In 1841 a railway link between York and Scarborough was being talked of and a Scarborough Architect John Gibson felt that the area above the popular Spa building could be developed. He designed and laid the foundations of an ‘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). John Gibson passed the construction of this hotel to the newly formed South Cliff Building Company. When John Fairgray Sharpin came to visit Scarborough in 1845 he was charmed at first sight, not only with the town, but with a building which had just been completed and was to ready to let. It was the Crown Hotel. Many books suggest that in the early 1840’s the South Cliff had little more than the sea and bay views and its close proximity to the Spa Saloon to attract the “well to do” visitor. Early pictures by local artists also show that there was scarcely another house on the South side of Scarborough everything was left to nature. The cliffs washed at the base by the sea were bare, windswept and unvisited. The Crown Hotel on its terrace is shown to stand remote from the rest of the town in these early painted pictures which can be viewed at the local Rotunda Museum in Scarborough. The following advert was placed on 1 June 1845 in The Times announcing the opening of this new hotel. “CROWN HOTEL, ESPLANADE. Contiguous to the SALOON, SPA, & CLIFF BRIDGE PLEASURE GARDENS, SCARBORO’. J.F SHARPIN respectfully informs the Nobility and Gentry that he has entered upon the above new anti extensive Establishment, which he is having fitted up in a superior manner with entirely new furniture, and purposes being ready for the reception of Visitors on the 10th of June next. The situation the Hotel is exceedingly beautiful, embracing from the rooms, balcony, and adjoining pleasure grounds extensive view of the Ocean and the romantic scenery of the Eastern Coast. The number of apartments exceeds 120, consisting of various suites of dining, sitting, and lodging rooms, including a magnificent Drawing room, sixty feet long. The interior arrangements are very complete, and have been formed with the object of giving (as much as would be consistent with a public establishment,) the convenience and comfort of a private residence. Hot, Cold, and Shower Baths have been fitted on the most approved plan, and can be had on the shortest notice, are easy of access and will be available also to the Visitors of the adjoining neighbourhood. The Stabling is adapted for 60 horses, the lock-up houses for 40 carriages, and the minor accommodations of the court-yard are in equal ratio. With these advantages, for a moderate rate of charge, and attentive services, .J. F. S. hopes to obtain the honour of a degree of patronage commensurate with the magnitude and costly nature of his arrangements. Scarborough, June the 1st”’
Sharpin (who latter became Mayor of Scarborough) was reported latter as saying that upon looking at the situation of the hotel in relation to the town’s romantic setting he assessed Scarborough’s potential as a first class sea-side resort (having already visited resorts in the South of England) and he imagined the area around the Crown not as it was then (1840’s); but how it could be. Accordingly he felt that if he could manage the hotel well, it would be a success. Sharpin subsequently took a 12-year lease on the premises at the age of 24 years old. Sharpin was latter quoted as saying that he felt at the time that he would definitely need to expend large amounts of money in quality newspaper advertisements in the London to encourage wealthy people to undertake the arduous journey north. This Sharpin did, it was carried out in a systematic and calculated way; advertisements were placed in every newspaper and publication of quality with the primary message that “the comforts and conveniences of the Crown Hotel Scarborough’s first hotel extolled in glowing but simple unexaggerated terms.” From the Crown Hotel’s inception it was made abundantly clear that it would cater mainly for family parties. Sharpin latter stated that he knew the close-knit social structure of the wealthy at that time and he would have to “woo” them to the Crown Hotel and Scarborough; most rich families traveled with an entourage which might include eligible daughters, young children with nannies and servants and they would gather where they would most likely to meet where friends of their own standing were staying.
In June 1847 a Sharpin advertisement declared that: “This beautifully situated and extensive establishment commanding an uninterrupted view of the sea is now ready for the reception of families.” In August 1851 Sharpin was proud to report his success to the newspapers in the following editorial: “SCARBOROUGH,—CROWN HOTEL, ESPLANADE. CONTIGUOUS TO THE SPA, SALOON. AND CLIFF BRIDGE PLEASURE GROUNDS. The eminence which Scarborough has attained as the great fashionable resort in the North of England excited among the wealthy inhabitants an anxious desire to afford accommodation suitable to the high rank and increasing number of its visitors. From this spirit of improvement arose the Crown Hotel—a large and splendid edifice, containing great architectural beauty, with the most commodious arrangements, and the furniture corresponding in every respect with the superior character of the building. The number of rooms exceed 150, consisting of various suites of apartments with a magnificent Public, Drawing and Dining Room, in which, during the season, a series of Private Balls are held by the Visitors staying at the Hotel. The site to unrivalled—the Hotel rises majestically amid the splendid mansions and tastefully designed villas, gardens, gay walks, and sylvan shades the diversified and highly picturesque scenery of the South Cliff. The prospect from the rooms, balcony, and adjacent pleasure grounds, embraces in front the wide expanse the Ocean; to the right the romantic scenery of the eastern Coast terminating in the bold promontory of Flamborough Head; and to the left, the town and Castle of Scarborough, its port and its Shipping, and the sands with their every-varying scene of life and gaiety. Families will find the above extensive Establishment most agreeably situated, commanding a splendid view of the Ocean, and combining every comfort and convenience. N.B.—Table d-Hote at Five o’clock. BILLARDS AND BATH ROOMS IN THE HOUSE. STABLING FOR SIXTY HORSES. An OMNUBUS AND CABS AT THE RAILWAY STATION. Mr. J.F. SHARPIN, Proprietor”
The power of advertising not only served the Crown well, it encouraged more and more people to come and see the town which received so much attention in the press. In 1845, the same year that Sharpin signed the lease for his hotel, the York and Scarborough railway opened offering new adventurous and more affordable transport. Then gradually as the railways extended their services some visitors to the Crown were also choosing to travel by train. It seems a strange anomaly that while there was stabling for 60 horses and housing for carriages at the rear of the hotel, an omnibus was driven sedately to the railway station when trains were due, to collect guests and their luggage. Also a letter bag was taken from the hotel each afternoon half an hour before the Post Office was due to close. How delicately poised was that era between the old order and the new, and how complicated, administration must have been then, as it is today, to strike a happy balance in a rapidly changing world. Despite minor difficulties the Crown flourished. Wealthy guests came in their thousands from London, Liverpool, The Crown Hotel, Cheltenham, New York, Paris, Vienna and Australia. They came from castles, halls, palaces and chateaux. Rich industrialists came and so did titled lords and ladies, archbishops came and even royalty. It was fashionable at that time to print a visitors list in the local paper.
