Marine Drive Scarborough
Scarborough had been for centuries a popular fishing resort and its popularity increased further with the discovery of its health-giving Spa Water. Following the completion of the York to Scarborough railway in 1855 its popularity increased further as a holiday resort.
Famous also for its two distinct bays, the commercial South Bay near to the town centre and the more serene North Bay beyond the Castle Headland development had taken place separately and distinctly.
The influx of holidaymakers resulted in huge development of the infrastructure of the town and a new road was built along the foreshore of the South Bay in 1879 and a new road (Royal Albert Drive) along the foreshore of the North Bay from Peasholm Beck to The Holms, completed in 1890. This however still left the two bays isolated from each other. In 1896 the Council decided to link the two bays by the construction of a 1.300 yard link road to be known as Marine Drive, from the East Pier to Royal Albert Drive.
Although there was much local opposition to the scheme there was also much support, not only for the commercial advantages but also due to the pressing need to prevent further coastal erosion. Land slips from the Scarborough Castle Headland were common and indeed over a period of 700 years the site of Scarborough Castle had dwindled from 60 acres to 16 acres due to erosion. In October 1896 contractors were commissioned for construction of the sea wall and roadway at a cost of £69,270 with a completion of August 1899 although many local councillors viewed both the anticipated cost and completion date with jocular hilarity.
A very experienced engineer, Mr. J. E. Everett from Southampton was commissioned to oversee the works at the princely sum of £300.00 per annum.
The foundation stone was laid in June 1897, the whole town celebrating the ceremony, which the chief feature of the local celebrations of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. The scepticism of local councillors proved fully justified. A combination of legal wrangles and bad weather dogged the project from the start, although the “lamentable lack of energy” of the workforce was the chief culprit for the horrendous delays and Mr. Everett was largely blamed for this. So bad was the situation that was even a suggestion that the workforce be placed under military supervision. The Council invoked penalty clauses, withheld monthly payments and even set up a Committee For the Acceleration of Works. In 1899 the Council obtained a three year extension for completion and in 1890 Mr. Everett resigned under the wave of criticism. The last stone was not laid until 1904, with the roadway anticipated to be operational in 1905 but extreme waves, abnormally high tides and further legal wrangles led to yet further delays and Marine Drive was finally officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught in 1908, almost 9 years later than scheduled.
Marine Drive was however a great success both for the commercial aspects of the town and for its aesthetic value, the sea wall being topped by some 1,384 linear yards of cast-iron handrails.
Prevention of coastal erosion also proved to be very effective and for nearly 100 years the sea wall bore the brunt of the wild North Sea waves before further coastal defence works were implemented in 2002.