Tag Archives: history

Scarborough

 

Luna Park, Scarborough

Luna Park, Scarborough

Scarborough is one of my favourite places in Yorkshire and not just because of childhood nostalgia (my grandparents used to take me on day trips there when I was a child). On a sunny day the beaches are glorious and there’s plenty to see and do in the town itself and surrounding countryside, particularly if you have an interest in history.

South Beach, Scarborough

South Beach, Scarborough

Scarborough has been inhabited for a long time – the rocky headland housed a Bronze Age settlement and the Romans built a signalling station on the same site in 370AD to warn of Saxon raiding parties. The town itself was founded by the Danes in 966AD but in 1066 the army of the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada razed Scarborough and killed many of its inhabitants.

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Despite the destruction, Scarborough’s position on the coast and the attraction of its easily-defended headland, meant that it was too valuable to be left in ruins. The town was rebuilt, receiving its first charter from Henry I in 1100, and construction of a castle began around 1136. The keep – which still stands – was built in 1158 by Henry II, and the town began to flourish. By the 14th century Scarborough housed around 2,500 people.

The English Civil War saw the castle under siege twice, in 1645 and 1648. After the parliamentary army captured the castle for the second time they partially demolished it to prevent the royalists using it again.

The legacy of the English Civil War

The legacy of the English Civil War

In the 18th and 19th centuries Scarborough became a spa town and a popular seaside resort, especially when it was connected to the then very-new railway network in 1845. Sea air and bathing in sea water were considered healthy by the Victorians and particularly recommended for convalescence. Anne Bronte, like many of those afflicted with TB at that time, came to Scarborough in the hope of curing the disease  but sadly died soon after. She is buried in the churchyard.

Anne Bronte's grave in Scarborough

Anne Bronte’s grave in Scarborough

Scarborough castle is now owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit. The town is fairly easy to get around but, be warned, it is a steep climb up to the castle and parts of the town!

Scarborough 04

Parking in Scarborough is not particularly easy and the A64 can be one long traffic jam of caravans in holiday weeks and Bank Holidays. The Park and Ride is highly recommended! Alternatively there are trains via York, including – in summer months – the Scarborough Spa Express heritage steam train via Leeds, Wakefield, and York.

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Whitby Abbey and Dracula too

Whitby Abbey 5

Following on from yesterday’s post about Lindisfarne, another great place to visit is Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire.

In 1897 Bram Stoker was inspired by Whitby and the Abbey in particular to write Dracula – and it’s easy to see why! The town is incredibly atmospheric (although if you climb the 199 steps up to the Abbey from the town you may need to sit down for a while in order to appreciate it!) and the winding little streets and quaint shops below the Abbey are a world away from shopping malls and bleak urban planning.

Whitby Abbey 1

The first monastery at Whitby (then call Streoneshalh) was founded by Oswiu, King of Northumbria, in 657AD, on the possible site of a previous Roman settlement. In 664AD it hosted the Synod of Whitby.

The Abbey was destroyed by the Vikings in 867AD but later re-founded in the 11th century after the Norman Conquest. This second Abbey was destroyed in 1539 under Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the land acquired by the Cholmley family, who used stone from the Abbey to build a house on the site.

Whitby Abbey 2

By the early 19th century much of the remaining structure of the Abbey had collapsed and in 1914 the Abbey was shelled by the German Navy. The site is now looked after by English Heritage, and the much-improved visitor centre does a reasonable job of explaining the history of the site.

Getting there:
Whitby is easily accessible by car – park either in the Abbey car park or in the town (Pay and display).

Whitby is also accessible by train – on selected days you can even travel via steam train on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Also see:
The Dracula Experience – speaks for itself
The Magpie Cafe – fresh seafood on the seafront is a must
Whitby Jet – unique jewellery made from jet
Robin Hood’s Bay – former smuggler’s den and picturesque seaside village

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Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne 1

Lindisfarne is a small island off the coast of Northumbria with a long and fascinating history. Lindisfarne Priory, founded by St Aidan in 635AD, is one of the key parts of that history and when I got the chance to spend a few hours there recently I jumped at the chance – not having visited Lindisfarne (also called Holy Island) since I was a small child.

Getting to Lindisfarne by car is easy, as long as you check the tidetables! At high tide the causeway from the mainland is impassable, so make sure to stop and check the boards at each end of the causeway before you start your crossing. Once you’re on Lindisfarne, the best place to park is the big public car park – although this does mean a bit of a walk to see the sights.

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Lindisfarne has been inhabited since the Stone Age but it was St Aidan – an Irish monk from St Columba’s monastery on Iona who was invited by Oswald, king of Northumbria, to bring Christianity to his people – who established the island as a major centre of culture for Anglo-Saxon England. His proteges included Hild, later to become Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby. Aidan died in 651AD but by then Christianity was well and truly established in England.

St Cuthbert, who remains strongly associated with Lindisfarne, was born the year that Aidan founded Lindisfarne Priory, and is said to have received a vision of Aidan being carried to heaven by angels when he was 16. Cuthbert became a monk, first at Melrose and later at Ripon – but at that time there was a major conflict between two distinct strands of Christianity in England: the Celtic Rite and the Roman Rite. Ripon adopted the Roman Rite in 661AD and Cuthbert, preferring the Celtic Rite, returned to Melrose, where he became Prior.

In 664AD the Synod of Whitby settled the ongoing dispute in favour of the Roman Rite, and Cuthbert, with his background in the Celtic Rite and reputation for devotion and tactful leadership, was sent to Lindisfarne to ease the transition to the Roman Rite. He remained at Lindisfarne for 12 years, before leaving to live the simple life of a hermit.

In 685AD Cuthbert became Bishop of Lindisfarne however, with increasing infirmity, he resigned the following year and died in 687AD. He was buried at Lindisfarne Priory and his tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. Cuthbert’s rest was not to be peaceful, however, as the threat of Danish invasion led the monks of Lindisfarne to flee the island in 875AD, taking Cuthbert’s bones with them.

Cuthbert was interred at Durham in 999AD, moved back to Lindisfarne during William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North in 1069AD, and finally reinterred in the new cathedral at Durham in 1104AD. Cuthbert’s shrine at Durham remained a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. It was plundered during the English Reformation but the monks had prior warning and hid Cuthbert’s body.

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Lindisfarne Priory is also famous for the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the best surviving example of Celtic calligraphy and illustration. The manuscript was produced by Eadfrid, Bishop of Lindisfarne, around 700AD. They are now on display in the British Library in London.

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Bailey Hill, High Bradfield

Bailey Hill 6

For a long time I had no idea the remains of a 12th century castle were hiding behind the churchyard in High Bradfield, and it was only on the off chance that one day, out for a walk, I took a right turn at a junction of footpaths I normally continued straight on at and found myself standing in the bailey of a Norman castle.

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Boot’s Folly

Peak District 2

I’ve been fascinated for a long time by the square tower that can be seen on the hillside overlooking Strines reservoir, just off the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, and finally got around to looking into what it is and why it was built.

It’s called Boot’s Folly, and it was built in 1927 on the direction of Charles Boot, son of Henry Boot (as in the construction company!), who lived in the neighbouring Sugworth Hall, to provide work for his employees during hard economic times. Originally it had a spiral staircase inside but this was removed after a cow got stuck.

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