The Crown proved so busy that an extension was needed; one vital amenity was required, the Crown had at the time no ballroom. John Sharpin realised that having attracted fashionable visitors it was up to him to provide a special room where they could entertain. He planned this addition, a ballroom was opened in 1847 and was subsequently used by visitors for their private dances.
The next advertisement for the Crown announced that — “The new ballroom has rendered the House in every respect complete” Sharpin’s vision had become reality. The Crown — the first hotel to be built in Scarborough with the new name “Hotel” was a success.
1850’s holiday lifestyle of a Crown guest in 1850 in the book, ‘Sojourn in Scarborough 1850’ (The Diary of Edward Baker) Published by The Old Hall Press 1984; The author writes: Saturday 14th “I left by the Scarborough, Bridlington and Hull Branch Railway, at a little after 1 o’clock for far famed Scarborough, 423 (Yorkshire) 45 miles, which I reached at a little after 4’clock; (fare 10/6) and took a fly to the Crown Hotel, situated on the South Cliff, which is the first Hotel here, with accommodation for nearly 200 people, they make up 160 beds, and stabling for 80 horses. I was very fortunate in meeting with good apartments. After fresh dressing, I went into the Grand Saloon or Drawing Room, and joined the public dinner table at 5 o’clock, about 80 sat down to it, and everything splendidly served up, more like grand dinner party, numerous men servants in livery and in plain clothes, belonging to the various families in the Hotel, assisted the waiters. Soon after 7 o’clock the gentlemen joined the Ladies in the Drawing Room, at 9 o’clock tea was served and the evening was spent in music, singing, cards, chess, draughts, etc., etc., about 80 to 100 were present, and some very aristocratic people here. I forgot to say that the Dining Hall is a fine room, hung entirely with choice paintings, and one end is the Music Gallery, etc., in this room the weekly Balls are given. I retired to bed soon after 11 o’clock. Sunday, the 15th After breakfasting at the public table at 9 o’clock, I started for the Old Church, St. Mary’s near to the Castle Hill, to the morning service, half past 10 o’clock, it was very crowded and the vicar gave a charity sermon for the schools belonging to the parish, the present vicar is the Revved DR Whiteside. On leaving the Church, I came upon Mr. & Mrs. Beale from the Manor House, Church Street, Stoke Newington, Middlesex, and walked backed with them, they are stopping at the Crown Hotel, but have private apartments. I took a long walk with them after luncheon, through some of the beautiful pleasure walks, and then left.them to join our public Dinner table at 5 o’clock; quite 100 sat down to it, and a splendid entertainment it was. After it was over, I went back to Beale’s private apartments, and took tea and spent the remainder of the evening with them; we separated about half past 10 o’clock. Monday, the 16th I paid an early visit to the Beales, and saw them depart a little after 9 o’clock for Derby. I went to the public table to Breakfast, and afterwards took a promenade with some of the gentlemen of the house; attended the Bands, one Band plays from ten till twelve o’clock, on the North Cliff, and the other from eleven till one o’clock, on the South Cliff, in the Subscription Room or Spa streets in the Town, and up to the Castle, where the Soldiers were going through their exercises, etc., after remaining till it was over, we returned to the Crown Hotel to luncheon at the public table at 1 o’clock. At 3 o’clock we attended Monsieur Jullien’s Conce, held at the Town Hall, some of the elite of his Band, and Miss Dolby, the vocalist, were the attractions it was full and fashionably attended, it lasted about 2 hours and a half. We joined the public Dinner Table on our return, about 80 present, and at 8 o’clock we again patronised Monsieur Jullien’s Concert, held in the same place and having the same attractions, it was crowded and fashionably attended, was over a little before 11 o’clock; we partook of tea etc, and retired to bed a little after 12 o’clock. Scarborough is one of the most beautiful spots I ever was at, and being the height of the Season is most gay, in the morning orders are given for Carriages, Saddle Horses, Boats or Sailing Vessels, etc., and numerous parties for each to join in our Hotel. One band on the North Cliff plays every morning from 10 till 12 o’clock, and the fine German Band, plays on the South Cliff, in the beautiful Subscription Room at 11 till 1 o’clock in the morning and again from 7 till 9 o’clock in the evening. The Theatre, Pay Concerts, etc. take place every evening besides weekly public Balls; It is one round of gaiety and fashionable meetings.” (N.B.1.) It is thought the reason for the reference to the Public Breakfast, Public Luncheon and Private Apartment is that some guests ate together in the dining room whilst others ate privately in their own room. (N.B.2.) The publishers printed this book exactly as it was written in the Diary.”
