The Adshead Report of 1938 set out a vision for Scarborough

Part of the Adshead Plan
Part of the Adshead Plan

In Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre’s document archive we hold a copy of ‘The Adshead Report’, dated 1938.

How would you respond if you were asked by the Town Hall to decide which buildings and amenities in Scarborough should be demolished? What would you like to see built instead?

Such a challenge was presented to Stanley Adshead, Professor of Town Planning at London University. His answers can be found in ‘The further development of Scarborough, a survey of existing conditions and proposals for its future development’, published 80 years ago.

The report was far from being a dry and cautious planning document. It proposed, for example, knocking down the dilapidated Olympia Ballroom on the Foreshore (it was finally destroyed by a fire in 1975). It was to be replaced with a lavish new leisure complex containing a swimming pool, ballroom, restaurant, sun lounge and an arcade with shops.

The report also backed the development of an imposing pleasure park at Scalby Mills and the building of an “aerodrome” at Irton Moor.

What are generally overlooked are the report’s observations on the future of the town’s “fishing village”. Adshead commissioned a building-by-building survey of this historic quarter overlooking the harbour. The findings are an excellent resource for those interested in the history of the Old Town. Each building was identified by a number on a map (see photo). The report then advised whether each building should be preserved, renovated or demolished.

Commenting on the building numbered 50, now the Ivy House cafe, for example, Adshead asserted: One of the best of the eighteenth-century houses; should be

retained at all costs.

Of numbers 21 to 29 on Tuthill, he advised: These houses are in a bad condition and might be removed and rebuilt.

Adshead’s primary concern was with the development of tourism in Scarborough, and not with the fortunes of the fishing community. He argued, therefore, that the 18th century fishing village should be preserved as much as possible and exploited as a tourist attraction.

The village, he felt, was impressively located. “It nestles in a hollow beneath Castle Hill,” he wrote, “which seems to take it under its wing”. To entice more tourists into this area, he advocated the building of a “motor-coach” park at the eastern end of Quay Street. From here visitors could explore the quaint fishing neighbourhood, its narrow streets and stepped passages. He also proposed demolishing and relocating the Ice Factory and replacing it with a funfair. A further attraction recommended in the heart of the fishing village was a market place, with stalls selling “trinkets” to passing tourists.

However, World War II put a stop to Adshead’s ambitious schemes. There was extensive bomb damage in the Old Town and the council was short of money.

The top post-war priority was the large-scale building of council houses.

Adshead’s vision of the historic fishing village as an attraction for holiday-

makers remained unfulfilled.

The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre has an extensive collection of maritime-related books and materials and is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.