An old historical account of Scarborough Harbour written word for word from "The history and antiquities of Scarborough and the vicinity " By Thomas Hinderwell, 1811. This features letters written during Tudor times regarding Scarborough harbour and Vincents Pier. Much of this is in Old English
The commerce and navigation of this country have ever been considered so essentially connected with the national prosperity, that the construction of Piers for the security and improvement of harbours, has invariably claimed the attention and encouragement of Government.
The Piers and Harbour of Scarborough have, for many centuries, been deemed of such consequence to the northern trade on this side of the island, that in the days of our ancient Kings, various grants were made for their maintenance and security.
Henry III. in the 36th year of his reign, by a Patent-roll dated 30th July, 1252, granted particular duties for the benefit of the town of Scardeburgh, to make a certain new port with timber and stone toward the sea. The following is a translation of the patent:
"The King to his Bailiffs and Burgesses, and other good men of Scardeburgh, greeting. Whereas we have understood by an inquisition, which we commanded to be made by our Sheriff of Yorkshire, that it is for the benefit of our Town of Scardeburgh, to make a certain New Port with timber and stone toward the sea, whereby all ships arriving there, may enter, and sail out without danger, as well at the beginning of flood, as at high water. We have granted you in aid of making the said Port, that from the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, in the thirty-sixth year of our reign, to the end of five years next following, ye may take in the said Port of every merchant's ship coming thither sixpence, every time it arrives with merchandize ; of every fisherman's ship there coming with fish, fourpence ; and of every fisherman's boat there coming with fish, twopence. And we will, that ye take the aid custom as is aforesaid. But the said term of five years being completed, the said custom is wholly to cease and determine."
"Witness the King at Farendon, the thirtieth of July."
This grant was, however, renewed for three years by Pat. 52. Hen. III. m. 9*.
In the year 1546, 37th of Henry VIII, an Act of Parliament was passed, imposing a duty to repair the Pier of Scarborough, the preamble of which states,
"That of old antiquity this Port or Haven had afforded refuge and safe harbour at all tides, and at every full sea, to ships, boats, and vessels in any adversity, tempest, or peril on the north coast, and that they had ever been accustomed to resort thither, for their safeguard and assurance, as well of men's lives, as of vessels, goods, and merchandize; by means of which great resort the town was well inhabited, and the inhabitants well occupied with sundry occupations, and with fishing, or taking and drying of fish, to the great convenience and profit of the said town and country adjoining, as of all the merchants of this realm thither resorting; and that the King's customs did yearly extend to a good and large sum of money at the said Haven. But the said Quay or Pier within the said Haven, by the flood and rage of the sea insurging over and upon if, had freated and broken down, and marvelously worn away the said whole taxe to paie unto your Highness the some of Â£66 13s. 4d, more, whereby sondrie poore handicrafte men, dwellinge within the said towne, are assessed towardes the said taxe at Â£5 a peice, or thereabouts, which added unto their former great payments, and other ordinary charges of a night watche, and suche like, do lie verie heavie upon the said inhabitants, and are of more weighte than they can well undergoe : and whereas, a little before the deathe of our late dread Soveraigne Ladie Queene Elizabeth, the said Bayliffs and Burgesses, being-encouraged by her said late Highnes's gracious favour extended unto some other cast-townes (of lesse ymportance) in the like nature, did exhibit their most humble suite unto her said late Highness for the release uf their said taxe, which was referred unto the Eight Honourable the Lord Admyrall, and the Lord Burghley, then Lord President of the Counsell in the North, which said reporte was not returned, by reason of her said late Highnes's decease. They therefore humblie beseeche your most excellent Majestic, that in tender comyseration of their distresse and povertie, it maie nowe please your Highnes, out of your princelye grace and bountie, to be ynformed by their Lordships of the state of your said towne of Scarborough, and that thereupon your Majestie will vouchsafe to grante unto your said towne a release from the payment of the said greivous taxe, whereby your Highnes shall do a most charitable and gracious deede, and shall much enable the poor inhabitants thereof to aunswere your Highnes's fee farme, and to maynteyne their said Peers and Harbour, to the great benefitt of all your Majestie's subjects that traffique northwards, and your said subjects shall daily praie for your Majestie's most, prosperous raigne longe to be contynued over us."
To this are added the opinions of the 'Lord Admiral and Lord Burghley, as follow :
"This pore towne is a place of good importance, and worthie to be cherished, beinge the greateste succoure to all vessels that trade to the northern parts. And of my knowledge was attempted in Queen Marie's tyme to have been surprised, and now throughe want of trade grown to great povertie, is .much depopulated. Your Majestie therefore, in my pore opinion, shall doe a very gracious Quay or Pier, insomuch that the Haven was not of late years so frequented as formerly, to the great impoverishment of the inhabitants, &c."
