Scarborough always had a restricted hinterland.There were people to the west but only fishes to the east. The growing industrial areas of the 18th century were far distant. Small Scarborough craft had taken fish far up the Humber-Ouse, river system to inland towns, for centuries. Vessels were larger now and many rivers were being made into navigations or supplemented by canals.
Panniermen and women still trecked across the moors and wolds to places withinwalking reach. York and Selby traders took the fish further reaching Leeds, Bradford, and Halifax.
The dream of better links by canals between Scarborough and inland towns was canvassed over several decades. John Hustler wrote to his relation William Corvell in Scarborough in 1767 about possible canal routes. There was much talk of a canal to Malton, which was then the head of a river navigation. This improvement had transformed that town into an inland port which sent Ryedale farm products to distant places. Over the next year or two, there was bolder talk of linking Liverpool to Hull and Scarborough. The engineer Mr T. Milborn tooklevels in 1768 from Water Lane End at New Malton to the High Mill in the valley at Scarborough. Othersfavoured a link from Malton with Seamer mere. It allcame to nothing.
Canal proposals were voiced again in 1793. Scarborough was doing well in the Napoleonic wars and local funds were seeking opportunities for investment. A Scarborough Canal company was proposed in 1793-94, to run a canal from Scarborough to Helmsley. Ralph Burton of Ayton made a survey, taking levels from Scarborough to Ayton high mill, but left it toothers to take the survey further west. He found that Scarborough mere was 120 feet above high sea level, and the river Derwent at Ayton mill only 9 feet 6 inches below the mere. He thought that the mere could be sunk ten feet. A subscription was proposed in February 1794. Mr Cockshutt, the Forge Valley engineer, met interested parties in March at the Blacksmiths Arms.
A select committee of subscribers met at the Trinity House on 3rd November and a printed list of shareholders was issued. Mr Cockshutt took fresh levels on a line from Scarborough Mere to Brompton. This met with landowner's disapproval and he was persuaded to shift his attention to a line lower in Derwent vale. He took the new line to the Thornton Dale and Pickering becks. Surveyors Ralph Burton and Robert King took these levels on to Helmsley. A fresh proposal had links to Pickering, to How Keld near Kirkby Moorside and to Malton. Twenty four locks were envisaged and a water reservoir sitedabove the iron forge on the river Derwent at Ayton. An improved Vale drainage was part of the scheme. The first estimate was for £79.506. Tolls from moving grain, lime coals, house coals, oak, fur, wool, 2500 butter firkins and bacon might give £11.741 a year and allow a yield of 7%.
These schemes came to nothing. Only the Muston and Yedingham drainage scheme was attempted, but no canal. It was 1845 when the railways solved the problem. Then Scarborough fish went far afield but other places had the railway too.