A great landmark that can help to date some old Scarborough photos. The original inventor of a revolving tower was a Mr JS Lake from Pleasantville, USA, who never registered the patent for it and it was taken up by two Americans who built two of these towers in Atlantic City. British man Thomas Warwick, an in-law of one of the Americans, registered the patent in the UK and proceeded to erect a string of these towers around English seaside resorts, opening a company called ‘The Revolving Observational Tower Syndicate’. Warwick visited Scarborough in 1897 and chose a site in the grounds of Castle-by-the-Sea close to Scarborough Castle, with spectacular views of both north and south bays.
Even before work on its erection was started there was much opposition to this workingman’s entertainment in the ‘Queen of Watering Places’ one of the strongest objectors was the Earl of Lonsdesborough who wrote in the Times ‘The proposed revolving tower is a giant merry-go-round which will vandalise Scarboro’ and ruin the scenery on Castle Hill’. The plans were passed despite council members expressing misgivings, in September 1897.
The tower consisted of a 128ft (39M) steel tower with a flagstaff/engine flue that took it to 155ft (47M) around which a revolved a circular passenger car carrying up to 150 passengers on an enclosed platform 16ft (4.9M) wide and 60ft (18.3M) in diameter. The car took ten minutes to reach it height of 103ft (32M), it was powered by electricity generated by a steam engine.
The tower opened on 30 July 1898 with the adverts stating, ‘the highest tower in Yorkshire, providing the most magnificent views in England from a height of 315ft (96M) above sea level’. There were continual objections to the tower from the Scarborough Mercury stating it was an unwelcome feature and it would even be operating in the bank holiday weeks. The Mercury hoped it was not here to stay and that it should be removed to another pleasure resort.
In 1899 there was a pavilion added to the base for amusements and refreshments.
By 1900 the revolving towers across the country were losing their attraction and the company was placed in the hands of the Official Receiver, with the Scarborough tower being placed back in the hands of Thomas Warwick who by now had lost the enthusiasm he initially had and only opened it occasionally and by 1905 it fell into neglect and disrepair with the public demanding it’s demolition. The council said they could not afford to remove it, whilst Warwick refused to have anything to do with it claiming it was the council’s responsibility.
Eventually Alfred Shuttleworth of Red Court on the Esplanade paid for its removal, the work being completed by the first week of 1907. The Pavilion was eventually converted into Ashray House, which is when the battlements were added (now known as Warwick Court). The refreshment area has become the Castle-by-the-Sea Hotel.