In the 8th year of the reign of Elizabeth (1564, or 1565) the Pier being ruinous and decayed, the Queen granted five hundred pounds in money, a hundred tons of timber, and six tons of iron in aid of rebuilding it, on condition that it was increased in height from sixteen feet (which it then was) to twenty, in breadth at the base from thirty to forty-five feet, and at the top from nine to twelve feet.
The trade of the town having subsequently decreased, and the inhabitants being oppressed with heavy taxes, the following petition for a farther aid toward the maintenance of the Piers was presented to James I., in 1605.
" To the KING's Most Excellent Majesty. The humble Petition of the Bayliffes and Burgesses of the Town of Scarborough in the County of Yorke.Showinge,
That whereas the towne of Scarborough hath heretofore ben a towne of great traffique by sea, as well in trade of merchandize as for fishing, both of which late are verie muche decaied, and the towne thereby greatly depopulated ; three parts thereof, to the number of 600 tenements, being utterly ruinated: and nevertheless the poore remainder of the inhabitants are constrayned to be att a yearelie charge of 1001. and upwardes in mayntennen of their Peers for defence of their harbour, being a cheif and principall safegarde to all distressed persons tradinge the northenne coasts, and also doe paie yearlie unto your Highnes their auncient ffee ferme of Â£91 By bothe which payments, the said inhabitants are charged more than they can well susteyne, and yett are alsoe rated att every deed to graunt them their so reasonable suite, wherby they may be inhabled the better to mayneteyne their peeres and harbours.
"In the time that I served our late Sovraigne Lady Queen Elizabeth, as Presidente of her Counsell in the North, I was an eyewitness of the great charge whereat the towne was, for the maintenance of ther peeres. At what time I did finde the great good, which many of your Highnes's subjectes did daylie receive thereby. I was also then a witness of their povertie, so as your Highnes shall dealt very graciouslie to them your gracious comiseration towardes them.
The petition was followed by several others from the merchants and ship-owners belonging to the several ports on the coast, from Sandwich to Tynemouth-haven, that a duty might be imposed upon all coals shipped at Newcastle upon Tyne, or any other place reputed to be a member thereof, for the building and maintenance of Scarborough-pier. The prayer of these petitions was granted in 1614, and a duty of 4d. for all ships under 50 tons, and 8d. for all others above 40, loading at the northward, was made payable to the Bailiffs and Burgesses.
This Pier, being constructed with round stones loosely connected,and the interior part filled up with smaller stones and gravel, was exposed to frequent damages. It originally extended from the shore at the foot of the Castle-cliff, to the Locker-house; and it is supposed that at some subsequent period a farther extension was made, by a change of direction from the Locker-house to the western end of the inner Island-Pier, as the existence of such a junction has been confirmed by the discovery of the foundation-stones; in that direction, and other collateral circumstances.
NEW PIER ACT.
The contracted and dangerous state of the old harbour, and the insufficiency of the ancient pier, being represented to Parliament, an Act was passed in the year 1732, 5th George II. for enlarging the pier and harbour, estimating the cost at twelve thousand pounds. By this Act, a duty of one halfpenny per chaldron is imposed upon all coals laden in any ship or vessel from Newcastle, or ports belonging to it, together with sundry other duties on imports, exports, and shipping, payable in Scarborough, The Commissioners appointed to carry this act into execution, are 115 (chosen from among the neighbouring gentlemen) and all questions which may arise are determined by a majority present. The meetings are held at Scarborough, where the accounts are examined, and the necessary directions issued for the accomplishment of the work. The accounts are afterward submitted to the North-Riding Sessions.
In consequence of this Act, an experienced engineer was employed, who proposed an additional work to the old pier, extending from near the Locker-house westward, and curving outward to the sea at the extremity. The whole of this pier is still distinguished by the name of the Old Pier, though some, with more propriety, call the additional new work, from the name of the engineer who finished it, Vincent's Pier. The point of junction is visible near the Locker-house, and the new work may easily be distinguished froth the old, by the different modes of building, and the greater regularity of the stones.
The whole length of the Old Pier (including Vincent's additional new work) is 1200 feet; the breadth is irregular, from 13 to 18 feet; the new part is broader than the old ; and near the extremity, measures 42 feet.
