Short Time Line

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Prehistoric Scarborough

400-700BC: Evidence of Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age immigrants on the Scarborough headland, who likely only lived there in the summer. They fished and ate domestic animals, made bronze tools and used a few iron implements, wove cloth, and made a great deal of pottery. Scarborough is the northernmost site where evidence of active immigration from the continent has been found in England.


Roman Scarborough

300's, end of: Romans built a signal tower on the edge of the promontory. This tower is similar to other signal stations up and down the coast; it has been attributed to Magnus Maximus who was acclaimed emperor by his troops and ruled Britain between 383-388.

367: Germanic tribes combined together and invaded Britain and northern Gaul. The Roman forces were overthrown.

367-70: A Roman general, Count Theodosius, overcame the invaders and restored the Saxon Shore fortifications. He also reinforced the coastal defenses by adding signal stations along weakly defended sections of coast, like the Yorkshire coast, which closed the defenses between Hadrian's Wall and the Isle of Wight. Theodosius's building of lightly defended signal stations is an indication of a change in military tactics, from small units of troops spread out along the frontier to a strong centrally located army that could respond to trouble spots quickly in response to rapid communication from the signal stations. (Collingwood in Rowntree pp42-43) The Scarborough Signal Station is very typical of the other signal station on the Yorkshire coast. It is a 50-foot square tower surrounded by a curtain wall and ditch. The walls of the tower were probably five and a half feet thick, each story about ten feet high, and it probably was about a hundred feet tall. Around the tower was a twenty-five foot courtyard, surrounded by a four and a half foot thick curtain wall with rounded corners. This thin wall even with its corner turrets was not built to withstand a prolonged or serious attack. One strange feature of the Scarborough signal station is that the foundations for the wall do not have rounded corners. Judging by the difference in construction of each corner the builders obviously tried to conpensate by modifying the corners. The ditch is separated from the wall by a 30-foot berm, an orthodox defense of the time. No well dating from Roman times has been found, but they must have used the same water supply as the medieval church did. The Yorkshire signal stations were built at one time as part of one system of defense.

394: The signal stations remained in use at least until this date, as is demonstrated by the coins found at Scarborough Signal Station and others along the Yorkshire coast. By and large these coins could not have been in circulation for long because they show little wear, and their dates span only about fifty years, which suggests that Theodosius brought the money for building the signal stations with him from Rome and that the stations did not last long.


Medieval Scarborough

1000: Earliest chapel on headland was probably associated with Viking Scarborough. The settlement probably centered around the harbor.

1066: The town of Scarborough was supposedly burned down by Harald Hardrada, the Norwegian King, who invaded England to help Earl Tostig usurp the British throne. Harald's journey was frought with bad omens in the sagas, and in fact he was killed at Stamford on Sept 25th three weeks before the battle of Hastings.


1136: William Le Gros is governor of the castle and its builder, after 1138.

1138: William Le Gros is a strong suporter of King Stephen against the Empress Matilda. William is rewarded for his loyalty with the title of Earl of York.

1154: King Henry II ordered Scarborough castle and several others destroyed, but countermanded this order for Scarborough when he realized how strategically important the castle was.

1154: King Henry II rebuilt and enlarged Scarborough castle and strengthened its defenses.

1190: William of Newburgh, a historian monk, wrote about Scarborough Castle at about this time.


1215: The 15th-19th of June was the conference at Runnymede where King John was pressured by his barons into establishing the rights of his subjects in the charters Magna Charta and Charta de Forresta.

1216: King John visited the castle in the last year of his reign.


Late Medieval Scarborough

1312: Piers de Gaveston, a favorite of Edward II, got the barons so mad at him that they started a conspiracy. Gaveston escaped with the King. He surrendered to the conspirators but was beheaded by the Earl of Warwick on Blackmore Hill.

1312: Edward II seized the castle.

1300's: A commission was set up to search all ships between Scarborough and Berwick- on-Tweed, because of the high rate of smuggling in that area. Scarborough's sailors were definitely involved in the smuggling trade during the 14th and 15th centurys.

1397: John Massdale, a sergeant at arms, is governor for life; he rebuilt the King's Chambers, and so it is called Massdale Hall (or "Mosdale").


1473: A grant of the town and castle of Scarborough and manor of Wallsgrieve was issued, by Parliament, to the Duke (the future King Richard III) and Duchess of Gloucester.