One of the popular adverts listing guests staying at the Crown Hotel Scarborough; I some how think you wouldn’t be able to do this today! Crown Hotel—Esplanade— The Countess Dawager of Meath Serricotts, Sussex; the Hon. John Brabazon, do the Hon Richard Brabazon, do F. Steiner, Esq., Hyndburn House, Accrington: Miss Steiner, do Mr. & Mrs. Steiner. do J Hartman Esq. & Mrs. do J. W. Simpson, Esq. Rearby, Leicestershire, Wm Gilstrop Esq. WinThorpe: Mrs. Gilstrop, do: Mr. & Mrs. Wm King, do: Mr. & Mrs. J.D. Lee, Wellworton; Mrs. Tracy Haye, Northampton: Mr. A.G. Barber, London: Miss Tringham, St John’s Wood Road, London: Miss Greenhill, London: Miss Willoughby, Hampton Gay: W.A. Shaw, Esq. & Mrs. Wycombe Lodge, London: James Alexander, Esq. & Mrs. Bradford: Louis Nathan, Esq. do; Capt A. R. Fuller, Bengal Artillery, London; Mrs. R. Bridge, do; Rev J. Robinson, Cambridge; Mrs. Robinson; the Misses Robinson; P. Arthur, Beck, Esq. Montgomeryshire; Capt Foster, March; A. Beaumont, Esq. London; H.W. Bainton, Esq. Beverley; Rear- Admiral Mainwaring, Whitmore Hall. Staffordshire; Sir George Broke, Brake Hall; Lady Broke, Miss Evans. W. Simpson, Esq. Kearsby; Major- Gen Clarke, Harrogate, Mrs. Clarke & Fam J. Stevens, Esq. Birmingham: E. Nathan. Esq. Manchester Egerton Jefferys, Esq.: H. Madox, Esq. London; Mr. & Miss E. Milliken, London; Mrs. Jasse, Great Grimsby; Mr. W. Smith, Redditch Hall; Julius H. Thompson, Esq. Enfield; Arthur Stephens- Esq. Hyde Park; Frederick Stephens, Esq.; Henry Finch, Esq. Redheath; Mr.& Mrs. Cobley, Edgbaston, Birmingham; Miss Brooke, Grimsby; Col C. Down. Harrogate: F. Clerke. Esq. London; E. Howarth, Esq.; J. Eddison, Esq. London; Mrs. Eddison; The Misses Eddison; Edward Myddleton, Esq. Myddleton Hall; George Dawes, Esq. Melton Mowbray; Mrs. Bates, Joshua Bates, Esq. London; Edward Atkinson, Esq. Grange Hall, Kirkham; Mrs. Atkinson; the Misses Atkinson; Mrs. & Miss Reillton; G. Gott, Esq. & Mrs. Armley House, Leeds; J Parker, Esq. & Mrs. London; Misses Parker; W. Eskrigge, Esq. & Mrs. London; F. Schofield, Esq. Woodfield; Misses Schofield: F. Hensdall, Esq. Hull: W Chambers, Esq. London: J. Asser, Esq. Berkeley Thompson, Esq. & Mrs. London; J. Garlick, Esq. Sydney, K. Birmingham, Esq. Leeds: F. Evans, Esq. Manchester. Sharpin leaves the Crown.
In his original advertisements John Sharpin recommended visitors to attend musical concerts at the Spa Saloon. There was easy access from the hotel. (Today if one crosses the road from the Crown, the original ornamental arch is still to be seen which is the entrance to the path through the gardens leading to the new much grander Spa building.) When the lease of the Crown expired in 1857, John Sharpin was obliged to sell its entire contents which must have been a sad and nostalgic experience. It is significant to note that the auction of the beautiful furnishings and fittings so well chosen 12 years previously, took 4 weeks to complete. At the same time Sharpin must have been proud and jubilant. The success of the Crown marked the expansion of the Esplanade and of the whole area.
Blakey the historian sums up the subsequent development — Crown Hotel “The Erection of the Crown Hotel maybe said to have marked the inauguration of the new and beautiful suburb of Scarborough known to modem residents and visitors as the South Cliff with its stately buildings and magnificent sea-views.”
and of the Esplanade which was created to the hotel front. “The elegant quarter of South Cliff— a semi-aristocratic preserve.”
John Sharpin now opted for a new lifestyle. Four years earlier he had become a member of the Town Council, been elected mayor of Scarborough and was thought at the age of 31 to be the youngest mayor in England. He had bought two houses in Huntriss Row (now a busy section of the town centre), demolished them and built his Assembly Rooms. From there, he arranged a rapid succession of exhibitions, lectures, musical performances and readings for the benefit of residents and visitors. (This is now the Pizza Hut and can be identified by a blue plaque announcing that Charles Dickens was a reader there.)
John Sharpin. When John Sharpin died at his home in York Place Scarborough in 1898 at 76 years old, his obituary stated that he was a highly respected resident of Scarborough town. To many he was much more. He was a pioneer in advertising and had excellent business principles which brought the Crown to the position of eminence it has occupied ever since. He was a publicity agent for Scarborough; his advertising introduced its splendours and beauties to the thousands of visitors who return to enjoy them year after year.
In 1857 a local body of businessmen, Scarborough Crown Hotel (Limited) took over control of the hotel. An advertisement soon appeared which would seem to reflect a change of policy at the Crown. Business must move with the times if it is to succeed, then as now.
“Mr. Thomas Winn, wine, Spirit and Porter merchant announces the opening of his Crown Hotel Vaults where Burton Pale India Ales in the highest state of perfection are London and Dublin Porter.” without problems: On the 17th November 1859 this notice appeared in the Scarborough Gazette reporting expansion and increasing business, asking for share investors in the Company: SCARBOROUGH CROWN HOTEL COMPANY (LIMITED) Nominal Capital £20,000 in 2,000 Shares of £10 each. DIRECTIONS Robert Tindall, Bsq, Chairman George F. Brown, Esq. John Hart, Esq John B. Baker, Esq. Thomas Wardell Esq. James Tindall, Esq. Robt Williamson, Esq. R.H. Tindall, Esq. Saml B. Jackson, Esq. The commanding position and capabilities of the Crown Hotel, alternate on the South Cliff. Scarborough are too well known to need description. The premises have been leased for a term of seven years, of which about four years are not unexpected, to a respectable tenant at the annual rent of £950. The whole of the premises, including Coach- Houses, Stables, Yards &c, have been purchased by the Company, on terms which offer material advantages present and prospective to investors. Not withstanding the extensive accommodation at present afforded, the increased demand, during the last few occasions has been such as to call for a understandable extension of the Building, and with that object, an adjoining parcel of ground, available for the purpose has also been comprised in the purchase made by the Company. At the sum of £18,000 only will be required for the completion of the purchase, and the expenses of forming the Company purposed at present to lease only 1,800 shares of £10 each, leaving 200 shares, representing £2,000 to be allotted when the enlargement of the Hotel may be agreed upon.” Many facts may be adduced in proof of the eligible nature of the property, and as one, it may be observed that since the establishment of the Hotel in the year 1845, the rental has increased on the renewal of each lease, the present rental being £950 per annum, as against £780 for the previous seven years. And it is anticipated that with the marked premises for the locality of the Esplanade, and the contemplated addictions to the existing accommodations, a very large increase in the present rent may be modified. Applications for the reminder of the shares undisputed of, and for further per called to be made to Mr. J.J.P. Moody. The Company NO.55. St Thomas Street, Scarborough, 10th Nov 1859 and: “Mr. John Chambers has leased the Crown Livery Stables which are spacious, well ventilated and very healthful premises contiguous to Mr. Winn’s Crown Hotel. There is a lock-up house for 30 carriages plus a large reservoir of soft water.”