It may be proper to remark, that during the slow progress of the extension of Vincent's Pier, the harbour about forty or fifty years ago was truly dangerous, and not much superior in point of safety to the open shore. In the year 1763, the force of the sea, in a violent gale of wind, made a breach near the Locker-house; and the waves passing through, many ships were washed out of the harbour, and driven upon the rocks to the southward of the Spaw. On the evening of New Year's day, 1767, another storm suddenly arose, by which all the ships were broken loose from their winter-moorings, and a new vessel was washed off the stocks.
These and similar occurrences proving the necessity of some farther security, the Commissioners judged it expedient to build a New Pier, extending from the foot of the Castle-cliff, and sweeping into the sea with a large portion of a circle. This was an undertaking of considerable magnitude, it being necessary to build it of extraordinary dimensions, to resist the violence of the waves in such an exposed situation.
NEW PIER. .
The outer Pier, extending from the foot of the Castle-cliff, is called the New Pier; but there is an existing portion of old work, the length of which, according to a plan drawn by the late Mr. Vincent some time prior to the year 1752, appears at that time to have been seventy-three feet; the new work, uniting with it, a hundred and three feet; and the new foundation laid, forty-three feet.
The foundation of the New Pier, at the commencement, was sixty feet in breadth; but, at the bend, or central part of the curvature, it is sixty-three feet. The elevation was forty, and the breadth of the top forty-two feet. Since the angle of the most forcible action of the sea has been passed, the height and breadth have been considerably diminished. The present height on the outside, is thirty feet, leaving a parapet nine feet broad, which lowering two courses, the remaining breadth at the top is fifteen feet six inches, and the inside height of the Pier twenty-seven feet, it's foundation being three feet lower.
Mr. Smeaton, the celebrated engineer, was consulted in regard to the most advantageous direction of this Pier. In forming the plan, he suggested two lines, the one called the Outer, the other the Inner Direction. Various opinions prevailed respecting the preference of these two directions; but the Commissioners, after taking the opinion of two other engineers, and attending to the representations of the Ship-owners, who varied materially with each other in their ideas, finally adopted the outer line, which nearly corresponds with the one now in progress.
When the New Pier shall be advanced so far as to prevent any ill effect from the waves striking the outside of Vincent's Pier, it is purposed to remove all the inner part within Docker-hole, substituting two or three dolphins, which will admit vessels to pass into the outer harbour. And, when it shall be completed to it's full extent, it is designed to make an opening above the Locker-house, thirty-five or forty feet wide, to permit large ships to pass easily from the inner to the outer harbour, whence they will generally take sail.
The extent of the Pier already finished is upward of one thousand feet, the foundation laid a hundred and forty-four feet; and it is intended to be continued in the present direction until it shall intersect the line from the point of Flamborough-Head to the extremity of Vincent's Pier. When thus completed, the whole length will be about four hundred and sixty yards, or thirteen hundred and eighty feet; and the harbour will then be sheltered by the land, or the piers, from the winds of every quarter.
The situation of the harbour unfortunately exposes it to be warped up with the sand brought in by a succession of tides from the great bed of the ocean ; and the more quiescent the state of the water, the greater is the accumulation. Some idea may be formed of it's encroachments, by reflecting that Quay-street has evidently been a part of the old harbour, mooring-posts having been discovered in the cellars of the houses : it is even remembered by some now living, that fish were caught with angling-lines from the staith on the sands, and even behind the present building-places, which are now quite dry at high water.
The shallowness of the harbour has invariably followed the completion of new works intended for it's security; and if it were practicable to give it the tranquillity of a lake, the consequence would only be a more rapid accumulation of sand, which would in process of time entirely choke it up. The skilful engineer has, therefore, to exercise his ingenuity in the choice of a medium; viz. " to admit such a degree of agitation in the harbour, as without injuring the safe lying of the vessels, shall at the same time raise the sand, and keep it mixed with water, so as to allow of it's being carried off by the setting outward of the current, which sweeps into the bay from the South-Westward, from half-flood to nearly low water." The present engineer has caused some apertures to be made in the New Pier, near the foot of the Castle-cliff, for the purpose of scouring the harbour by the admission of the waves from the North-East. These have already produced some effect in the upper part; but to what extent they may operate, or what may be the nature of their eventual alterations, time alone can determine.
