An example of an EXTREMELY RARE PANORAMA OF SCARBOROUGH. Important for showing what may be the EARLIEST IMAGE OF A BATHING MACHINE. It shows the harbour with numerous ships at right indicating the importance of the town. From here produce would travel up and down the coast from Yorkshire, and fish would be taken in land to the markets. This engravings importance however is as a record of early commercial life and the pastimes of the early Georgian era. It depicts ship-building with three under construction in the harbour.
The ‘spaw’ (spa) house on the left is particularly interesting. In the late 1620s a Mrs Thomosina Farrer, wife to a leading citizen of the town, John Farrer, discovered natural springs bubbling out of the cliff to the south of town. The waters stained the surrounding rocks and tasted a little bitter. Noticing that they cured minor ailments the word quickly spread. In about 1700 Richard (Dicky) Dickinson (c.1669-1739) built the first spa heralding in the era of tourism. The town is widely recognised as being the first British seaside destination. By the 1730s he had installed his mistress Peggy to attend to the more delicate needs of the ladies. A larger than life character he benefited from the Georgian era of gluttony followed by regular purging. Suffering from physical deformity he was outspoken and uncouth, his patrons loved him. He became somewhat of a celebrity having portraits made, bawdy poetry written about him and his face was even carved on walking sticks. The scene depicts his two buildings, one for the ladies, one for gentlemen, with coaches and horses coming and going. Three years later in 1738 a landslide destroyed the spa for several weeks and by the time new buildings reopened Dickinson’s days were numbered.
The presence of a bathing machine near the water’s edge is considered the earliest image of one. A number of visitors are seen swimming in the sea. The artist himself is seen in the foreground on the left with assistant painting the scene. His work is engraved by John Harris (fl.1713-42). The main points of interest are lettered to a key at the bottom of the scene. There is one earlier similarly rare panorama of Scarborough, but it does not show any bathing. There are only six known examples surviving of which this is the ONLY ONE IN PRIVATE HANDS. Provenance: private English collection. Examples: British Library Maps K.Top.44.47.b, part of George III’s Topographical collection; Society of Antiquaries; National Maritime Museum; Gott Collection, Wakefield Museum A1.91 8/31; Scarborough Public Library. Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).