The Yorkshire coast illustrates admirably how nineteenth-century holiday resorts almost invariably owed their origin to the growth of the railway-system, but depended for their success on the fickleness of public popularity. Scarborough began as a spa-town in the 17th century, lost some but not of all of its gentility with the arrival of the railways, yet boasts proudly of the writings of Sir Osbert Sitwell, the architecture of Cuthbert Brodrick, the paintings of Atkinson Grimshaw, and – at the church of St Martin-on-the-Hill – the most remarkable collection of Pre-Raphaelite ecclesiastical art in the north of England.
Whitby West Cliff, harking back to Georgian days, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, epitomising Victorian order and grandeur, and what little there is at Ravenscar, planned in the 1890s, were all precipitated by railway-extensions at different times in the nineteenth century, all characterised by considerable optimism and – as it turned out – pretension on the part of their sponsors, and none of them completed according to their initial design. Each of these sites, frozen in time by economic depression, financial miscalculation or both, provides an unusual insight into what was and what might have been.
For background information about some of the places included in the lecture, please click here.