The Harbour of Scarborough has it's advantages and disadvantages, and these ought to be maturely considered by the masters of coasting-vessels. It is allowed to be the only place of refuge between the Humber and Tynemouth- haven, which can safely be entered in storms by vessels of any moderate draught of water. It is easy of access, and has frequently afforded the means of preserving many valuable ships, their cargoes, and their navigators, in situations of the most imminent danger; ample testimonies of which can be furnished by the Custom-house. It not only possesses a superior depth of water within the shelter of it's pier over any other tide-haven within the preceding limits; but from it's situation in the recess of a bay, four miles within the usual track of vessels between Whitby-rock and Flamborough-head, it enables them in eastern gales, by the additional drift, to keep so much longer off the shore, and generally gives them the opportunity to enter at a proper time of the tide. In the winter-season, Ships on this part of the coast are frequently overtaken by sudden and violent gales of wind from the eastward; and are unable to clear the land on either tack. Under these circumstances of distress, this harbour is their only refuge from destruction; and such an important advantage may justly be said to constitute it's principal excellency. It's disadvantages, however, are of a serious nature. The accumulations of sand-banks between the piers cause such an unevenness of the ground, that the vessels, particularly when laden, frequently sustain considerable injury; and this seems to be an irremediable evil. The best part of the harbour is also occupied by the ships placed at their winter-moorings; and there is a difficulty in finding proper births for those, which resort to it, at that season, in stormy weather. These inconveniences are aggravated by the imprudent conduct of the masters, who frequently attempt to enter with their vessels at an improper time of tide; and as they follow in rapid succession, the entrance is quickly obstructed, and many are, therefore, under the necessity of running ashore on the open beach. The damages which they consequently suffer, more especially if they be weak or sharp-bottomed, are generally attributed to the defects of the harbour.
The best advice, probably, which can be given to masters of coasting-vessels, is, to keep the sea as long as it can be done with safety; and never to attempt to enter the harbour, at an improper time of tide, in stormy weather.
For the direction of ships, a signal-flag is displayed every day on the top of the Light-house, at the end of Vincent's pier, so long as the water continues at the depth of ten feet in the harbour; and a light is exhibited as a guide by night.
The right of appointment of Harbour-Master has been vested in the Corporation, from the earliest period of the harbour. It was acknowledged and confirmed by the act, 3rd of George III, for the improvement of the harbour; but through inadvertency, in the last act (obtained 45th of George III.) this right of appointment was transferred to the Commissioners. On the matter being fully explained, the Commissioners have very generously called upon the Corporation to recommend the Harbour-Master, and have agreeably to the act, appointed that officer, with a promise, however, to relinquish the right altogether, by a repeal of the clause, whenever a renewal of the act of Parliament shall again become necessary.
From returns on record, in the year 1730, of the Commissioners appointed to survey and fix the limits of Scarborough-Harbour, it appears that the bounds and limits of the port of Scarborough, as a member of the port of Hull, extend from the most easterly part of Flamborough-head, northward to Peaseholm-beck, including all the sea-coast to fourteen fathoms of water into the sea, at low water mark.
The true or magnetic bearing of Flamborough-head from the extremity of Vincent's Pier is, S. E. 1/2 E. but, by the compass, S.S.E. 1/2 E. distance five leagues. The time of high-water at Scarborough, at the full and change of the moon, is 3 hours, 45 minutes. The average depth at the end of the pier when the spring-tides are at their height is twenty-two feet.Â—The wind blowing from the north- vard or southward occasions a great difference in the depth of the water. The north wind increases it, the south wind causes a depression.
In treating of the harbour, it may be proper to observe that the Life-boat which was constructed at Scarborough in the year 1800, from Mr. Greathead's plan, has been instrumental in saving much property and many lives. It was built, and is supported by voluntary donations. Experience is the most convincing proof of the merits of any invention; and upon this principle, the Author can, with the strictest propriety, add his testimony to the great utility of the Life-boat.
The ponderous rocks used in the building of the New Pier, are taken from a quarry named the White Nabb or Noh, an opposite point, and conveyed in flat-bottomed vessels, called Floats. This quarry (about a mile beyond the Spaw) is a great natural curiosity, and worthy of observation. It contains large masses of flat rocks, lying upon the shore in regular strata. They are separated without much difficulty, are of a close texture, and almost impenetrable to the tool, by their extreme hardness.
The Mole immense expands it's massy arms,And forms a spacious haven. Loud the windsMurmur around, impatient of control, And lash, and foam, and thunder. Vain their rage.Compacted by it's hugeness, every stone,With central firmness rests. These hills of rockUptorn from ocean's bed, where fix'd they sleptIn beauteous order since the sea was form'd,Returning tides that groan beneath their weight,Bear home to Scarborough."Scarborough, a Poem.