About Scarborough

Scarborough lies behind two magnificent bays, divided by a headland on which stands the remains of a 12th century castle. Within the town some 383 acres of land have been laid out as parks and public gardens. Scarborough provides numerous facilities for the entertainment of visitors to the town. The Spa complex, one indoor bathing pool, Alpamare outdoor swimming complex, miniature railway, tennis courts, Alexandra indoor bowls centre, bowling greens, putting greens and cliff lifts, together with cafes and shops. In addition, the Art Gallery, Wood End Natural History Museum, Rotunda Archaeological Museum and 2 Sports Centres have been provided for the benefit of the town.

To the north of Scarborough is the North York Moors National Park, to the west are the Dales and to the south are the Wolds.

Scarborough is an ancient Borough with records of Royal Charters from 1181 AD. For more than ten centuries the name of Scarborough has applied to the town which, from a Viking Settlement, then a North Sea port and later a fashionable Spa, developed into one of Britain’s most beautiful and popular holiday resorts.

ORIGIN AS A SEASIDE SPA RESORT Scarborough’s claim to be the first seaside spa resort rests on the discovery made c.1626 by Mrs “Tomyzin Farrer” of the Medicinal properties of Scarborough’s spring waters. “Taking the water” quickly became Scarborough’s accepted medicine and their fame spread. It was Dr Robert Wittie who published “Scarborough Spaw” in 1660 which advocated the waters as a cure for all ills. He inadvertently initiated the summer season, recommending that the waters were best drunk mid-May to mid-September. because of this, the gentry and well-to-do who were accustomed to making regular visits to health spas like Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Buxton were soon flocking to Scarborough. About the same time doctors began promoting sea-bathing as a healthy pastime. The medics gave plenty of advice on the best way to bathe: briefly, healthy males for five minutes before breakfast daily; the ‘weaker sex’, invalids and children for three dips of two minutes duration three hours after breakfast three times a week! To facilitate sea bathing a horse-drawn box on wheels could be hired to take the bather out into the sea, enabling the occupier to undress modestly inside before ‘dipping’ in the sea.

It was quite acceptable for men to bathe naked until the later 19th century. A visitor writing a letter in 1733 describes the bathing at Scarborough saying: ‘It is the custom for not only gentlemen, but the ladies also, to bathe in the seas; the gentlemen go out a little way to sea in boats (called here ‘cobbles’) and jump in naked directly: ‘tis usual for gentlemen to hire one of these boats and put out a little way to sea a-fishing. The ladies have the conveniency of gowns and guides. There are two little houses on the shore, to retire for dressing in. What virtues our physicians ascribe to cold baths in general and are much more effectual by the additional weight of salt in sea-water: an advantage which no Spaw in England can boast of but Scarborough.’Scarborough responded to the influx of visitors by providing every fashionable amenity. A Long Room in St Nicholas Street provided nightly dancing, music, gaming tables and billiards; in the afternoon plays were acted under the management of Mr Kerregan in 1733 and from 1776 evening performances were given in the Theatre, there were coffee shops and bookshops with circulating libraries and horse-racing on the sands. A whole range of accommodation was offered to suit every pocket-board and lodgings, a room at inns and hostelries, renting a Georgian house or later top-quality hotels.

THE SPA The town’s business and trading activities were in decline during the earlier 17th century and having experienced two sieges during the Civil War was showing little sign of recovery. Scarborough’s birth as a seaside spa resort, which brought renewed prosperity, developed from the almost accidental discovery of the mineral spring waters earlier that century. About 1626 Mrs ‘Tomyzin’ or ‘Thomasin’ Farrer, a woman of substance and wife of one of Scarborough’s leading. citizens, John Farrer, discovered natural springs bubbling out beneath the cliff to
the south of the town. These waters, which stained the rocks a russet colour, tasted slightly bitter and cured minor ailments. She told her neighbours and friends about the beneficial effects and soon drinking the waters became the accepted medicine for Scarborough’s townspeople. If further proof were needed, they were said to have cured scurvy suffered by the weakened garrison of the besieged Castle in the Civil War. The medical profession analysed the mineral waters and found a high content of magnesium sulphate, its healing properties certainly as effective as Andrew’s Liver Salts. Dr Robert Wittie, the principal advocate of the mineral waters, published several books proclaiming the waters as a cure for all ills.

Taken from information sheets provided by: Tourist Information Centres

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