History: Mere was once appreciated

Your Day Out feature (Scarborough News, March 5) gave new life to an old error that I thought was dead. Seamer lost its Mere as a result of the drainage of the east carrs undertaken more than 200 years ago, whereas Scarborough Mere, though much reduced in area, still exists in Burtondale.

Seamer Mere was once a great expanse of water on the south-west side of the village as shown on the earliest maps as Staxton (1577) and Speed (1610). It was a residual remnant of the pre-historic lake of Pickering. From the earliest surviving documentary records, Scarborough Mere has been called locally as simply “The Mere”. For example, “the stanke of watter adyoinying to Wapnes called the Marre” (1604). Outsiders, however, often used a more particular description. In Ogilby’s map of 1675 “Byards Water” is on the east side of the main land route from the south in to Scarborough. According to a survey of 1796, “the Meer” was then a lake of 30 acres and a swamp of three acres more. “Byards Water” or “Byward Wath” was drastically reduced by the construction of the new railway line from York in 1844-5 to the east of what we call the A64.

The Mere was a rich source of fish and jealously guarded by its owner, the corporation of Scarborough. Trespass on the “King’s stank” was a criminal offence. In 1781 John Pecket was in a York prison as punishment for fishing without permit in the Mere. Only the two bailiffs of the borough had free angling rights there during their year of office.

Strictly speaking, the Mere belongs to Falsgrave. Along with Deepdale and Burntondale, it was parcel of the royal Domesday manor (1087) and did not become part of the borough of Scarborough until 150 years later.

In recent years Scarborough has lost far too much and should not be robbed of its Mere, even though it has forgotten how to value it.

Jack Binns

Chatsworth Gardens