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New Exhibition of Maps and Postcards to Celebrate Scarborough's Railway History

A new exhibition celebrating some of Scarborough's railway history is opening today.

‘When The Railway Came To Town’ celebrates the history of the Old Parcels Office as Scarborough’s first dedicated Excursion Station.  Through a collection of enlarged historical maps,  postcards, memorabilia and selected pieces of contemporary art the exhibition charts the growth of Scarborough as seaside resort from the arrival of the first steam trains in 1845.

The original historical maps which have been enlarged for the exhibition are part of a collection owned by architect Adrian Spawforth, whose family have a long standing connection with Scarborough.  

Adrian said

“After 1845, Scarborough saw a period of rapid expansion as a holiday destination as the railway made access to the town cheaper and easier.  Many of the town’s great landmarks were built during this period and remain today, while others such as the underground Aquarium, the pier and the revolving tower lasted for just a few short years before falling into disrepair and ultimately being demolished. The maps I have collected over the last 20 years reveal an amazing social history of the town and are illustrated by some rare artefacts I have managed to collect along with photos and images dating back from the earliest days of photography”

The Grade II listed Old Parcels Office was originally designed and built as an Excursion Station in 1883 by architect William Bell for the then North Eastern Railway. By then day excursion trips had become well established and hundreds of people would push their way onto trains in West Yorkshire to make the journey  to Scarborough.  

Talking about the building Sally Gorham Chair of The Old Parcels Office said

“Early railway carriages had no corridors or toilets. So not surprisingly the architects plans show 2 of the large double height rooms being used as ladies and gents toilets, which of course would have been the first point of call for passengers as they stepped off the train. The third room, with 4 huge stone fireplaces looks like was used as a general waiting room. The entrance to the Excursion  Station was originally via a long covered passage from Westborough and it  can still be seen today at the left hand side of  Scarborough Tiles showroom.”

In 1908 the building  closed to passengers  and became used as a parcels office. It is remember as still having gas lighting and roaring fires for heating in the 1960s. It later become derelict. In 2013 work started to restore the historic building. The roof was repaired and the skylights were reinstated. In 2021 funding from the Railway Heritage Trust, the Yorkshire Coast Community Led Local Development Fund and Arts Council England paid for the installation of heating, lighting and toilets, enabling the building to be used as a multi-purpose arts centre.
Tonight (8th September) there will be an illustrated talk at 7.30 about the history of Scarborough Stations by the President of the Scarborough Railway Society and well-known local author Robin Lidster. Further details are available on the Old Parcels Office Artspace website https://www.oldparcelsoffice.org

The exhibition is being staged as part of national Heritage Open Days and runs from Thursday 8th September to Sunday 18th September 2022.
The Gallery is open: Thur – Sun 11am-4pm and admission is free.

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