It seems likely that the bar and stables were now managed independently. At this time the railway was in strong competition with the horse and carriage and its poster “Come to Scarborough the Queen of the watering Places” attracted the ‘Crown’ guests in larger numbers. The only strange happens were the stealing of horses, notably by a Mr. Jackson, the following appeared in the local paper.
“Mr. Chambers business was evidently not £5 REWARD. A man calling himself ‘JACKSON, a Horse- dealer, about 42 years old, has been unwell, and still looks so about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, thin face, sallow complexion, dark eyes, dark whiskers all round the face with a few grey hairs in them, dressed in black coats and trousers, black (or nearly so) over coast, reddish brown vest, with a raised stripe same colour, and Wellington boots, hired.
A GREY MARE AND DOG CART From the CROWN HOTEL LIVERY STABLES SCARBRO’, kept by Mr. JOHN CHAMBERS, on the 10th instant, stated he was going to Brompton and neighbourhood on business, and has not returned or been heard of since. The Mare is 6 years old, shows some breeding has been slightly blistered on all fours, been turned away, and is rough in her coat, —- has a mixture of dun with the grey on her quarters. The Dog Cart is painted dark blue, pricked out with narrow red, and has blue plush cushions. Has or had J.F. Sharpin’s name on the back in very small letters. IF STOLEN, Whoever will give such information as leads to the apprehension and conviction of the Offenders, shall receive the above REWARD, on applications to:-
MR. R. ROBERTS, CHIEF POLICE OFFICER, SCARBRO’”
In 1863 the house adjacent to the Crown, No 7 Esplanade, owned by Miss Moorson was for sale. It comprised 4 living rooms, plus 10 bedrooms as well as kitchen and servants quarters. The property was bought and easily absorbed into the Crown building without affecting the beauty of the original facade. The local writer Louise Brindley has written — “The Crown Hotel might have sprung direct from the pages of ‘Gone with the Wind’ — Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel about the American Civil War. There is a detached resemblance to one of those mansions of the ‘Deep South’ in the Crown’s fluted pillars, two balconies and central apex as well as an air of serenity wrought by time and gracious living. But the Crown was not intended to look like Tara, its architecture is on severely classical lines.”
Sir Nicholas Pevsner describing the architecture of Scarborough wrote — “Now we see the Esplanade, stark with white stucco and a grand terrace. Its centre is the Crown Hotel, only here and there detached giant columns, and their wide spacing is so odd that one wonders if two have not been taken out. The end of the Regency type of architecture comes at once.”
In 1898, The Crown was bought by Hudson Hotels at a cost of £725,000. This company also bought the Royal Hotel on St. Nicholas Street Scarborough and Raven Hall at Ravenscar near Robin Hoods Bay. They completely redecorated and furnished the Crown and gave a dinner to celebrate the re-opening. The hail was treated on ‘Pompeian’ lines with bronzed columns and fountains which gave the soft and murmur sound of falling water. The dining room had a stenciled ceiling, painted tapestry and oak paneling while lighting was from “four magnificent “electrollens” with pendant lights falling like stars from a rocket. The gilt balustrade to the upper rooms was covered in plush, and wallpapers had been especially designed for the bedrooms. Tremendous imagination must have gone into the colour schemes which included light green wallpapers and upholstery with mahogany woodwork, blue lace mahogany inlaid with boxwood and a new green-brown tint with light ash furniture. The staircase adhered to the Greek form, but introduced a ‘cheery homeliness’ with beveled plate mirrors and a fine spacious dome of stained glass with an “electrollens” pendent dropping from its centre. The new controlling company was soon extolling the virtues of the Crown.
A copy of the Scarborough Illustrated (a local publication) reveals that in about 1901 the proprietor and manager of The Crown Hotel was Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Gordon — late of the Gordon Hotels, both of whom were very well experienced in hotel organisation and administration. Mr. Gordon it tells us “is a gentleman who has practically revolutionised hotel life on this coast.” and Mrs. Gordon’s — “extensive experience as a manager is alone sufficient guarantee for the highest standards of completeness.” If three years previously it had seemed important to concentrate on advertising the beautiful furnishings and decorations, it now was important to advertise the structural alteration which improved and modernised The Crown.
“The sanitary system has been thoroughly brought up to date in every point of the establishment and a certificate to that effect attained from the Borough Surveyor. Among the more noteworthy additions have been several bathrooms and three ladies toilette rooms fitted in the most modern style. Ventilation has received close attention, all smells from the kitchen being entirely avoided. A new smoking room and lavatories have been added. The electric light has been installed throughout the entire building and every room fitted with electric bells. The dining room has been enlarged and now provides seating for 125 guests. Another much to be commended improvement is the addition of a luxuriously furnished lounge where ladies and gentlemen can meet without the latter being compelled to discard the fragrant weed.”
