Scarborough ( or ) is a town on the North Sea coast of North Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, the town lies between 10–230 feet (3–70 m) above sea level, rising steeply northward and westward from the harbour on to limestone cliffs. The older part of the town lies around the harbour and is protected by a rocky headland.
With a population of just over 61,000, Scarborough is the largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast. The town has fishing and service industries, including a growing digital and creative economy, as well as being a tourist destination. Inhabitants of the town are known as Scarborians.
Scarborough was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1835. For the Borough of Scarborough in the post-1974 county of North Yorkshire, which covers a much broader area, see Scarborough District
The town was reportedly founded around 966 AD as Skarðaborg by Thorgils Skarthi, a Viking raider, though there is no archaeological evidence to support these claims made during the 1960s, as part of a pageant of Scarborough events. The origin of this belief is a fragment of an Icelandic Saga. In the 4th century there had briefly been a Roman signal station on Scarborough headland and there is evidence of much earlier Stone Age and Bronze Age settlements. However, any new settlement was soon burned to the ground by a rival band of Vikings under Tosti (Tostig Godwinson), Lord of Falsgrave, and Harald III of Norway. The destruction and massacre meant that very little remained to be recorded in the Domesday survey of 1085. The original inland settlement of Falsgrave was also a Saxon village rather than a Viking one.
Feudal and medieval
Scarborough recovered under King Henry II, who built an Angevin stone castle on the headland, and granted the town charters in 1155 and 1163, permitting a market on the sands, and establishing rule by burgesses. Edward II granted Scarborough Castle to his favoured friend, Piers Gaveston. The castle was subsequently besieged by forces led by the barons Percy, Warenne, Clifford and Pembroke. Gaveston was captured and transported to Oxford and then Warwick Castle for execution.
In the Middle Ages, Scarborough Fair, permitted in a royal charter of 1253, held a six-week trading festival attracting merchants from all over Europe. It ran from Assumption Day, 15 August, until Michaelmas Day, 29 September. The fair continued to be held for 500 years, from the 13th century to the 18th century, and is commemorated in the song Scarborough Fair:
Scarborough and its castle changed hands seven times between Royalists and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War of the 1640s, enduring two lengthy and violent sieges. Following the civil war, much of the town lay in ruins.
In 1626, Elizabeth Farrow discovered a stream of acidic water running from one of the cliffs to the south of the town. This gave birth to Scarborough Spa, and Dr Wittie's book about the spa waters published in 1660 attracted a flood of visitors to the town. Scarborough Spa became Britain's first seaside resort, though the first rolling bathing machines were not noted on the sands until 1735.
Growing influx of visitors convinced a young architect (John Gibson) with an eye to the future to open Scarborough's first purpose-built hotel. In 1841 a railway link between York and Scarborough was being talked of and he decided that the area above the popular Spa building could be developed. He designed and laid the foundations of a 'hotel'. (This was a new name derived from the word 'hostel' which would serve the same purpose but would be bigger and finer than the traditional inns). Gibson then passed the construction of this hotel to the newly formed South Cliff Building Company. On Tuesday, 10 June 1845 Scarborough's first hotel was opened—a marketing coup at the time, as the Grand Hotel, soon to be Europe's largest, was not yet finished.
When the Grand Hotel was completed in 1867 it was one of the largest hotels in the world and one of the first giant purpose-built hotels in Europe. Four towers represent the seasons, 12 floors represent the months, 52 chimneys represent the weeks and originally 365 bedrooms represented the days of the year. A blue plaque outside marks where the novelist Anne Brontë died in 1849. She was buried in the graveyard of St Mary's Church by the castle.
The town has a fine Anglican church, St. Martin-on-the-Hill, built in 1862–63 as the parish church of South Cliff. It contains works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown.
In 1929 the steam drifter Ascendent caught a tunny (Atlantic bluefin tuna) and a Scarborough showman awarded the crew 50 shillings so he could exhibit it as a tourist attraction. Big-game tunny fishing off Scarborough effectively started in 1930 when Lorenzo "Lawrie" Mitchell–Henry, landed a tunny caught on rod and line weighing . A gentlemen's club, the British Tunny Club, was founded in 1933 and set up its headquarters in the town at the place which is now a restaurant with the same name. Scarborough became a resort for high society. A women's world tuna challenge cup was held for many years.
The British record which still stands is for a fish weighing caught off Scarborough in 1933 by Laurie Mitchell-Henry.
On 5 June 1993 Scarborough made headlines around the world when a landslip caused part of the Holbeck Hall Hotel, along with its gardens, to fall into the sea. Although the slip was shored up with rocks and the land has long since grassed over, evidence of the cliff's collapse remains clearly visible from The Esplanade, near Shuttleworth Gardens.