Town-centre heritage

The Odeon Cinema was built in 1930 in typical Oscar Deutsch style
The Odeon Cinema was built in 1930 in typical Oscar Deutsch style

This short heritage trail is pretty level throughout, being in the town centre.

Start at the railway station (1), where the clock tower is a prominent landmark. Scarborough’s Railway Station was built by architect GT Andrews. It is a simple, elegant style with the central portion of the facade protruding and ornamented with columns and balustrade. The four clock faces were illuminated by gas until 1970.

The first train run by the York and North Midland Railway Company on this line arrived in Scarborough at 1.45pm on July 7, 1845. Passenger platforms 6 to 9 were taken out of service in 1984 and became a covered car park. The original platform roofing was retained as the station is a listed building. Scarborough station was believed to have the longest platform seat in the country on Platform 1.

From the station’s forecourt, look across Westborough to the corner of West Square, and you’ll see the Victoria Hotel (2). This was the birthplace of the actor Charles Laughton, in 1899. He established an international reputation as an outstanding actor. He was the eldest of three sons of a notable family of local hoteliers. Having joined the army in 1917, he returned to Scarborough after the war. His first stage success was at Will Catlin’s old Arcadia Theatre, where the Futurist now stands, in an amateur production of Hobson’s Choice, in 1923. Concentrating entirely on his acting career, he married actress Elsa Lanchester and became a Hollywood 

Charles Laughton died at his Hollywood home in 1962.

Now walk about 200 yards towards the traffic lights just below the station to the Stephen Joseph Theatre (3). Formerly known as the Odeon cinema, Scarborough’s Odeon was erected in 1930 by Oscar Deutsch.

By 1936 he’d built 37 Odeons. Someone hit on the humorous acronym, ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’, hence the name ODEON.

The Odeons built in that era have certain hallmarks. One feature was cream glazed tiling, supplemented by black tiling in some areas, as in Scarborough. Most have large panes of glass set in simple metal frames. The majority have a prominent tower element bearing ‘ODEON’. The interior was kept simple with Art Deco motifs in pastel colours selected by Deutsch’s wife. The majority of Odeon cinemas have been demolished or radically modified.

Cross to the far side of the roundabout to a concrete building known as Pavilion House which stands on Valley Bridge Road. Walk past Pavilion Square to Somerset Terrace, to your left. Walk down Somerset Terrace past the site of the old bus station to York Place. Now turn right, and a few yards ahead you enter a pleasant garden setting on The Crescent (4). Turn right by the hotel. One of Scarborough’s visual delights is this elegant crescent built mainly in early Victorian times. Land was acquired from John Tindall of the Scarborough ship-building family. Building work began in 1833 and was finished in 1857. John Uppleby probably master-minded the ambitious project. Strict enforcement of planning controls ensured that the broad sweep of The Crescent has been preserved in all its splendour.

Note the ornate ironwork of the balconies at first floor level. The delightful Crescent Gardens are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

At the end of The Crescent the next building to your right is Wood End Museum. Walk down the short entrance drive and read the two commemorative plaques on the side and front walls of this former home of the artistic Sitwell family.

Wood End Museum (5) is now known as Wood End Creative Workspace. Previously it was a Museum of Natural History. It was the first of four substantial properties to be built on the seaward side of The Crescent in 1835. It became a hive of social, artistic and literary activity during the ownership of the Sitwell family from 1870 until 1925.

Crescent Art Gallery (6). John Uppleby decided to house his family within the development. He had to build it in the space between Wood End and Londesborough Lodge. It was built in Italianate style. Within a few years of moving into the house in 1845, Uppleby added a low, two-storey wing on the Wood End side of the building. He died aged 52 in 1856.

Scarborough Corporation purchased Crescent House in 1942 for £3,000. It was turned into a welfare clinic and children’s nursery. In 1947 it became the town’s first public art gallery. Today it houses an unrivalled collection of paintings and water colours. The greatest benefactor has been the late Tom Laughton CBE, hotelier, art collector and younger brother of the famous Charles. The entire ground floor was devoted to the Tom Laughton Collection. The extensive basements are transformed into an arts workshop.

From the art gallery, a few yards beyond features a building not open to visitors, and at present for sale.

Londesborough Lodge (7) is the best sited of all four Crescent houses. Good sea views from south-facing windows, and delightful terraced gardens behind the house make it admirable. It started life as Warwick Villa in 1839. Its most celebrated owners acquired the property in 1853. Lord Albert Denison Conygham, later the first Lord Londesborough, was seeking a suitable seaside home in Scarborough. His son, the first Earl of Londesborough and grandfather of Sir Osbert Sitwell, spent his annual rental income of some £100,000 with lavish abandon. His 
interests included yachting, racing, shooting and the theatre. A typical extravagance was the regular laying of almost a mile of red carpet whenever the family visited the Spa! It crossed what was then a private footbridge, which you’ll see still spans Vernon Road today.

The Londesborough era ended in 1919 when the family sold many properties including Londesborough Lodge. It was purchased by Scarborough Corporation in 1925 for £6,000. Then followed medical baths, and Museum of Local History, and from 1981 it housed the Council’s Tourism and Amenities Department. The Scarborough studios of BBC Radio York were located here too.

Cricket lovers may be interested to learn that the second Lord Londesborough helped to found Scarborough’s annual Cricket Festival in 1876.

Carry on walking along the seaward side of Crescent Gardens, and turn left up Vernon Road to the town centre. With over half of this heritage trail completed, don’t miss next week’s follow-up in the Scarborough News. Part 2 will feature on Thursday November 8.