The History of North Marine Road, Scarborough
STEVE DRAPER is a well-known cricket historian and has been a member of the Association of Cricket Statisticians for many years. His several research articles include: The Cricket Grounds of Yorkshire (1995).
Steve Draper's 'The History of North Marine Road, Scarborough' is reproduced with kind permission of The White Rose Forum. To join them to discuss Yorkshire CCC's season click on FORUM on the navigation bar at the top of this page.
By the 1860s Scarborough had developed into a popular holiday resort amongst the more influential members of society the local newspapers during the summer season were little more than lists of members of the aristocracy and the landed gentry who were in town and where they were staying. Scarborough was fortunate in having both seawater and spa-water which were almost fixations to many Victorians. Many of the visitors were keen cricketers and the cricket matches at Castle Hill could attract crowds in excess of 2,000 and the seeds of the Scarborough Cricket Festival were sown. In addition to the All-England Eleven games various Visitors Elevens were got up to play local sides, or each other, and troupes of clown cricketers also visited. Scarborough C.C., meanwhile, continued to play their club fixtures at the Queens ground.
In 1871 Yorkshire landowner and cricket lover Lord Londesborough promoted a game at Castle Hill between his own team and an eleven chosen by C.I.Thornton. The game was a great success and his lordship was keen to promote a game annually as a social event but was less than happy with the facilities at Castle Hill. Consequently he wrote to the Scarborough C.C. secretary, Robert Baker, advising him that if aristocratic patronage of cricket in Scarborough were to continue he must act either by radically improving the Queens ground or finding a new venue.
Baker decided on the first option and the ground was enlarged and levelled during the winter of 1871-72 and since that time it has staged all major cricket in Scarborough. Further developments soon followed a perimeter fence and a pavilion were built prior to the 1874, which saw the initial First-class game when Yorkshire played Middlesex. In 1875 the M.C.C. made their first visit and in 1876 what is usually reckoned to be the first true Festival took place. The ground still had its limitations, however, and members of the press, who were not provided with covered facilities, were often scathing in their criticism.
This situation was rectified late in 1877 when the owner of the ground, John Woodall offered to sell the site for £3,500. With the help of several influential backers, including Lords Londesborough and Derwent, the club raised a total of £7,000 to purchase and improve the ground, immediately offsetting part of this by selling a strip of land bordering North Marine Road for building purposes. The epithet Queens ground was dropped and the ground assumed the form it retains to the present day. The substantial alterations that took place before the 1878 season, commemorated on a stone set into a wall near the pavilion, have led some writers to the erroneous conclusion that the ground was inaugurated in that year.
The North Marine Road ground, and its Festival, continued to develop throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The present-day pavilion was built in 1896, at a cost of £2,150, on the site of an earlier structure and despite several alterations since it retains much of its original charm. The covered accommodation on the southern side of the ground, the banked terraces on the eastern side and the guest-houses that back onto the ground all date from this period. The festival began to assume the format that would survive until the 1960s: usually Yorkshire v M.C.C., Gentlemen v Players and that seasons tourists v a privately raised team (Leveson-Gowers Eleven or similar). The festival spawned many imitators but none could sustain the level of popularity that Scarborough enjoyed and all subsequently fell by the wayside. Apart from the festival Yorkshire staged some County Championship games around the turn of the twentieth century but these did not become a regular feature until the 1930s.
The inter-war period saw the Festival's popularity maintained. The steep seating on the northern side was built in 1926 and the post-war boom in attendances saw record crowds at the ground with well over 20,000 being present on some days. The west stand, not the grounds most attractive feature it must be admitted, was erected in 1956 replacing an earlier structure sometimes jokingly referred to as the cow-shed. The ground has remained largely unaltered since that time and can boast facilities unrivaled by most club grounds. The Queen Hotel, which had played such a vital role in the grounds early history, was demolished in the late 1950s and replaced by the Cricketers pub that now occupies the site. This latter building is a hideous construction that does its best to ruin the elegant terrace of Victorian Hotels on North Marine Road.
In the modern era the festival has, inevitably, had to change. Gentlemen v Players games had to be discontinued, of course, after 1962 - Scarborough actually hosted in September of that year the last ever such game in a series dating back to 1806 and the Yorkshire v M.C.C. game ceased to be a regular fixture after 1970.
North Marine Road has been used as an international venue staging two one-day internationals in the 1970. The facilities and attendances that the ground can boast mean that it is probably alone amongst Yorkshire's out-grounds in being able to look forward to a future as First-class venue with total confidence.
There have been changes to the annual Cricket Festival however. In 1994 the festival hosted an extra First-class game for the last time when a Scarborough Presidents XI played the touring South Africans the last in a series of fixtures dating back to 1878 when the Gentlemen of England played the Australian tourists. The tournament of three one-day games between Yorkshire and three invited counties, first played in 1971 was last played in 1996, and since then the Festival has been firmly fixed around two Yorkshire county games- one in the Championship and one in the National/Pro 40 League. There were unsuccessful experiments in the mid to late 1990s to bring the date of the Festival forward to mid-July. It has since been restored to its traditional time of late August/ early September when Yorkshire make their second visit of the season to the ground.
The ground on Castle Hill, mentioned earlier, staged cricket again after a gap believed to be in the region of 80 years, around the turn of the new century when some charity games were staged there.
The above article is adapted from "The Cricket Grounds of Yorkshire" published by the A.C.S. in 1994.
Ian Hall and John Found. Cricket at Scarborough (1992)
J.M.Kilburn. The Scarborough Cricket Festival (1948)
J.B.Baker A History of Scarborough (1882)
Rev. Holmes History of Yorkshire C.C.C. 1833-1903 (1904)
Newspapers: Scarborough Gazette, Scarborough Mercury
Thanks to STEVE DRAPER for providing this article.
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