On this day in history….24th July 1867

On this day in history….24th July 1867 – The opening of the Grand Hotel in Scarborough…. As well as being the largest hotel in Europe, at the time, it was also the largest brick structure….


Scarborough, North Yorkshire….with its splendid sandy beaches – it is often described as the ‘gem of the North’…. It is the largest seaside resort on the Yorkshire coast and attracts thousands of visitors every year….

The town began to become popular in the early 17th century, when natural mineral waters were discovered in the area…. It was believed the waters had medicinal and healing benefits and so a spa house was built and Scarborough became recognised as a spa town…. As time went by the resort developed and became one of the first seaside holiday towns….

In the early 1860s a group of businessmen saw an opening for a luxurious hotel – and so the concept of the Grand was born….and in 1863 building work began…. Funding the project was an issue, which is why the £100,000 plus project took four years to complete….

Designed by architect Cuthbert Broderick from Hull, known for his design of Leeds Town Hall, the hotel was built in an unusual ‘V’ shape – to honour Queen Victoria…. It was also designed around the theme of ‘Time’…. It has 4 towers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year and 52 chimneys for the weeks…. Originally it had 365 bedrooms – but following later renovation work this number was reduced to 280….

The Grand Hotel became quite the place to stay in Victorian Scarborough…. It was full of modern, luxurious amenities of the time – the bath taps even had an option of running sea water so as Victorian guests could benefit from the supposed health properties if they so chose….

Interior of The Grand – Image credit : Roy via Flickr

In December 1914 the hotel was badly damaged by a German naval bombardment on the towns of Scarborough and Whitby – the Grand Hotel was hit at least 30 times…. The severe damage plunged the hotel into extreme financial difficulties….ownership changed hands twice in short succession…. Standards became more relaxed but despite this the hotel pulled through and continued to attract wealthy customers, such as the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII and several influential politicians, such as Winston Churchill….

During World War Two it was used to station RAF servicemen…. The 4 towers housed anti-aircraft guns and the building became a base for trainee cadets…. The advantage being that the hotel could be defended against a repeat performance of the bombardment experienced in World War One…. Following the War a renovation costing £100,000 was necessary to get the Grand back to its former glory….

In more recent years the hotel served as a base for the SAS during the Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980…. In 2017 the Grade II listed building was named by Historic Britain as one of the top 10 places to tell the story of England and its impact on the world….

On this day in history….16th December 1914

On this day in history : 16th December 1914 – German warships attack the seaside resort of Scarborough; Hartlepool and Whitby are also targeted…. 137 people, mostly civilians, are killed….

Damage to the Grand Hotel, Scarborough – Public domain

The bombardment of Scarborough began at 8am and lasted for half an hour…. Two German battleships, Von den Tann and Derfflinger, fired 500 shells – hitting the town and castle…. The townsfolk thought it must herald the start of the German invasion….

SMS Von der Tann – Public domain
SMS Derfflinger – Public domain

The medieval castle was seriously damaged, as were the 18th century barracks, which were shelled repeatedly…. It seems the Germans had mistaken Scarborough for a major military port – whereas in fact the barracks had not been occupied by troops for many years…. In all 17 people were killed in the attack, hundreds were injured and many had their homes destroyed….

At 8.30am the two ships left, headed north and shelled Whitby…. At the same time another German naval force attacked Hartlepool…. These attacks caused even more death and destruction than what had already occurred in Scarborough…. Hartlepool with its extensive civilian dockyards and factories received some 1,150 shells – hitting steelworks, gasworks, railways, 7 churches and over 300 homes…. In total 86 civilians were killed and 424 more wounded…. In addition 14 soldiers were injured and 7 lost their lives…. It also saw the first death in 200 years of a British soldier from enemy action on British soil when 29-year-old Private Theophilus Jones of the Durham Light Infantry was killed….

Ruins of a church in Whitby – Public domain
Damaged house, Hartlepool – Public domain

The raids had an enormous effect on the British public and prompted the propaganda campaign Remember Scarborough…. It also caused an outcry from other nations – neutral America cited – ‘This is not warfare, this is murder’….

Recruitment poster – Public domain