A book seller called John Cole moved to Scarborough in 1821. His diary recorded some of the delights, awaiting both the resident and the genteel visitor, in those years before the railways brought the crowds. Even in January, there was a "caravan of wild beasts". He saw zebra, elephant, ostrich and a Greenland bear. The keeper, a man of some spirit, put his head briefly in a lion's mouth. John walked on the beach, visited the castle, regularly attended sermons, at each of the churches in turn, and walked in "the Plantation."
At the May Day holiday of 1822, he made his first visit to Oliver's Mount, and soon after walked to Scalby Mill. He bathed in the sea for the first time on July 13th and enjoyed a pleasure boat excursion. The tattooed head of George, a New Zealand chief was exhibited in the town. It was rumoured that Captain Thompson of Hull had been eaten there. The King approached Scarborough in a ship on August 12th, so thousands lined the cliffs and the castle to wave.
There was much walking in those days.The road west of Scarborough was called Falsgrave Walk and was not yet built up to that village. John Cole explored further afield, to File, Hunmanby, Hackness, and even a farmhouse at "the rural village of Seamer", when his wife was convalescent. Carnelian Bay was a quiet retreat. By way of contrast, there was the excitement of a new steam packet arriving at the harbour. He took daughter Mary to Mr. Pearsons' subscription gardens at Falsgrave, so that she might revel in beds of strawberries, but he went alone to see the many implements of death and destruction displayed at a building near the castle.
Cole took a glass of water at the spa in 1823. Another year, he tried some of Captain Parry's preserved beef, which had been taken to the Arctic three years before. It was still tasty. Esquimaux boots were on show at Wilson's music shop, brought back by the whaling men. Mr Chambers in Long Westgate would show his fine collection of agates picked up on local beaches. A giant spider crab brought from the Dogger Bank, three quarters of a yard of it, and was auctioned for eight shillings. There were portrait artists in town, who would do profiles for a shilling, complete with frame and glass.
There were high points. Cole won a share of the prize with a lottery ticket in 1825. That was the year of the great storm, when hundreds watched the spa and bathing machines being smashed. He welcomed their sultan when the Spa was given many ornamental improvements. There were modern inventions too. He heard a lecture on Geography, when the speaker showed twelve views on a Diorama. And yet, this was still arural world. Scarborough was largely confined within its old borough ditches. Cole would take a walk down Penny Black Lane, across Chapman's common, into Scalby Road, up Whitby Road, and over the fields by the bleach yard. There were tea gardens at the Mere, at Hackness and at Scalby Mills where the "tea equipage" was ready for the thirsty walker.