The coffee room, a bright and pleasant apartment faces the sea. To add to the comfort of visitors, a handsomely appointed passenger lift has been fitted for the conveyance of guests from the lower to the upper floors. The suites of private rooms are very charmingly decorated, four of them after the style of the four seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, a most harmonious scheme of embellishment carried out with extremely artistic taste. Equal attention has been bestowed on the gardens attached to the hotel, and a tennis lawn laid out. But guests hardly needed reminding of the quality of the food and wine. “It is hardly necessary to add that the arrangements of the ‘cuisine’, the quality of the wines, spirits and other beverages are fully in keeping with the highest standards of excellence for which this house has so long enjoyed a unique reputation, all being selected with critical judgment and care to meet every requirement of the most fastidious or exacting guests.” and just to add to that — “the site occupied by the Crown Hotel has no equal in Scarborough.”
The years around the turn of this century were splendid for Scarborough. Visitors were arriving in their thousands and the wealthiest of them patronised the new hotels. The Crown flourished. Visitors staying in hotels would be used to servants attending their needs and wants and would expect nothing less when staying away from home. Some would bring a personal maid or a valet with them, but the Staff of the Crown would be trained to the highest of standards and the comfort of guests would be their priority.
Communication by internal telephones was to be a thing of the future but the electric bells which had been fitted to each room would summon a servant to deal with a request. The day started with tea served to guests in their bedrooms. This could have been a tedious task if trays had to be carried up from the kitchens, but there was a much more convenient arrangement. On each floor was a service cupboard equipped with crockery cutlery, trays, the necessary ingredients for making a cup of tea and a ‘still’ — a piece of apparatus for boiling water. The trays were prepared and quickly delivered to each bedroom. Shoes or boots left outside a bedroom door at night would be cleaned, polished and returned to the owners the following morning. A Guests suit could be sponged and pressed and a ladies gown repaired or ironed on request, extra refreshments could be bought, or a doctor obtained if a guest was unwell. Bedroom furniture would be big, heavy, ornate, free standing and of solid wood as was the fashion of the day. Although by now bathrooms and flush lavatories had been installed, they were downstairs in the public areas, so the bed draperies concealed the chamber pot for use in the night. One of the many duties of the chamber maid was to empty the pots into a slop-bucket daily when the rooms were tidied and beds made up. There must have been a tremendous quantity of bed linen, and towels to be washed daily in a hotel of this size, and this was sorted, bundled then dispatched to a town laundry. At the same time the washed pressed linen of the previous batch would be returned.
It is unlikely that any of the guests would have had much idea of the amount of administrative work done by the manager, or of the long tedious hours worked by the staff to make the hotel function efficiently.
Throughout the day’s activities, Crown guests would be smartly and suitable turned out, but, dressing for the evening dinner was the high spot of the day. The ladies would bare their shoulders and display their figures in the most beautiful and stylish gowns, and the gentlemen would complement the ladies in frock or dress uniform. After evening dinner, guests could join the others in the lounge for a game of cards or a gossip, or contribute to a musical evening around the grand piano. The gentlemen may have wished to retire to the bars, smoking room or enjoy a game of billiards. During the season, there would be ballroom dancing almost every night of the week and a suitable orchestra would be hired to provide the music. Dancing was much more formal then and some dances were performed in ‘sets’ so that eight or ten people stepped out in sequence. Those taking part were expected to be accomplished in this art to ensure that the dance progressed smoothly. A Master of Ceremonies would preside over the ballroom, announce each dance in turn and at the same time invite the gentlemen to ‘take your partners’ for the next waltz or the polka. It was considered good manners for a gentleman to dance with every lady in his party, whether she be a young beauty or an elderly widow; and a gentlemen never asked an escorted lady to dance without the consent of her consort. One of the many duties of the Master of Ceremonies would be to encourage the shy bachelors to approach the quiet or less attractive of the young ladies and invite her to dance and so make sure that the evening was enjoyable for all. One wonders how many romances started in the ballroom, and how many hearts were broken and unvisited. The splendid Crown Hotel on its elegant terrace stood alone and remote from the rest of the town.
Holiday lifestyle of a Crown guest at the turn of the century; standards of behaviour of guests at the Crown would not so much be imposed as expected. Their clothing and personal belongings would arrive in huge trunks big enough to hold many changes and in wide varieties of style to suit their activities throughout the day and evening. Breakfast would be taken leisurely in the dining room overlooking the sea and harbour, and a decision would be made on how to spend their time; to sit around in the lounging areas, stroll the nearby Italian gardens or to organise a game of billiards or tennis. The pace of life would be slow and yet a long stay in Scarborough would allow a visitor the chance to experience all of the developing amenities and most especially the gardens leading to the Spa.
A traveler of the time wrote: – “At Scarborough wherever there is an open Space, the Corporation has acquired it for public use and enjoyment even though it may have been a bit of crumbling cliff a notice threatening trespassers would probably be removed to the museum as a curiosity.”
There would be music at the Spa, and a rich programme of concerts, variety, drama and opera at the Londesborough Theatre adjoining the Pavilion. Frivolous young guests may have liked to watch Will Catlin’s Pierrots on their open-air stage on the foreshore site, or attend a film at a newly opened cinema. But it is likely that Mamma’s approval would be needed before a visit could be made to the Peoples Palace under the Spa Bridge. There entertainment included exotic grottoes, oriental theatre, penny arcades, side shows and wax works. These were considered ‘rather vulgar’ by the upper classes and intended merely to amuse the mass of trippers who crowded around the middle and north of the town.
In his book ‘Pavilions by the Sea’ Tom Laughton describes the snobbish attitudes of Scarborough at the turn of the century. He writes of his childhood: – “At this time Scarborough was a very class conscious town. ‘The best people’ lived on the South Cliff, tradesmen and shopkeepers lived and worked in the centre of the town and the lodging and boarding houses on the North Side.” “On the front, the divisions were marked by the Spa, the exclusive resort of the prosperous and respectable with a sprinkling of the aristocracy. In the centre, the foreshore was where the cheap restaurants and fun palaces catered for the day trippers, and the final barrier of the Castle Hill between the South Bay and the North Bay which catered mainly for the boarding house trade.” “Presumably we were taken to the Children’s Corner south of the Spa so that we could mix with ‘our betters’ Crown and to the southern end of the Esplanade. Charles Laughton the actor used to tell the story how on one of these occasions as a child, he noticed a particularly well dressed and attractive young woman. Pulling his mother’s hand he excitedly pointed to her saying “Look mother, look at the pretty lady.” His mother gave one quick glance and whispered “Hush Charlie, look the other way, she’s not a lady, she’s an actress.”
