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Peasholm Lake with Pagoda History of Peasholm Park

The History of Peasholm Park

From medieval allotments, to a stunning oriental themed recreational park and nature haven.

Early History

Peasholm Park sits on what once was a medieval Manor House, surrounded by farms and fields known as Northstead Manor. It actually belonged to the Parish of Scalby, only bordering the Borough of Scarborough on the North side. In the 1400s, ownership passed to the Crown under the reign of King Richard III, but by the 1600s the Manor House has collapsed, only leaving its foundations.


By the early 1900s, Northstead Manor had become muddy allotments and piggeries known as Tuckers Fields, now owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

The land (but not the lordship of the manor) was bought by the council (Scarborough Corporation as it was known back then) in 1911, and work on a recreational park began.


The Japanese design was created by Harry W Smith, an engineer who also designed many of the iconic buildings in Scarborough including Floral Hall, Northstead Manor Gardens (now the lake area within the Open Air Theatre), the Outdoor Swimming Pool and the stunning South Cliff Gardens. Sadly, many of these have now been demolished.

Peasholm Lake 1912
Manor of Northstead Parliament

Parliamentary Significance

The main lake was positioned over the old Manor of Northstead - a former medieval estate with a significant title in parliament.

The “Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead" is a title given to disqualified MPs, and is still an active seat in parliament today. Members of the House of Commons are not allowed to formally resign, instead they are given this title - recent dignitaries include David Miliband, Gerry Adams, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and John Bercow.

Because Scarborough Council only bought the land, and not the lordship, this title is still used today when MPs resign or get sacked.

Manor of Northstead Parliament History of Peasholm


Excavating the Lake:

Ancient foundations were unearthed, believed to be buildings from Norman times. The base of a tower was discovered, along with a fireplace lined with tiles similar to those laid in the keep of Scarborough Castle. Small artefacts were also found - medieval pottery, 15th Century glass, coins from King Edward II’s reign in the early 14th century, and a bronze spur. This patch of land has a rich history!

Sourcing Tropical Plants & Oriental Statues:

The original oriental style statues were bought from Killerby Hall (now Flamingoland), they were sculpted in China and shipped over.

Tropical plants were brought in from the French Riviera, and by December of 1911 the lake and island were fully constructed.

The Island Peasholm Park


The Park Opens:

After only a year of construction, the park was completed and opened to the public in June 1912. It was the first oriental themed park in the country, and opened with a grand ceremony where the Mayor and Mayoress, along with many of the town’s officials and gentry, took the first trip on the boating lake.


The park quickly became a popular place for the wealthy families to visit - giving them something different to bathing in the spa waters on South Bay. Regular fetes, fayres, galas, firework displays, concerts and performances were held in the park - and they became so well attended that the terraced seating area was developed.

Peasholm Lake 1912


Naval Warfare Display - The Smallest Manned Navy in the World!

The oldest continuously simulated battle in the country, this display was created by George Horrocks, the Entertainment Manager at Scarborough Corporation - who was also responsible for many of the early attractions in the town including theOpen Air Theatre, and the Hispaniola pirate ship on the Mere.

With three shows a week throughout summer, today it re-enacts famous battles from the second world war. Although when it first opened, it displayed WW1 battles including Dreadnoughts and a submarine.

Nowadays the show is as popular as ever, and now includes aircraft - the 20ft ships are still manned and driven by people, who have to cram themselves into the tiny internal space.

Naval Warfare Peasholm


The Island Pagoda

One of the best recognised features of Peasholm Park is the huge pagoda and waterfall on the island. Designed by George W. Alderson (a celebrated architect and designer), it is based on the pagoda featured on the Willow pattern china tea sets which became popular in the late 1800s.

The Temple Lion statues were also installed at the Half Moon bridge over to the island. Also known as Fu Dogs, they are a protection talisman traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Buddhist architecture.

Traditional Willow Plate
Peasholm Park 1932


Peasholm Glen 

In 1924 work began extending Peasholm Park up the valley to include what was known as Wilson's Wood. Complete with a beck, waterfalls and a tree lined valley, Wilson's Wood was the perfect addition to the park. The lily pond was added, complete with the statue of Greek messenger god Hermes. By 1932 the ravine had been sculpted into beautiful pathways, and gardens that ran alongside the beck, waterfalls, and under Glen bridge.

Nowadays the woodland area, known as Peasholm Glen, leads all the way up to Manor Road cemetery and the Cinder Track. It is a favourite walking spot for locals, as well as visitors.

It is teaming with wildlife and vegetation - the valley banks get loads of wild garlic in Spring, and deer have been spotted along with the usual woodland critters.

Peasholm Lakes 1930s
Peasholm Glen and bridges 1939
Peasholm Glen Waterfalls 1937


A thriving to forgotten park

After WW2, the popularity of the park continued to soar. With a boom of social activity after the horrors of war, Peasholm Park became the ultimate place to gather with friends. Evening fireworks, galas, music and social events were held most days. Visitors came from all around the country to visit the park, and many people spent all day, and well into the evening on their visits.

Unfortunately, this popularity didn't last - the package holiday killed the staycation in the 1970s and 1980s. The golden shores and warm climate of Spain and other European resorts became Scarborough's main competitor. Visitor numbers vastly dropped - and the park fell upon hard times, and with the dropping economy many UK parks suffered from lack of funding.

A picture of Peasholm Park in disrepair, overgrown, derelict and forgotten.jpg

21st Century

A burning tragedy to renewed hope and development

In the late 90s, just after receiving Grade II listing status from English Heritage, a fire started by vandals burnt down the island pagoda. With the island deemed to be unsafe, sections of the park remained completely closed without any funding to rebuild it. Scarborough's famed park became a shadow of its former self.

However, the park bounced back at the turn of the century. A group of locals started the wonderful Peasholm Park Friends community group, which has seen many hundreds of volunteers restore, rebuild and maintain the park and glen. 

There is also a specialist group of gardeners employed by the council, who work full-time planting, weeding and tidying the entire park to make sure it is full of colour and the beautiful plants are thriving.

A lottery grant allowed the island pagoda to be rebuilt, and a tree survey in 2004 discovered a rare Dicken's Golden Elm tucked away at the top of the glen. It was believed to be completely extinct, yet there was one flourishing in Peasholm. This now forms part of the Peasholm Tree Trail (although as this was designed in 2004, it is quite dated and some of the Champion trees are no longer current).

Nowadays Peasholm has bounced back to be a firm family favourite, with millions of visitors each year. A busy summer packed full of activities has returned, with the naval warfare display nearing its centenary, brass bands and orchestras in the bandstand, and plenty of things for people of all ages to do.

Check out the section further down the page for useful links and resources to make the most of your visit to Peasholm Park. And don't forget to read our blog post on Things to Do in Peasholm Park.

Peasholm Park Lake things to do
More info

Here you can find a range of useful resources and links to help you find out more about Peasholm Park & Glen

Peasholm Pond Pagoda.jpg

Peasholm Park Friends

Community Group

Peasholm Lake Canoes Boats.jpg

Tripadvisor page

Search the reviews to find the info you need


Click the icon above to view

Scarborough LIghts.jpg

Winter Lights Trail

Part of the Scarborough Fair initiative

Scarborough LIghts.jpg
Grandmother with grandchildren hiking in
Peasholm Park Walking Nature Trail

Complete our peasholm trail

Get out and explore

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