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Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre

The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is a little gem waiting to be discovered. Situated a short distance up the main road from the historic harbour, the Centre is crammed with lots of interesting exhibits and information about Scarborough's fascinating past. Volunteers are mostly local people, including ex fishermen, with lots of knowledge. They can give you a personal introduction to the exciting growth of Scarborough from a Viking settlement to the heyday of shipbuilding, the bombardment in WW1, our connections with the Titanic and much more.

Our current exhibition, from Jan 2014 to April 2014, is on the Royal Naval Patrol Service and Association in which many fishermen and merchant navy men worked on boats converted into minesweepers during WW2. Entrance to the exhibition is FREE and we are normally open Wednesday to Sunday 11am until 4pm.

DO YOU CARE? We are currently trying to raise £30,000 to secure a permanant home for the 1000s of photographs, documents and artifacts donated to us. If you care about saving Scarborough's amazing history then please help by donating online at www.localgiving.com or Paypal using the links at the bottom of this page or by sending a cheque to our address - 36 Eastborough, Scarborough, YO11 1NJ. Thank you.

The SMHC is run entirely by volunteers and public donations, SMHC is a registered charity, number 1144532 & a company limited by guarentee in England & Wales number 6755717. The Centre's aim is to educate the public about Scarborough's maritime heritage and to make it available to all and for future generations.

The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is located at 36 Eastborough, Scarborough, YO11 1NJ. Tel 01723 369361. ALSO ON FACEBOOK - Just use your Facebook homepage search box to find us.

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If you wish to do some research on Scarborough's history then please use the 'Research page' accessed from the main menu (page back your browser)


Why does Scarborough need a Maritime Heritage Centre?:

Scarborough was the first seaside resort in Britain. Since the 12th century the headland carried a Norman castle, visited by the medieval Kings from Henry II to Richard III, who made the port his base for war against Scotland. The castle was still capable of withstanding long sieges in the 17th century civil War between King and Parliament. It was garrisoned in the long wars against Napoleon.

Inland from the castle, the Kings chartered a borough of free men, the only royal borough on the Yorkshire coast until the founding of Hull. For centuries, palace fishmongers bought their fish at preferential prices. The old borough over-flowed west of its wall into a second new borough and on to the sands and into an undercliff port with a staith, a quay and piers. Fishermen were fishing at Dogger Bank before 1189. They sailed up the Yorkshire rivers, supplying York and Wakefield. Many monasteries bought Scarborough saltfish and herring. There has been a significant fishing community ever since. Without the fishing, there would have been no borough.

From the 13th to the 16th century, Scarborough was the fourth largest town in Yorkshire, after York, Beverley and Hull. Merchants exported wool, barley, malt and fish. From the 17th to the 19th century, in the great days of sail, this was a major shipbuilding port. The harbour was sustained by a levy on the Newcastle and Sunderland coal trade to London and Europe. Here was a 'nursery of seamen'. Some were pirates, some were smugglers, and more were traders, going the world over, many as sea captains in the 19th century.

A coastal spring of medicinal water was discovered in the early 17th century when Scarborough Spa became the nation's first seaside resort, attracting the country's aristocracy. Tea and silk were cheap in Georgian Scarborough because of the smuggling. Sea-bathing was pioneered here and many other novelties entered the heart of the British people as holidays spread more widely. There were trips to sea, sand castles, donkey rides, sand races, bathing machines, Pierrots, 'rock with letters right through' and 'boarding houses'. Dozens of other coastal places followed the Scarborough example.

Legend gives Scarborough an even longer story. Viking raiders are said to have founded a pirates' base on the shore in 966. The Norse King, Harald Hardrada, fought local men below the cliff in 1066. An old ballad says that Robin Hood was here to try his hand at fishing, without success. When the herring moved to the offshore waters from Baltic breeding grounds, the Dutchmen followed them for many centuries. The American, John Paul Jones, waited for the collier fleet off the coast.

Everybody came to the seaside resort, from the Marquis of Granby to William Smith, the founder of modern geology. The pioneer of aviation, Sir George Cayley, was born here. In 1845 Scarborough Railway Station opened for the first time when it became possible to transport fish further afield and bring trippers and holidaymakers from ever more distant places.

Scarborough has a rich maritime heritage. The town and the Yorkshire coast deserve a Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre to conserve records, display something of that rich history and to provide a focus for activities that will preserve and celebrate that heritage for our generation and others yet to come.

What we have achieved so far:

The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre has been open to visitors since November 2009. We put on public exhibitions that change every few months and have already built up an impressive library and archive. Ready reference files are now available to visitors and include those listed below. Some are very full but some remain to be developed. Donations of source material, articles, cuttings, scholars' notes and photographs continue to be made and are very welcome.

Information already held includes: Bombardment of Scarborough (16th December 1914), Customs & Smugglers, Fishermen and fisher girls, Fishing industry, Harbour, History of the port, Lifeboats, Scarborugh at war, Seamen, Sea training, Seamen's verse, Ships, Ship building, Shipwrecks, Steam and screw trawlers, Sub aqua.

Information held on ports and fisheries includes - Aberdeen, Bridlington, Filey, Flamborough, Grimsby, Hartlepool, Holland ports, Hull, London, Robin Hood's Bay, Staithes, Whitby and other English and Scottish ports.

Information held on maritime subjects includes: Canals, Coastal erosion, Emigration, Explorers, Fish, Fishing, Ganseys, Maps and charts, Missions to Seamen, Maritime museums, Pirates, Royal Navy, Seamanship, Sea songs, Ships, Shipping companies, Shipwrecks, Slavery, Smugglers and Customs, Spanish Armada, Yorkshire's coast and coastal villages, Yorkshire's maritime history, War at sea, Whaling and Yachting.

Information held on Scarborough and district history includes: Archaeology, Aviation, Castles, Churches, Directories, early Scarborough deeds, Education, Falsgrave, Hackness, Houses, Local Histories, Industry, Leisure, Local Government, Places within Scarborough, Public houses and Hotels, Renaissance, the Resort, Scalby, Scarborough maps, Scarborough people, Shops, Social life, Streets, Transport, the Undercliff, Villages, Visitors, Wills, World War 2, the Workhouse and a list of other archive sources in Scarborough. Donations of books, maps and charts, papers, posters, and records of any kind relating to local maritime history are welcome. If you or anyone you know might be interested in helping us, we would be glad to hear from you. Two significant collections of archive material have already been donated and there is plenty of work to do on them.

Our sincere thanks go to everyone who has donated items so far.

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