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Scarborough in 1841

SCARBOROUGH is a borough and market town situate in the wapentake of Pickering Lythe, in the North Riding of the county of York, 40 miles north-east of York, and 217 north of London. It returns two members to parliament.

The peculiarities of the locality attracted to it inhabitants at a very early period : its name, implying a fortified rock, is of Saxon derivation, and there is reason to suppose that it was also a Roman settlement.

It is situated in the recess of a semicircular sweep of the coast, forming a bay open towards the south and south-west, and protected towards the north and north-east by the high and steep promontory with the old castle on its summit. It has, step by step and street by street, crept up the acclivity, the oldest streets haying been formerly a part of the sands, and the modem streets and terraces being the most elevated, and commanding an extensive seaward prospect.

The first authentic record of its municipal character occurs in the reign of Henry II, who conferred a charter of incorporation upon the town, and granted to the bailiffs, burgesses, and inhabitants certain dues on merchant ships and fishing-vessels, to enable them 'to make a new port with timber and stone.' It ranks amongst the most ancient boroughs that send members to parliament , and in the parliament held in 1282, the 11th of Edward I, Scarborough was the only town in Yorkshire, besides the city of York, that was summoned to send representatives. The town itself was in ancient times defended by strong walls, a moat, and earthen mounds ; and the castle must, before the application of artillery, have been absolutely impregnable to all attacks of open violence. The ruins of this ancient castle are on a promontory elevated more than 300 feet above the level of the sea, having at the summit an area of nineteen good green acres, terminating on three sides in a perpendicular rock, and the fourth side, towards the town and bay, being a steep rocky slope. The castle was built in the reign of King Stephen, by William le Gros, earl of Albermarle and Holderness, and has been the scene of many events remarkable in history. Here Piers de Gaveston, the favourite of Edward II, sought refuge from the exasperated barons, but was obliged to surrender for want of supplies, and was beheaded. Robert Aske, the leader of the Pilgrims of Grace, made an unsuccessful attempt upon the castle in 1536. In the time of Wyatt's rebellion, in 1553, it was surprised and taken by Thomas, second son of Lord Stafford, by the stratagem of introducing a number of soldiers disguised as peasants ; but three days afterwards it was retaken by the earl of Westmoreland, and Stafford and three other of the leaders were executed for treason. During the civil wars the castle underwent two sieges by the parliamentary forces, the first of which lasted twelve months. It was then, like many others, dismantled by order of the parliament. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1745, it underwent a temporary repair ; and when the danger was over, the present barracks, to accommodate 120 soldiers, were built and three batteries, for the protection of the town and harbour, have since been erected.

The style of the corporate body is, ‘the bailiffs and burgesses of the town of Scarborough.' The borough is comprehended in the Act for the regulation of Municipal Corporations in England and Wales. Scarborough combines the advantages of sea-bathing and of mineral baths, and owes to these natural advantages its past celebrity and present prosperous condition. Its neighbourhood presents a course of the finest sands in England, undulating into a variety of beautiful bays, and sheltered by lofty cliffs and bold projecting headlands. Its own bay is spacious and open to the sea, and the water pure and transparent. The sand is clear, smooth, and level, and the inclination of the beach towards the sea scarcely perceptible. No considerable river enters this part of the sea, nor is the beach so extensive as to be very hot even under a summer's sun. The sea in the month of August is some degrees cooler than at Brighton or any place south of the Thames, and bathing may he enjoyed at all times of the tide, and in almost all sorts of weather, with security and ease. There are also various excellent baths, and the most complete accommodation for the enjoyment of marine bathing.

The two mineral springs on the very edge of the sea-water are protected from its encroachment by a handsome turreted structure called the New Spa, erected beneath the cliff, on an artificial foundation or sea-wall. This handsome building comprises a large saloon to assemble and walk in, and other smaller rooms and contrivances. Both the springs have been recently (in 1840) very minutely analysed by Professor Philipps of York, and are found to comprise carbonate and sulphate of lime, magnesia, and oxide of iron, in proportions which may be found accurately stated in Dr. Granville’s ‘Spas of England:' their effects are of a cooling and tranquillising character, and are of appropriate efficacy for patients labouring under acidity and pain in the stomach.

The scenery surrounding Scarborough is of a beautiful and indeed romantic character, and numerous objects of historic or architectural attraction are to be found within a moderate distance. Towards the north, elevated moors of great extent raise their bleak and barren summits, forming a bold and striking contrast in the landscape to the highly cultivated country that lies to the westward ; and to the south and south-west the Wold Hills in the East Riding present another grand and extensive line of boundary to the prospect. Weaponness, or Oliver's Mount, little more than a mile from the town, possesses every requisite that can render a walk to its summit delightful. Within four miles is the picturesque village and parish of Harkness, where also is the elegant mansion of Sir R. V. B. Jonstone. The admirer of modern architecture may visit Castle Howard, the far-famed and splendid seat of the earl of Carlisle, while the lover of ancient remains may contemplate the ruins of Rivaulx Abbey, supposed to have been the first Cistercian monastery founded in Yorkshire, which are of considerable extent and unusually perfect.

One of the most remarkable objects at Scarborough is the Cliff Bridge, erected upon piers seventy-five feet high, over a chasm 400 feet wide, which separates the town from the Spa, between which places the bridge now forms a delightful promenade. On the northern side of the bridge is an elegant circular edifice with a dome, for the museum of the Philosophical Society, which comprises a most complete and valuable series of geological specimens : part of the same building is also used as a news-room. There are two churches, the parish church of St. Mary's, and one more recently erected, called Christ Church ; and also chapels in connection with various religious denominations - Independents, Baptists, Friends, Roman Catholics, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, and possibly some others.

Among the charities of the place may be mentioned the Amicable Society, for clothing and educating the children of poor persons in this town ; the Seamen's Hospital, and a Sea-Bathing Infirmary. There are also several charities.

The population was 6,409 in 1801 ; 6,710 in 1811 ; 8,188 in 1821 ; and 8,369 in 1831.