Writer and Masterchef judge William Sitwell donates long lost photographs of his literary family's Scarborough retreat to local museum
Woodend was built in 1835 for the civil engineer George Knowles, who was responsible for town projects such as part of the South Cliff Gardens, In 1870, he sold it to the Sitwell family.
Sir George Sitwell's three children - Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell, who all became eminent writers - spent their summers at Woodend, a marine villa which had its own pottery studio in a folly tower in the garden. Edith was born there in 1887.
The family's association with Woodend ended in 1934, when Scarborough Council bought the house and it became a natural history museum.
Since 2006, it has been run as a creative space for artists, and the Sitwells' conservatory is now a gallery.
The Sitwell siblings found literary fame in London, where they were at the centre of a writers' circle in the 1920s. Osbert inherited their father's baronetcy.
Although the family seat is now in Northamptonshire, food writer William Sitwell, the brother of the current baronet, has paid homage to the family's links to Scarborough by donating a series of newly discovered photographs of Woodend to the Scarborough Museums Trust.
William, the grandson of Sacheverell who also writes for The Telegraph and has been a judge on Masterchef, was clearing some family belongings when he came across the collection of images from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
They depict parts of the villa including the entrance hall, living rooms and a palm-filled glasshouse.
Mr Sitwell, who is the heir to the baronetcy, said: “I’ve visited Scarborough on many occasions and have always relished a trip to Woodend, now a creative hub run by a collection of talented people my ancestors would be proud of. But it’s always strange walking round a museum and wondering what it must have been like as a home, with the presence of my eccentric forebears.
"When I came across these old photographs, the settings looked familiar and then I realised they were of Woodend, fully-furnished and looking very Victorian. I knew at once that they should be sent to Andrew Clay who would cherish them and share them with visitors. They bring a wonderful insight to a lost era.”
Scarborough Museums Trust chief executive Andrew Clay added: "The vintage photographs of Woodend are delightful. We have often wondered what these rooms looked like when the Sitwell family lived here and now we have a tantalising glimpse of Woodend in that era.
"It is fascinating to see the beautiful furnishings that once adorned these spaces. They conjure up a long lost age of elegance and remind us today how sophisticated life on The Crescent really was. We are very grateful to William Sitwell for making this gift and we look forward to keeping in touch."
The Trust hopes to put the images on public display when the gallery re-opens.
The Crescent was once one of Scarborough's most prestigious addresses, and was part of a Georgian development begun when the town was a retreat for the gentry, who held their own social season there. Woodend was one of four villas overlooking South Cliff built out of a total of seven planned by the architects, but the scheme slowed down when the railway arrived in Scarborough in the 1840s, making it more accessible to the working classes. Although the town became a popular seaside resort, its fashionable reputation waned.
One of the other villas was Londesborough Lodge, which was called Warwick Villa before it was purchased by the Earl of Londesborough, William Denison. Denison's daughter, Lady Ida, was the Sitwell children's mother.
William Sitwell announced in 2020 that he was putting the family home, Weston Hall, on the market. When his grandparents lived there between the wars, they hosted guests such as Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh, and Nöel Coward at the house.