Scarboroughs rich maritime heritage revolves around the Old Town. This comprises the area around the harbour and on the castle hill. The Old Town extends as far as Friargate and Scarboroughs Market Hall. It traditionally ends at the top of the hill at St Marys church.
This small area is where the fishermens cottages, quay side and ship yards were all situated. Any historical references to the fishing and seafaring community will feature the Old Town - they all lived in streets such as Longwestgate, Princess Street, and down Sandgate. In the ancient past this was Scarborough. So any seamen naturally lived here. The town has expanded northwards towards Peasholm and southwards towards the Esplanade. Scarboroughs Old Town is still seen as a geographical entity especially by the people who live there. Its known as the Bottom End and the people who live there are known as Bottomenders.
There is so much maritime heritage within the Old Town. The Graham Sea training school which is now a house (Paradise House) yet in former times was a training ground for young seamen. The Public Houses often reveal a link to former times such as the Newcastle Packet which was built in the era of the colliers taking coals from Newcastle.
Cielos on Sandside was the former Bethel Mission where the highly religious wesleyian seafaring community met together. Many of the houses themselves feature tunnels and cupboards which date back to the golden era of smuggling - the classic smugglers hideout being the Three Mariners Inn. Even St Marys church yard which features so many ancient mariners graves.
Like many of the harbours and havens on the North East coast, Scarborough is built on a steep hill. Many of the streets are built on top of each other. The beauty of places such as Scarboroughs castle hill, Robin Hoods Bay or Runswick Bay is in the anarchic and random way in which the houses are built. There are streets with just a few houses in. There are impossibly narrow alley ways. There are cobble stones and small streets which lead nowhere.
Robin Hood's Bay has continued on unchanged yet in Scarborough's Old Town some of the best features have been lost due to the council who demolished streets in the 1920's and later again in the 1960's. New streets have been built such as Springfield or Tollergate. New council flats maybe functional yet they do not have the character of the old fishermens cottages.
Many of those old fishermens cottages knocked down on Dumple Street would have been highly sort after real estate nowadays. They had character and beauty. Many old fishermens cottages have since been transformed by prosperous newcomers. They feature spiral staircases and immaculate furnishings. They are more like palaces nowadays. Streets such as Custom House Steps and Tuthill maybe give town planners a serious headache yet they are highly sought after.
Even the street names were quite evocative and unusual. They represent the connection with the past and the fishing heritage. Names such as Quay Street, Custom House Steps, Dog and Duck Lane, Tuthill, Salmon Steps, Castlegate, Long Greece Steps, Paradise, Church Lane Steps, St Sepulchre Street and Longwestgate. The new streets seem rather sterile in their naming such as Grahams Close (cul-de-sac).
The houses too contain clear links to the past. Cottages named after fishermen such as Ruffans cottage - the dwelling of fisherman James 'Ruffen' Bayes on Princess Street. Other house names such as Neptune House and Butter Cross Cottage reveal links to the past. Modern houses try to fit in with the character of the Old Town.
Modern house names such as Clifholme reveal an overwhelming sense of connection to the Old Towns maritime heritage. Fishing cottages may be owned now by the most unlikely people - professionals, artists and writers, prosperous tradesmen, gay couples or whatever. These people value the sense of community which exists in the Old Town.
It is some of the less obvious names which probably have a deeper connection to the past. Harwood House, for instance,on Tuthill, is a link to the fishing family which lived in the Old Town. The Harwood's go back many centuries. They are not a vastly important fishing family nowadays though. Yet two Harwoods were crew members on the first Scarborough Lifeboat.
Wesleys House also reveals links to the genuine past. John Wesley himself visited the town. There was a drifter 'John Wesley' which sank in the 1800's skippered by John Harwood. Many of the fishermen were keen followers of this denomination. There was also a yawl called the 'Temperance Pledge'. Parts of the Old Town community were very religious. A belief in God and honest clean living and hard work. They were strict Wesleylians.
Many of the old fishing families now have no real connection with the sea. The fishing quotas have destroyed the local industry. Now a single huge trawler can catch as many fish as the herring fleets of days gone by. Yet many of the old familiar names remain in the streets of the old town. The Normandales, the Rowleys, the Bayes, the Jenkinsons and the Sheaders, the Crawfords, the Eves, the Cammishes,the Pashbys, the Luntleys to name but a few.
Much of the old fishing community is dying out. So many seafarers are now retired. Even the Fishermens Wives charity has now closed down. This was a charity which raised thousands for the local Scarborough hospital. Run by Maggie mainprize MBE the local charity shop raised thousands. That has now closed. So many of the old fishing community are now pensioners.
Those who have moved on still value the fishing heritage. This website has had emails from Australia and Texas. They still hold onto old photos of the families. They proudly pass on a painting of Granddads trawler. People talk proudly of their ancestors who were fishermen. Thats unlike any other job perhaps with the exception of miners.
The Fishermens and Firemans football match still takes place. It has been played for over a hundred years. It was a charity football match which took place between the fishermen and firemen(stokers of the steam trawlers). Today many of the players are not fishermen. But that sense of community has been passed down.
This contrasts with other areas in Scarborough which are devoid of any sense of community with transient often very poor populations . The Old Town however still retains a real sense of community spirit. It retains the look and feel of a village yet is deep in the heart of a modern town. Inside the Old Town people still know their neighbours. That is so very unusal or any town.
The Old Town of Scarborough is not a vast place - it takes five minutes to walk from one side to the other. Yet the people who lived there rarely met anyone from outside. The fishermen looked out to sea whilst the farmers nearby looked inwards towards the land. The fishing families were all inter related - some would say in bred.
There were communities inside the communities - there were the hard drinkers and the 'Temperance Pledge' groups - they kept themselves to themselves. Some of the women never left the Old Town or never travelled by train. Yet seafarers travelled far and wide. They saw the world when others around them never travelled.
Some of the most insular fishing communities were Staithes and Whitby - yet Captain Cook sailed from here and saw more of the world than anyone. They visited Tahiti and the Pacific which at that time may have well have been on the moon or the planet Venus. They were the explorers yet wherever they visited always had a coastline.