Religion to a young bottom-ender

St Mary's Church played a large role in the bottom of town in my younger days.

Although granddad (George Jenkinson Mainprize born 1892 in Filey) "emigrated" to Scarborough from Filey " Little Russia" in a coble in the 1920's, my mother (Elizabeth Jenkinson Swift nee Mainprize born 1931) was born in the bottom end of town in Hope Cottages off Spreight Lane Steps, just below St Mary's Walk and St Mary's Churchyard. They moved to 6 Cooks Row in mid 1940's.

I do not remember what religion my grandparents followed in Scarborough, never saw them going to church, and I never had any discussion with them on the matter. My mother carried strong beliefs and I can only assume that they came from her parents.

Mum was christen, confirmed, married and her funeral service at the church at the top of the hill. She didn't go to every weekly services but she would always be there for Christmas Eve. I am sure many a bottom-ender would have been through the same. The shame is that now that many a bottom-ender has moved out of the area. Not to far but even Dean Road is outside the area as I was due to find out. This must mean that this will not happen and the attachment to the church will not be as strong as it was in the days where people didn't move and family members live next door to each other.

I baptised at St Mary's in 1956 and as you readers will understand I remember very little of it. I have a few photos and look very cute.

My first introduction to church was at the Bethel Mission to Seamen on the sea front. It still stands they very much in keeping as the 1950's-60's. The interior has been changed to accommodation its change of use and Scarborough has no longer any type of Mission to Seamen like most of the fishing ports had in England.

In the early 1960's I started Sunday school at the St Mary's Parish Hall that stands at the top of Auborough Street at the junction with Castle Road. Although enlarged a little, bears all the similarities of it's past. In side it was similar to all parish halls with a hall, stage and makeshift counter for serving cold and warm drinks. Most of the children from the bottom end would attend there for their religious learning and was very busy. Mum would walk us there and walk us back. It was very much like going to school. All the children there were from the same area as I and attended Friarage on Longwestgate.

I got "promotion" and progressed on to the church choir at St Mary's further up the road towards the castle. St Mary's to me in them days was a large semi-dark building with little light for it's size, very sparse and extremely quite. In comparisment now looks a lot clean and brighter and the stonework is light as in them days it looked very stained and darken.

It was here that I met the most prominent member of the church to whom I have always held in high esteem. The Reverend John Key Frazer was a small man, slim, quiet but very sure and firm, a really nice gentleman. I do not remember him ever laughing but he always seems very content with life. He joined St Mary's in 1964 and I was too young to remember the vicar before him. He was always there and seemed part and parcel of the fabric of the church.

Duty as choirboys in the 1960's meant jobs giving hymnbooks out, singing and tiding up afterward. We covered weddings and Sunday services at St Mary's Church and also services St Thomas's Church at a different time on Sunday. St Thomas's Church in East Sandgate is presently used by the Sea Cadets as their headquarters. St Thomas's never did have the feel of St Mary's. You would never say that it was as inspiring as St Mary's Church and the inside was small, darker and much more enclosed.

As choirboys we would enter the building from the steps at the rear. There were gates at the top and bottom of these steps and sometimes you would find them locked. I suppose this was to stop people loitering or using it as a short cut all though I cannot see any gain from using it. The services in St Thomas were very small. The congregation always reminded me of the song "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. Whether they were all old and lonely then I am not sure but they seems very old to an 11/12-year-old schoolboy.

It was in 1969 that my family moved out of the bottom-end to Box Hill in Stepney. Mum did not want to go but her agreed after finding a house, which has fine views of the castle and the sea. She was very happy here but the views was always very important to her to keep her ties to the old part old Scarborough.

Both my sister's and brother were all married at St Mary's Church and married by Rev John Keys Frazer.

My saddest week was in 1977 and the church and the Rev John Keys Frazer played very much a large part in it. On the same day I lost my gran and also my best friend and brother-in-law.

The big shock was the death of Anthony Aveyard. Tony had married my sister Ann Swift at St Mary's in June 1976 and Rev John Keys Frazer had conducted the service. Tony was Roman Catholic and Ann was Church of England but had their wedding at Ann's church. It was a big occasion with the wedding reception at the Royal Hotel. I particularly remember the sermon by the Rev Frazer included how some of the congregation only attended on christenings,

Weddings and funerals and while giving this speech his eyes peering down at me. It included that all those none to regular attendees should make it up at 50p per week. His gaze was still on me when the collection came round and mum had a grin when I put £20 in the tray. One year's subscription!

Granny Mainprize (Ada Mainprize nee Maulson) died in St Mary's Hospital, the old workhouse, on Dead Road in the very place that I had been born. It was sort of expected, as she had been ill in St Mary's Hospital for a very long time. Gran's funeral was a few days earlier that Tony's and although I was very close to her I remember nothing of it. It was Tony that everyone was thinking of and his funeral was not till the beginning of the next week.

By coincidence, Ann and Tony had been living down the bottom end in 6 Cook Row since they had been married. It was Gran's house. Gran still owned the house since Granddad had died in 1972 and I have many fond memoirs of there. I lived there with my grandparents and parents for three years after I was born until we moved to 7 Princess Street.

Tony died after an incidence playing football for Scarborough FC at the Athletic Ground. It happened on the Monday after Scarborough had won the FA Challenge Trophy at Wembley Stadium on the Saturday. Scarborough had won the Trophy for the third time in four visits over five years and the town was still on a high with the Wembley win. The funeral was held at St Peters on Castle Road. As I mention early, Tony's family were very strong Roman Catholics and one of his relatives was a nun.

Strangely though, not only the priest from the Catholic Church but The Rev Frazer both did a joint service. Just proves that in times of grief how two churches and their ministers could join together to support all the families. It would not have mattered which church the service was in, with the crowds outside, neither church could have held to people wanting to go inside. The crowds lined the roads from the church to the burial at Woodlands cemetery.

A few weeks after Manchester United played a testimonial at Scarborough for Tony and the clubs Chaplin Rev Frazer for the club held the services before the match.

When the Rev John Keys Frazer left for York Minster in 1980, what was my church seemed no more. When I was arranging my wedding, I was refused permission to marry there as I lived out of the catchment area. How sad that the church that I had been christened, been to Sunday school, been a choirboy at, meant so much to my mother and I had so my memoirs of, I was now told that I must now go to another church. Even as a fisherman, my catchment area was wrong.

Does the bottom-ender mean with a distance for the bottom of town and near the harbour or from a fishing family in Scarborough or does it mean within the catchment of Parish of St Mary's. I will let you decide.

•Written by John Swift. John has made a website about St Marys Church. It is available by clicking here

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