop’, run exclusively by half a dozen inter-related families. And the most powerful of these were the Woodalls.
John Woodall, the town clerk, had four sons, the eldest was senior bailiff and the other three all had council places. Three other councillors were Woodall banking partners, two more were legal partners, and by marriage the Woodalls were related to several more.
By 1835, when municipal reform had ended the old oligarchy, the Woodalls had already bought up much of the town. Almost the whole of the North side beyond Trafalgar Square as far as the borough boundary of Peasholm Beck belonged to ‘King John’ (1801-79) and his son, John Woodall Woodall (1831-1905).
The Woodall landed hegemony came to a close abruptly and totally at the end of the century. In 1896, JWW sold the high ground in the north-west corner of the borough to the council: in time it was to become the Barrowcliff estate. In the same year he sold all his interest in the bank on the corner of St Nicholas Street to Barclay’s. Three years later, he finalised a deal with the Borough Council whereby it bought all the Woodall estate on King’s Cliff: St Nicholas House and gardens, Granby House and grounds, St Nicholas undercliff and the Foreshore buildings which included what was to become the Olympia. Simultaneously, the remainder of the Victoria estate, north of Columbus Ravine and east of upper Dean Road, was purchased by private builders. The stranglehold that the Woodalls had exercised on the town’s development was removed.
Yet all that is left of the Woodalls is Woodall Avenue (1923), which in area and location exactly matches what was once Little Northstead field and the Woodall monogram high on the front gable of the Town Hall. Woodall’s Lane, which once ran through Neptune Terrace, the old name for the north end of Foreshore Road, no longer exists.