When Past Meets Present. Or Is It The Other Way Around?

Regular readers to my blog will have noticed that there was no post last week. It was remiss of me not to warn you.  I can only put it down to the excitement of heading up north to visit a friend in Filey.  But as with all badly planned, spur-of-the-moment adventures (well mine anyway) Filey isn’t where I ended up.

It had been a bleary moment at the end of a hectic day when I saw this photo on an online hotel booking site and nothing less was going to do for my three day excursion. This monumental structure was perched on a cliff top overlooking the sea looking every bit a Bond movie set location.  Not the smartest holiday location for the mobility challenged and I should have perhaps done my homework before booking, but I was captivated.


My chosen location? The Grand Hotel. One of the largest, and certainly the most impressive looking hotels in the North, there is little doubt that The Grand dominates the skyline of Scarborough’s South Bay below.  On that point alone I was nervous about hitting the ‘book’ button.  But naturally a risk-taker and fascinated by The Grand’s history and design I figured I would know little about it if the hotel was to plunge into the sea while I slept in my bed.

Now a Grade II listed building The Grand was originally designed and built by architect Cuthbert Brodrick in 1867 and was typical of its time.  With four towers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys symbolise the weeks, and 365 bedrooms, one for each day of the year, it was easy to see why some described it as “immense architectural extravaganza” on the one hand and a “an ugly Victorian pile worthy only of demolition” on the other (A Sense of Style, Bryan Perrett, 1991).

In its heyday, which was arguably during Victorian times, The Grand focused on providing health and wellbeing for the establishment’s well-to-do clientele who came to relax in the seawater tubs – a relatively new pastime for the British who didn’t generally go on seaside holidays then. Nowadays, the hotel caters towards the budget end of the spectrum and despite a recent seven million pound facelift there was still clearly work to be done.  But at thirty-five quid a night I was prepared to forgive the shabby furniture, pealing wall paper and stained carpets and the fact that every time I got in the lift I had no idea where I was going.

A mass of contradiction The Grand befuddled me from beginning to end, possessing an aura of dignity, affluence, privilege and unadulterated arrogance in an attempt to conceal its holiday camp management operandi.  Did it work? Probably not, but it seemed to me that The Grand would have almost certainly have been demolished had Butlins not  stepped in and turned it into the ‘pack-em-in’ commercial venture it is today.

imagesFor a dizzy daydreamer like myself it wasn’t difficult to imagine the splendour of The Grand’s good times, but it would have been nice if I hadn’t hadn’t needed a days wheel in the hot sun and two luke warm pints to do so.

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