Scarborough continued to thrive throughout the Victorian Era, and the reign of Edward VII. The king himself visited Scarborough, as did half a million of his subjects each year, most of whom arrived by train to enjoy the fresh air, the good food and the fun. The Crown also continued to thrive and followed the usual habit of providing courteous service of highest standards for its clients who accepted it with the usual habit of the affluent. There seemed to be no reason why it all should not last forever.
Osbert Sitwell (son of the famous Sitwell family of Woodend, The Crescent) wrote of the “long settled comfort and confident respectability” — abundant in Scarborough before the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914. If this complacency led to optimism, then that was soon shattered when on December 16th of the same year, German warships battered Scarborough with 500 shells which killed 17 people (including an entire family), wounded 80 more and caused widespread damage in the town.
The Crown was left intact, but the Prince of Wales Hotel was hit and so was nearby St. Martin’s Church. Public outrage led to willing enlistment and many young Scarborough residents were recruited, perhaps some of the staff from the Crown, and some never returned. If it was possible to interview Mrs. Lily Raper who was the manager of The Crown during the war and the years following, and ask her how they managed, undoubtedly she would say that it was not easy. If regular patrons were affected badly by the war and could not take a holiday, if advertising was not allowed for security reasons, and if experienced waiters had joined the armed forces, then it is likely that hotels and lodging houses would scarcely be able to keep open. After the Armistice was signed in 1918 the world sighed with relief, but rejoicings were superficial. It had been a senseless war, which was best over, but it had affected every aspect of life. Families were bereaved, foreign trade was lost and industries in financial trouble. There was general unrest, strikes and recession. The Crown persevered and the local newspaper advertisement boasted that the R.A.C. and the A.A. recommended this as ‘Scarborough’s leading Hotel’.
In 1925 Hudson Hotels, the became the new owners of the Crown and Esplanade; they quickly appointed the ‘The Sunday Church Parade — an awesome respectable throng where improper classes were excluded from the Esplanade.
The new management structure was a family affair; Misses Dixon to take charge of the hotel. Miss Georgina controlled the restaurant and catering and Miss Nellie supervised the general administration. The two sisters who had been trained by their mother, herself a hotel manager, were to remain for 30 years until their retirement in 1955.
A York lady recalls memories of her visit to the Crown at this time: “You asked for memories of the Crown Hotel — I have them. The very mention of Christmas evokes memories of my childhood 73 years ago. Or rather, I am about to be 73 at Christmas time and for many years, I think it was about 10 consecutive years in the twenties and early thirties, my parents and I spent the Christmas holiday, about a week I think, possibly 10 days, at the Crown Hotel. This was during the reign of the Misses Dixon. That week to me was the embodiment of glamour with a capital G! We lived in Sheffield and I was an only child so that Christmas at home would have been a lack-lust affair. My parents and another couple would arrive with a cabin trunk (possibly one each! because clothes would be changed several times a day! The morning was devoted to golf and, in the early years when I was accompanied by a nanny (not so rare even for middle class children in those days) we spent the morning walking round Scarborough looking at toy shops (one in particular on the Bridge full of fascinating China dolls) or on the beach. I particularly remember Boxing Day mornings on the beach watching a football match played by fishermen wearing top hats! A traditional event, I believe. There was of course a wonderful Christmas tree at The Crown and sumptuous fare — in my memories there has never been such sumptuous fare since. The Dining Room then was overlooking the Promenade (sorry, Esplanade) and there was dancing every night in the huge Ballroom at the back. There was also a wonderful children’s party with presents for all the young guests. The Misses Dixon were very much in evidence (though awe inspiring) — a benign presence; and made much of the fact that my birthday occurred during the holiday period and I always had a special birthday cake. No wonder that my parents had decided that we should all have a more exciting Christmas at The Crown than at home. My mother seemed to spend a considerable part of the day changing her clothes! First for golf, then for luncheon, then, as far as I can remember, into a tea gown and finally for the evening’s dinner and dancing. One particular memory is of the Staff Party. Times have changed so radically that it would no longer be tolerated by the guests! On this occasion the Staff would sit down to dinner waited on by the Guests! In those days guests would all have servants at home and to reverse the roles was indeed a novelty and much enjoyed. I suppose the chef, or substitutes, must have remained in the kitchens! The majority of the Staff enjoyed the occasion in a well- mannered way but I’m afraid some took advantage and were quite rude and demanding! I expect all blew over the following day, though there must have been a few hangovers! Can you imagine nowadays, when most people go away for a respite from chores, telling them that they would be expected to work at some point!? I recall being taken to tea at The Pavilion Hotel, sadly now gone, at a time when the already famous film star Charles Laughton was staying there with his hotelier family. I am told I sat on his knee and recited a poem for him — I don’t remember what! There have been many happy Christmases since at home with our large family of 4 ‘children’ and 9 grandchildren but the very thought of Christmas conjures up a memory of an excited child running through the red turkey carpeted corridors of the Crown Hotel, reveling in all the festivities of Christmas and looking forward to her birthday on the 20th! But those days at The Crown were extra special and never to be forgotten, and I send my heartiest good wishes”
The modest advertisement printed in 1924 in the earliest versions of the Scarborough Accommodation Guide reveals that the Crown was recommended by the AA and the RAC — motoring having now come into vogue. It is interesting to note that it was still not considered correct to print a tariff but that they considered it important to remind prospective clients of the presence of the resident orchestra which added prestige to the smartest hotels. Guests would have been musically entertained throughout the day, and especially in the dining room, as well as for dancing in the evenings. This facility remained in many of the big hotels until the 1950’s.