1484: The Queen's Tower is named after King Richard III's wife, Queen Anne, when the two stayed at Scarborough between June 30th and July 11th.


Tudor Scarborough

1536-7: Uprising called the Pilgrimage of Grace. Scarborough Castle stayed loyal to the crown, but the townspeople rioted and besieged the castle. John Wyvill, a rebel captain, was hanged in chains at Scarborough in 1537.

1538: A survey of the preservation of Scarborough Castle and the needed repairs, by Sir Marmaduc and Sir Raulf Ellerker for King Henry VIII. "View taken of the Castell off Scarburgh the xxv day of Marche the xxixth yere of the Reigne of our soverigne Lord Henry theght..." Condition and repairs needed on the keep: "In the sayde Innerwarde standyth the Dongion or Hye Tower [the keep] and is of iiij stories heght whereoff the nethermost is a seller. The tower above is tabled wyth stone to thembatilment ix fote thycke and covered with leade wyth a spoute in the Mydwarde descendynge to a cysterne of leade that wyll cantayne xx ti tone. And there is above the same v Turretts whereoff iv off them be covered wyth leade and the v tabled wyth stone. . . . And for decayment of balks bords and other tymbre wythyn the same it wyll taike by estimation xlti tone tymbre
The sayd dongion is without square } xviii yards
Wythin the sayd Inner ward is a court in lenght } lxxxxij yards
And in brede---------liii yardys
And the sayd Dongion wyll taik of Tymbre-------------xlti tone"


Civil War Scarborough

1642: Sir Hugh Cholmley, of Whitby Abbey, made governor of castle. When the Civil War started he was with Parliament, but soon became disillusioned with them; he switched to the Royalist side, bringing with him the castle and its strategic importance for supply.

1645: Sir Hugh Cholmley wrote his memoirs after the seige of Scarborough Castle. This is his description of the destruction of the keep: "...Meldrum [the besieging commander]... hee falls over the cliff amonst the rockes and stones att least steeple height....Yet hee is taken up for dead, lyes 3 dayes speachless, his head opened and the bruised blood taken out,... [he] recovered this soe perfectlie that with in six weekes hee is on foote againe, and beginns to batter the Castle. .... soe furiously that in 3 dayes the great Tower [keep] splitt in two, and that side which was battered falls to the ground, the other standing firme beeing supported by an arch of stone that went through the midst. .... The fall of the Tower had disloged the Governor [Cholmley], his Ladie, and most of the gentlemen and officers of qualitie, whoe were forced to betake themselves to poore Cabbins reared against the walls and banckes in the Castle yard [inner bailey]..."

1645: Sir Hugh surrendered the castle on July 25th, after losing all hope of relief, and having almost no food left.


Scarborough as Prison and Barracks

1665-6: George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends (the Quakers), was imprisoned for 17 months in the wet and draughty Cockhyll Tower at the southeastern end of the curtain wall. That tower was so exposed that it fell into the sea in the 1730's.

1660's: Scarborough town became a popular spa, or "spaw", and beach resort.


1745: After the failed Jacobite Rebellion, a 3-story brick barracks to house a garrison of soldiers was built over the foundation and walls of the old King's Chambers. The master gunner's house was built north of the keep, and the sally port and fortified stairs to reach the south steel battery were also built at this time.


Modern Scarborough

1914: December 16th, two German warships shelled the town and castle, killing 17 people and badly damaging the barracks.

1984: Scarborough Castle site taken over by English Heritage.




References for short time line:

Sir Hugh Cholmley, The Memoirs and Memorials of Sir Hugh Cholmley of Whitby 1600-1657, Jack Binns (ed.), (The Boydell Press, 2000), 156-57.

R. G. Collingwood, The Roman Signal Station, Arthur Rowntree (ed.), The History of Scarborough, (Temple Press, Letchworth, Herts, 1931), 42-50.

John A. A. Goodall & Katy Carter, Scarborough Castle, (London: English Heritage, 2000), 21-35.

Arthur Rowntree (ed.), The History of Scarborough, (Temple Press, Letchworth, Herts, 1931), 159 & 168-72.

R. E. M. Wheeler, Prehistoric Scarborough, Arthur Rowntree (ed.), The History of Scarborough, (Temple Press, Letchworth, Herts, 1931), 11-13 & 32-33.

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