Our seafront heritage

Three Mariners pub in Scarborough, one of the oldest public houses in Scarborough.
Three Mariners pub in Scarborough, one of the oldest public houses in Scarborough.

Written by Maureen Robinson

If you prefer history to country walks, Scarborough’s rich heritage is worth exploring at leisure. Here we take a look at just a few of Scarborough’s surviving relics of bygone times. I suggest you start from Scarborough’s busy shopping precinct in Westborough. The entire route may only take an hour, but do allow much more time to delve into the detail of features observed.

Start. Walk down Westborough and go straight across down Newborough and into Eastborough. Almost immediately past the Market Hall off left, take the first turning right from The Golden Last Residential Hotel. This is Leading Post Street. It heads to the Duke of York Guest House. Swing left along Merchant’s Row and observe number 3 named ‘Smugglers’. In bygone days, smuggling was rife in this area and the old town. Picnic tables and plant tubs adorn this patio. Stand and gaze at the harbour. You may locate a stainless steel tunny fish suspended from a wave nearby!

You’ll certainly discover a smuggler and his apprentice having reached the shore with barrels of brandy. The fine sculptures are the work of Ray Lonsdale whose popular ‘Freddie Gilroy’ sculpture proudly graces the Marine Drive. “If someone whispers, you whisper back, If someone shouts, you run. But keep away from the well-worn track, For there waits a man with a gun!” Leaving Merchants Row, cross the road to Scarborough’s Maritime Heritage Centre at 36 Eastborough. The dedicated volunteers at this charity aim to help you trace the local heritage.

Continue your descent to the foot of Eastborough and stop at the traffic lights. To your left, see The Bolts – surviving relics of medieval town life. The narrow, poorly lit passage way runs behind the seafront cafes and amusement arcades. Walk along them. They were public lavatories of the 12th century, flushed twice daily by high tides.

Meeting a lane, East Sandgate, bear briefly right to find the Tunny Club (original headquarters of the tunny hunters into the 1950s). It’s now a cafe, but has interesting photos of tunny fishing etc. Go immediately left alongside the Princess Cafe to see the last stretch of The Bolts. Halt at a cross-path at number 19. Turn right on Quay Street to view number 2 immediately. It’s at the junction of Quay Street and Whitehead Hill.

This old house is a survivor from an earlier age. It maybe dates from the late-15th century. You’ll see it’s a timber-framed, gabled building. The timbers of the second storey jut out to support the gable. The windows are all of later construction and the half-timbering, once concealed with lath and plaster, is now visible again between the modern pebbledash finish. Number 2 was restored in 1965 and provides a reminder of how this street looked in Elizabethan times when it was the principal thoroughfare of Scarborough. Directly ahead near the right corner features The Three Mariners. It bears a blue wall plaque denoting Scarborough Heritage Trail. It’s described as, “One of the earliest public houses in the town.”

Leaving Quay Street, meet Sandside and cross to the Old Harbour. Walk beside the harbour towards Luna Park and the big wheel. Pass a line of decorative wall anchors to reach The Tea Pot Cafe. Take your refreshment up the steps beside Shell Shack, and join the tunny sculpture on the upper deck on a 12ft wave of shimmering stainless steel. Read Ray Lonsdale’s words: “Big fish, little boat, just a rod, a line, a man etc...” What a work of art!

Leaving the tunny, descend the steps and cross the road to ascend a slope alongside Castle Hill. Keep to the slope and ignore the steps. Shortly passing the top of Dog and Duck Steps, reach Burr Bank. To your right elevation is Overton Terrace. Seek just ahead a railed terrace with seats and a fantastic view to Oliver’s Mount. Don’t miss Scarborough and District Civic Society’s admirable trail of public art. Here is number 4, featuring Scarborough’s South Bay at Night by Carl Herman dated 1887-1955. Read the information and compare the scenes.

Leaving Burr Bank, go right to turn left into Princess Street. Walk to the far end of Princess Street to meet St Mary’s Street. Close by, opposite the Leeds Hotel (built in 1693 and restored in 1900), you’ll find the remnants of the once richly carved buttercross which had to be protected by a metal grille.

During the Middle Ages most street junctions in Scarborough had a stone cross erected. Now only this one survives at the junction up West Sandgate and Princess Square. For several centuries it was the focal point of street markets in the town. It’s believed to date from around 1670. It would have been the centre of the butter market. In the 18th century, butter was a major export. It was an 
acceptable meeting place, and visiting preachers would 
occasionally use it as a base. The town crier would read 
official proclamations there too.

Next, cross Princess Square to ascend St Mary’s Street. Continue up Church Stairs Street. Seek to your left a blue wall plaque just before reaching the steps.

The plaque reads: “John Wesley preached 14 times on this site, 1759-1790”. Continue directly ahead and mount all the steps to St Mary’s Church, following pavers to the church door.

Scarborough’s Parish Church dates back to 1180 when building began. It was damaged during the Civil War 1644-1645. I suggest you visit the grave of Anne Bronte who died in 1849. It’s beyond the car park walking off Castle Road.

Turning left along Castle Road, pass St Peter’s Catholic Church, and almost opposite are the Wilson’s Mariners’ Homes. Beyond Auborough Street, turn left down Queen Street as far as Market Street. The market was built in St Helen’s Square in 1853, and is worth both exterior and interior viewing. The vaults were formerly used as the Custom House.

With your wanderings complete, enjoy refreshment in one of many excellent cafes in the area. Feeling refreshed, return up Newborough and Westborough to the shopping precinct.

Distance: 3 miles approximately (maximum).

Refreshment: Plenty of choice along the route, eg The Tea Pot Cafe near Coastguard Station.

l Maureen’s book Driving and Rambling On has now sold out. She said: “May I thank all readers for their kind support. Rural Rambles Vol 14 should be available next spring.”