The 1933 advertisement is more ambitious, and for the first time charges are mentioned. Evidently the Crown was still expecting only the most affluent members of society as guests the tariff would have been far beyond the means of most people. Clients who patronised the Crown in the last few peaceful years before the Second World War would enjoy the pursuit of their favourite sports and leisure activities. Those who enjoyed walking could explore the country that lies behind Scarborough, the moorlands and forest walks, and those who enjoyed motoring could travel farther a field to the inland market towns or to other coastal resorts such as Filey, Bridlington, and Whitby.
Golf was becoming more popular as was dinghy sailing and yachting. A new sea sport was aquaplaning which became quite a novelty in Scarborough in the thirties. This was the knack of balancing on a board which was towed behind a speed-boat. If Crown guests were not speeding across the bay in this manner they could have been amongst the crowd of spectators lining the Marine Drive to applaud demonstrations of this exhilarating sport.
The 1930’s were great days too for the sport of “tunny” fishing in Scarborough. These huge fish followed the herring shoals and were found alongside the herring drifters when they were hauling in their nets, and they also followed the trawlers when they were fishing in the vicinity of the herring. Tunny were usually caught in the evening light and at dawn and at any time on cloudy days. The drill was to arrive at the herring fleet in time for the hauling of the nets and angle for the tunny from a rowing boat using herring as a bait. A record weight of one huge tunny fish was 851 pounds. The British Tunny Club had its headquarters at Sandside Scarborough and the fish were put on show for charity. The craze came to an end as herring fishing declined, and the last three tunny caught by rod and line in the North Sea were landed at Scarborough in 1954 bringing to a close 25 years pursuit of the fish.
Hospitality at the Crown; the Crown apparently was open for meals and afternoon tea to non-residents during the 1930’s.
A lady who was at boarding school in Scarborough at this time writes: “I remember the Crown well. When my parents came up to see me they stayed there (we lived in Suffolk), and even if I went out with other girls we had meals there. One Easter time we were at school over the holiday and I was taken to lunch there by a friend’s parents. I remember all we girls were given an Easter egg. The hotel was ‘the in place’ for us to be taken for meals. We also had a favourite Italian waiter — I forget his name, but I do know he was interred at the beginning of the war in 1939 and was later transported to Canada – the ship was sunk and he was drowned and we were all very upset. It was a nice hotel and I recall lovely food and we were well looked after — made a bit of a fuss of. At half-terms when there were quite a lot of us around, we were given chocolates, the way to gladden a child’s heart.”,
For the duration of the Second World War the Crown was requisitioned by the War Office for the billeting of men of the Royal Air Force. A frequent visitor to Scarborough at that time recalls watching Physical Training exercises on the beach, seeing them marched off to the Spa for Navigational classes, and especially, and with the humour that hindsight allows, being caught up in their rifle practice. The same lady visiting the Crown in 1995, met up with a couple who were celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary. The gentleman had been stationed at the Crown in the early forties and when his fiancée came to see him, she took lodgings in a nearby house on the South Cliff, and arranged to meet him outside the Crown when he was off duty. They were married in 1945, lived at Sea-houses further north up the coast, and decided to return to the Crown, a scene of their courtship days fifty years previously. The lady said the outside looked exactly the same; she had had plenty of opportunity to study as she waited, but the gentleman said the interior was changed beyond his recognition.
He remembered hundreds of hob-nailed boots stamping the bare boards; the carpets had been removed. There were several pairs of bunk-beds in each room where the men slept, and meals were cooked in the kitchen, and served at strict times in a communal dining room. He made a nostalgic visit to what had been the Map reading room and jogged his own memory to recall lessons taken there.
At this time the government was promoting ‘holidays at home’ to preserve the country’s money, and Scarborough along with other coastal resorts, was making a determined effort to bring back the pre-war habit of taking seaside holidays. The family car was still a rarity, but the motor coach companies were competing with the railways in transporting the people both for day trips and for longer stays. Although the austerity of the war years continued well into the fifties with food rationing and the best of Britain’s produce destined for export to earn money, there was almost full employment. War-bombed cities were being rebuilt, families re-housed, and with the introduction of the Welfare State and the National Health Service social conditions were altered.
The cost of food was controlled, but higher wages increased the cost of hotel accommodation, and in 1952 the advertised tariff at the Crown was “from 32/6d to 57/6d per day”.
The artificial restraints on food prices were removed and higher wages were awarded almost annually which lead to overall inflation. This ensured a continuous increase in tariff year by year. N.B. 32/6d in today’s money would be £2.00 per day 57/6d in today’s money would be £3.53 per day. These prices may seem modest, but not if they are measured in context with the earnings of that year. A skilled worker, teacher or bank clerk’s salary would be about £30 per month. The Misses Dixon retired in 1955 and it could be said that that was the end of an era.
Everything was changing and that included the people who were now staying at the Crown. The aristocracy had long since chosen to visit foreign parts.
New Management and Times of Change
After 1955, Emil Walser became manager he was Swiss born, had been in the hotel business for 20 years and was a firm believer in Continental cooking. He is reported as saying that when he went into the kitchen to discuss the cuisine he talked to the staff in three different tongues.
The pastry chef was German, the head chef was born in this country of Swiss parents, the rest of the cooks were English, and Mr. Goddard, in charge of the American Bar was English, but had worked in Le Touquet in France for 18 years before the war.
Mr. Walser said that he tried to run the kitchen on continental standards, and for that purpose he had to import chefs from Switzerland. He had entered the hotel business in his native country at the age of 16 as an apprentice, taken up a college course to learn about hotel administration and followed that with hotel experience in Belgium.
Although the meals served at the Crown were typically British, visitors could have any continental specialties they asked for Mr. Walser’s style of hotel managing would suit the new clientele well — business owners, their workers, the travelers from abroad, and indeed anybody who could now afford the tariff.
