A block of buildings on Scarborough's Sandside has had a remarkable history. Many others along the front would make the transition from mariner's houses, fishermen's cottages and ship builder's workshops into fancy goods shops, cafes and amusement arcades during the 19th and 20th centuries. One building made the change far earlier, back in the reign of good Queen Anne.
Visitors had started coming to take the waters at Scarborough spaw in the 17th century. By the early 18th century they were not only drinking spa water, they were bathing in the sea, taking boat trips and looking for entertainment.
The usual solution was a building known either as an "assembly room" or a "long room", where dancing, music, gambling, conversation and flirtation could be combined with public display, coffee, food and strong liquors. The eastern part of the rebuilt block which became numbers five to seven Sandside, just west of the steps up to Tuthill ,was Scarborough's first purpose built long room. It was some two hundred yards east of West Sandgate, the main road from upper town to the Sands which we think of as Eastborough. There was another long room in Princess Street, adapted from a gentry house, at an unknown but early date.
The Sandside long room was kept by a Mr.George Chapman. Well spoken "masters of ceremonies " were employed to ensure good behaviour among the titled aristocracy and gentry who patronised the spa. The famous Beau Nash, considered employment at Scarborough but decided instead to go to Bath, the ancient indoor spa town, where he helped transform social habits by taking dancing indoors. At least one Scarborough M.C. doubled at the fashionable Hampstead assembly rooms
The Sandside Long rooms had an elegant facade with open arches facing towards the sea. There was at one time a kind of veranda, pier or walkway over the sands . The sea water in flood came right up to the door. Window seats were set into very thick walls. There were arched cellars and it was believed that an even older wall survived beneath this house and several others along the front from early port defences. Historic relics from the town found their way here, including a great effigy and a stone coffin, to interest the visitors in the days before museums.There was one kitchen at the rear.
The Georgians came to Scarborough in greater numbers and stayed longer. There was a marked movement to upper town for both residence and entertainment. St Nicholas Street became Longroom Street with two new and more elegant long rooms, the finest associated with the Royal. The old long room near the sands was kept by men like Jeffrey Fawcett then divided into tenements, for Richard Crumpton and for Benjamin Howard, a shipwright who erected his ship building stocks on the sands outside. Stories are told of a three masted vessel collapsing from the stocks onto the house in 1794 and of another ship driven from its moorings in a gale through the old pier and onto the building.
Margaret Howard sold the property to Samuel Simpson a maltster and Robert Atkinson a master mariner in 1787. William Laycock a master mariner and George Frank the mast, block and pump maker were here in 1846. Then came the shops kept by Jane Halder, John Place and John Skelton in 1857. A room called the "dead house" was at the rear, so called because drowned bodies were brought there prior to inquests. At one period part of the house was used by the military. There was a fire in the early fifties. Ship chandler James Ellis doubled as grocer, tea and provision dealer, fruiterer, greengrocer, post office and ship chandler in Victorian times. His descendants were there in the 1920s. Harbour Restaurants and Amusements have taken their place.
written by John Rushton