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In Roman times, the Castle Headland was a signal station, one of many on high ground along the coast.

The town is said to have been torched by the Vikings, though no evidence of Vikings has ever been found, despite the town’s name, Scardeburgh, after a Viking Warrior. From then, little is known of the town until after the Norman invasion. The town does not feature in the Doomsday Book, though Falsgrave, a village to the west, now part of the town, does.

A defensive wooden Norman fort was built in the 1100s on the hill overlooking the two bays. This was replaced by the present castle, completed in 1268. The castle, held by Royalists, was besieged on two occasions during the Civil War and destroyed.

Scarborough Fair dates back to medieval times when the vast shoals of herring, spawning off the Yorkshire Coast in August and September were exploited. This was a bonanza like a modern-day oil boom. Fishers came from Scotland, East Anglia, the West Country and Western Europe to catch, trade, salt in barrels and export herring. The huge amount of wealth generated attracted the good and bad, looking to feed from the frenzy. Herring still spawn and are caught in Summer but these are now netted by large Dutch and Scottish vessels and landed elsewhere.

The port of Scarborough became of strategic importance as shipbuilding expanded and in the 1600s, the town had more ocean-going ships registered than any other port in the world. More than a thousand wooden cargo-carrying ships were built on the Foreshore, some as large as 600 tons. One notable vessel, a 411-ton Barque named Scarborough, built in 1782 by Messrs Fowler and Heward was part of the first fleet carrying convicts to Australia in 1787. She was the only vessel to make this passage twice. Most of the timber for these vessels came from the Castle Howard estate, 25 miles to the west of the town. Ship building in the town declined with the construction of iron ships, though fishing vessels continued to be built.

Wooden cobles and yawls were built in Scarborough to fish for cod, haddock, plaice and sole on the North Sea grounds with lines and trawls. With the advent of steam, paddle tugs were converted into the first powered trawlers. Soon purpose - built steam trawlers and drifters were packing the harbour. Prior to the Great War, fortunes were made, as fish was despatched to the demanding inland markets, via the new railway system. This same railway brought coal to power the ships and many wealthy visitors on holiday to experience pleasure trips on the many large passenger vessels and sailing cobles.

The onset of WWI saw the decimation of Scarborough’s trawling fleet, mostly sunk by U Boats. Other ships were taken for Admiralty duty. More steam trawlers arrived between the wars and some survived WWII. The last of these craft went for scrap in the early 1960s.

For the next 30 years over 40 vessels of 40-60 feet dominated the harbour, trawling for whitefish, but post EEC membership and stringent quota cuts, Scarborough’s fishing fleet has been decimated. The fish merchants, agents and infrastructure have all gone. The boats fishing from the port now fish crab and lobster.

Who knows what the future holds for our ancient port?

The following pictures of Scarborough may take a few minutes to load, depending on your internet speed.

Sailing smack Circa 1890


Gyping and salting herring pre 1914


Herring season 1960s


Scarborough Harbour Circa 1975


Scarborough from Olivers Mount (circa unspecified)