Nostalgia: How holidaymakers enjoyed Scarborough in its heyday

It can lay claim to being Britain’s first seaside resort, with a holidaymaking history dating to 1626, when Elizabeth Farrow discovered a stream of healing water running down the cliff and into the South Bay.

1913:  Bathers playing on the sands at Scarborough, a popular coastal resort in North Yorkshire.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1913: Bathers playing on the sands at Scarborough, a popular coastal resort in North Yorkshire. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But as these seldom-seen pictures bear witness, Scarborough’s reputation as the jewel in Yorkshire’s coastline crown was forged on providing pleasure, not pharmaceuticals. The two beaches and the boating lakes were what tourists paid to see, and in the first half of the last century they had few rivals.

Better-off visitors stayed at the Grand Hotel, once the largest in Europe, with a calendar-influenced layout of 12 floors – one for each month – 52 chimneys and 365 bedrooms. For everyone else, there were modest guest houses by the hundred.

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Between breakfast and dinner, the guests poured on to the beach to make their own entertainment. But it was the 34-acre Peasholm Park on the North Bay that was the centre for organised games.

26th May 1932: Visitors pay tuppence for six arrows at Scarborough in North Yorkshire. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

In the pre-war years it hosted so many fetes, galas and firework displays that terraced seating had to be built to accommodate the crowds.

In 1927, enthusiasts began to stage mock sea battles on the lake, a practice that continues today. Nearby were tennis courts, bathing pools and archery targets for which tuppence bought you six arrows.

Down on the South Bay was the seafront Spa, built around the source of the waters Ms Farrow had discovered. In the town’s heyday, its theatre, Grand Hall, Ocean Room, Promenade Lounge and Sun Court hosted concerts and al fresco dining for thousands of people at a time, and it became the most popular music hall venue outside London.

And while the old Futurist Theatre across the road has gone, the Spa remains – as does the revived and extended Open Air Theatre near the park.

June 1936: Bathing belles form a circle on the water's edge at Scarborough, North Yorkshire. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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26th May 1932: Queen Elizabeth I is rowed in the Royal Barge to an artificial island in North Bay, Scarborough during an open-air production of 'Merrie England'. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
30th May 1932: A group of women pay for the rental of bows and arrows at a municipal archery in Scarborough. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Paddling on the North Beach at Scarborough, England, circa 1913. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Children playing with a toy sailboat on the beach at Scarborough, England, circa 1913. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Children shrimping with fishing nets on the beach at Scarborough, England, 1913. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Sand Castles, Children On The Sands At Scarborough, Scarborough. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Boating on the Mere, Scarborough, Scarborough. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
TRADITIONAL BOXING DAY COMIC FOOTBALL MATCH, The usual (traditional) Boxing Day Comic Football Charity Match between fishermen in white shirts and top hats, and firemen in red shirts and top hats, took place on the South Sands at Scarborough. The Mayor of Scarborough, Councillor Percy Robinson, kicked off. Photograph shows The Boxing Day Comic Football match in progress, Scarborough. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The tennis courts at Scarborough, North Yorkshire, with the roof of the Floral Hall in Alexandra Gardens visible in the background right, circa 1913. (Photo by Alfred Hind Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)