St. Andrew's United Reformed Church
Ramshill Road, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 2LN
Telephone: 01723 581642
This page contains information about the model of Medieval Scarborough, which is currently housed in the Heritage Chapel of St. Andrew's. To arrange to see the model for yourself and learn more about Medieval Scarborough, please phone the Church Historian on 01723 369070, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday 7th September 2018 Chris Hall of SAHS will give a talk at 2:00 pm about the model, as part of the Heritage Open Days events in the town.
Model of Medieval Scarborough
A brief account of Scarborough in 1377
When Henry II acceded to the throne on the death of King Stephen, he set about organising a kingdom which had seen a great deal of upheaval due to the civil wars between his predecessor and his own mother, Matilda. Henry decided the castle should be a royal property, and gave the settlement developing round his new acquisition a charter. Henry built a stone keep and created a borough. Henry's castle keep was the highest building in Yorkshire, and it could be seen for miles around, especially from out at sea. With this charter came the right to hold markets, and various other privileges. It put Scarborough on a par with York - there would be freemen, burgesses, taxes and tolls could be levied and the borough rapidly became a trading town. It became so prosperous that a second market was created and the town became a double borough - which is quite a rarity.
In the 13th and 14th centuries a town's wealth was measured by the taxes paid to the royal exchequer and at one point Scarborough was the 14th most prosperous town in England, and therefore a very important place. Long before Scarborough became a seaside resort people flocked here for the famous Scarborough Fair, 40 days of trading and entertainment, held on the beach and in the streets.
Though basically a trading market, the event attracted jugglers, dancers, magicians, pickpockets and cutpurses. Traders brought with them goods from all over Europe and beyond and the main export was herring. The Roma Catholics would, with fast days and non-meat days, consumed a vast quantity of fish. Scarborough herring was high quality and was exported to mainland Europe, especially Norway, North Germany, Holland and Iceland!
The model is a marvellous teaching tool, but parts are now known to be incorrect. Since 1987 a number of excavations have taken place and some of the evidence found has changed our knowledge of the town Peter Farmer made using what was known in 1977.
The town was designed on the traditional grid system. Castle Road, Paradise, Longwest Gate and Princess Street, were all roughly parallel and at right angles to St Mary's Street. One street has disappeared, but recent work near St Mary's Street shows it was a processional way between the harbour- side and the church, and even today one can see where the pallbearers and the macebearers stood.
The harbour side area was not formally laid out as a grid. The original town had a defensive structure defining its limits and Peter thought this wall, which might have been of stone, ran alongside the top of the slope comprising Burr Bank and Palace Hill, and then took a right angled turn.
There was a pottery making area. This industrial part of the town was away form the main residential parts, but close enough to the markets and had kilns and sheds which are all depicted on the model. Castle Road, for which there is documentary evidence, was one of the main market areas from when William le Gros was building his castle.
St Mary's, his parish church, is shown with the east end in the course of construction. The present ruins are the result of the English Civil War in the 17th century. The church was originally twice its present size, and used to have pyramids on the towers.
The House of the Proctor of Citeaux, of the Cistercian Order, represented his order in Scarborough. His House would have had a dwelling in the town to accommodate 2 or 3 monks, but there was never an Abbey. He was here because Citeaux had the tithes of St Mary's, granted to the Abbey by Richard the Lionheart. It is likely that his residence was nearer the area known as Paradise.
The Charnel Chapel for St Mary's, which stood on the edge of the cliff, is now lost. Some of it fell down the cliff, the rest is under the Castle by the Sea. Bones are still found when pipes, etc. are being laid.
There is an open area in St Sepulchre Street. The position of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was lost for many years as it was demolished and stripped of its lead to fund repair work on the piers. When work was undertaken in Springfield, in the area of the former Adult School and the old Quaker Meeting House, the foundations of the church were discovered, so the positioning of the church on the model is relatively accurate.
The Dam Geth stream rises in Albemarle Crescent. Its original course was probably down Vernon Road, its current route is man-made. For centuries it was the town's water supply. The Springfield Excavations of 2004 revealed a pond with peaty fill over 3 metres deep, the deepest excavation done in the Old Town. This land was owned by Roger the Miller and the pond would be his millpond - the route of the stream has been moved over time. It had stone sides, a fact not known when the model was made.
The Harbour. The first pier alignment of the Outer Pier was of timber with rubble fill. The Quay was constructed of huge baulks of timber. The quay alignment has moved further seawards so that Quay Street is now 100 yards from the sea, due to the silting up of the harbour and the pressure for more land.
Recent excavations revealed sand dune formation was taking place in the harbour. The sand was wind-blown and land was reclaimed by dumping vast amounts of rubbish.
The New Borough was surrounded by a defensive structure; a ditch, rampart and palisade. There was not originally a stone wall, though there could have been a stone gate. The stone wall was built in 1484 by Richard III, who strengthened the defences of the town. We know he built the walls by the Newborough Gate, but there is no evidence for stone walls by the Auborough Gate. It is known that Richard's stone wall curved round what is now the top of St Thomas Street, where a Blue Plaque commemorates his work.
The New Borough was also built on a grid pattern, but one a different alignment from the Old Borough. Though the roads are parallel they curve, possibly following the line of the medieval strip fields, as Queen Street shows on the model.
Scarborough had a full set of monastic orders. The Franciscans or White Friars were in the Old Town at St Sepulchre Street, at the site of the current Friarage School. The Dominicans or Black Friars held land adjacent to Queen Street, now a block of flats called 'Blackfriars'.
The Carmelites were the poorest of the Orders and the boundaries of their holdings are unknown. Possibly the Queen Street/ Newborough area. The Dominicans had further lands forwards Castle Road. The model is speculative.
Behind the former upholsterer's shop in Queen Street [next to the Lanterna Ristorante] excavations revealed no evidence of the Dominican Friary - no window tracery or decorative stonework.
The New Borough was less heavily built up than the Old Borough, and did not develop so densely, as is shown on the model.
The big chimney stacks on the houses developed because coal was burned here from quite an early date. Coal was shipped from Newcastle to London, and Scarborough harbour was a haven in bad weather, so coal could be landed here. The houses were timber framed, with wattle and daub fill and stone chimney stacks. This is borne out by archaeological evidence. Stone houses, on the other hand, are very rare. Photos show that some houses were thatched till the 1880s. Excavations when the Princess Street flats were built revealed clay tiles in a 15th century context, and stone tiles. This feature could be looked at again in all towns. London passed regulations banning thatch from the 15th century, though how much this was adhered to is unknown. There is no evidence of a great fire here, probably such conflagrations were prevented by the stone chimneys.
In the New Borough there are thatched roofs, whilst many of the roofs in the Old borough are tiled - but here Peter Farmer could have got it wrong. Some of those 'tiled' roofs could have been roofs of stone 'tiles', and the roofs would have been grey rather than red. This all shows how our knowledge has moved on over the past 35 years.
The Church and Hospital of St Nicholas are assumed to be outside the walls because it was the leper hospital. However, not all inmates had leprosy. Any kind of skin disease or infection would be assumed to be leprosy, because medical knowledge was not very advanced.
Excavation of the supposed ditch area in Marine Parade has not revealed the ditch and rampart, and there is no evidence of a wall and turret.
There was a vast amount of ship-building on the foreshore. Some buildings had their own piers. There is evidence through recent excavation that there were buildings almost on the beach, with openings beneath to enable the owners to draw their boats up under an overhanging upper storey. There are still houses in Orkney and Shetland like this.