The style of dressing up for dining was changing too; even before the outbreak of war, formal dressing had become more relaxed and a gentleman wearing a lounge suit rather than a dress suit at dinner was considered very respectable. Clothing had been strictly rationed during the war and people had become used to wearing practical things. Then, although fashions changed, the habit persisted and both ladies and gentlemen now dressed neatly and yet more casually.
If the post-war years were considered to be times of change and adjustment, then the years during the sixties. The 1964 Crown advertisement pointed out several new facilities after reminding prospective clients of the usual amenities — the exceptional service and comfort and the special care for children. “Private lock-up garages” were now considered important as more and more visitors arrived in their own cars. “Credit Card Facilities” was a new way to pay bills, “Within easy reach of Ganton’s Championship golf course” for sport further a field, but the biggest change of all read — “With its attractive suites of rooms the Crown Hotel is the first choice for many delegates to annual conferences and meetings held in Scarborough”. Towards the end of the decade the hotel was sold to Trust House Forte.
Throughout the late sixties and early seventies though, the Crown, along with many other of the hotels in the town was in financial trouble. The railways had been responsible for creating the seaside holiday in Scarborough and other resorts and encouraged the growth of hotels, lodging houses and entertainment centres. Then two World Wars had set back the progress made leaving a backlog of repair and fresh investment which Scarborough as a whole braced itself to face.
In 1970 the Crown was having financial problems a local businessman toyed with the idea of purchasing the premises and re-styling the traditional hotel to attract package tour dealers, but negotiations broke down because of price disagreement, in the end in 1971 the hotel was sold for the knock-down price of £100,000 only to be sold within the year to another local businessman. New owner, Malcolm Stephenson, took over the Crown in 1972 at a cost of £105,000, he decided to renovate and modernise the hotel. The decision to invest a lot of money could not have been an easy one to make. It was at this time that many of the other hotels in the town were considering closure. The Pavilion Hotel along with several others of the great hotels had already been demolished to make way for modem style business premises, shops or car parks. Many of the smaller hotels were changing their function and becoming care homes for the elderly or for people with special needs. The Crown persevered and the 1976 advertisement announces the list of new facilities “the en-suite rooms with telephone and radio, the De-luxe rooms and suites, and it must be noted ‘Freddy Walser has returned as manager”.
There had been a steady growth in profitable conference and convention business since the early fifties and they were held in places ideally suited to cater for them. Scarborough was, and remains still that kind of place with scenic beauty, the castle, the sea front and harbour, and the nearby attractions. The most important assets though were the Spa Grand Hall which could accommodate even the biggest of the political or union conferences for the daily business assemblies and the great hotels which could offer comfortable and recreational facilities for delegates during their stay.
The Crown adapted itself to cater for the smaller business or union conventions within the building and in 1973 was advertising “Conference seating up to 300 and banqueting for 208 in this 3 star hotel. There are 3 fine bars, colour TV lounge, dancing, films and superb food” and under a special heading “N.B. There are no parking problems at the Crown. There is a large free car park and a number of lock-up garages”.
What more could a conference delegate ask for? In that year inclusive terms were from £4.50 per day plus V.A.T.
A 100 years after the railway, came the family car which made traveling easier, and then it had seemed for another 20 years at least as if it had all been worthwhile, as once again visitors flocked to take up their favourite seaside holiday. Soon the airlines came close to destroying it all with the offer of cheap air travel and package deals to countries with a fairer guarantee of fine warm weather. Holiday makers were quickly lured into taking up this new experience and forsaking their traditional holiday resort. Now it needed all the determination and dedication the managers and staff could muster to attract customers back to the Crown. Conferences are profitable while they last, the Cricket Festivals can bring a rush of visitors, as can a spell of fine, warm weather, but hotels are dependent for their living on regular clients and consistently full bedrooms and certainly many new managers have tried all they can.
In 1978 the Crown had a four Star rating, this was when D.P. Hotels bought the hotel for £400,000 they too decided to spend more money on refurbishment and the Crown closed for 11 weeks while the improvements were made. When the hotel re-opened full central heating had been installed, it was beautifully re-decorated and was rewarded with a 4 star rating from the AA and RAC. The local newspaper headline read: “Conference Bookings up at 4 Star Crown”.
It was bought by ‘Prince of Wales Hotels (not to be confused with the local one of that name) who reported to the press “the whole feel of it suits our style”, but it must have not suited for long, for within a year the Crown was sold to Heritage Hotels, who then sold it to Kennedy Brookes in 1987. Kennedy Brookes were taken over by the company Trust House Forte, who found themselves owning the hotel for the second time in twenty years.
During the 1990’s the Crown was moved around within the ownership of the Trust House Forte group in order to find market position that matched its resort status. Finally in the mid 1990’s the Crown was sold to Corus Hotels. The Crown latter lost its 4 star status; then put up for sale in 1999.
On 14th February 2000 the Crown was purchased for just under £2,000,000 by a local company owned by a local family with long heritage in Scarborough; the Frank family, on 10th June 2003 the name of the Crown Hotel was changed to the Crown Spa Hotel Scarborough. The intention was to reflect the new amenities in the hotel mainly being a new Spa with pool, saunas, gym and exercise studio.
In 2004 the Crown gained recognition as an Investors In People employer and announced preparation to regain 4 star status for the hotel; which would involve an investment of £4,000,000 over 4 years.
Eating out in Scarborough
In 2007 a new restaurant was opened called taste with a investment of £0.5M.
In late 2007 the Crown teams hard work was recognised by winning the Hotel of the Year award for Yorkshire, Moors and Coast.
8th May 2008 the Crown once again became a 4 star hotel, the only 4 star hotel along the Yorkshire Coast.
In October 2008 the Crown Spa Hotel once again won the Hotel of the Year award for Yorkshire, Moors and Coast.
In February 2009 the roof blew off and renovations works were carried out to establish 116 quality hotel rooms.
In August 2009 The Hotel became the only hotel in North Yorkshire to win the Gold Award for the Green Tourism Business.
In October 2009 The hotel became a 116 bedroom hotel with the completion of the penthouse floor which added an additional 24 bedrooms.