By Dave Barry
Perhaps the starkest contrast between beautiful old buildings and the ugly ones which replaced them in Scarborough is provided by the Pavilion Hotel and Pavilion Hous.
The palatial five-storey hotel, with a beautifully proportioned and detailed entrance, was demolished in favour of the brutalist concrete architecture of a modern office block with shops on the ground floor.
The hotel was designed by architect William Baldwin Stewart and built with dark grey stone in 1870.
It dominated that part of town, at the junction of Westborough and Valley Bridge Parade, long before Northway was created.
A large house previously stood on the site, facing Alma Square.
The hotel’s grand façade, with two angle pavilions crowned by French-looking domes, greeted everyone who arrived at the adjacent railway station by train.
The architectural theme is continued, in white brick, in Pavilion Square. Rowntrees department store, bulldozed to make way for the nondescript Brunswick Pavilion, boasted similar domes.
In 1908, the hotel was bought by Robert Laughton, who until then had lived with his family close by, in the Victoria Hotel. He had a private green laid in the square next to the building, when bowling was all the rage. Later, tennis courts were created in the square, which is now a carpark.
While Laughton’s eldest son Charles became a Hollywood film star, his younger brother Tom followed in their father’s footsteps and took over the running of the hotel.
The Pavilion was the town’s second multi-storey Victorian hotel, following the Grand.
The Streets of Scarborough records that noteworthy features include the front door, the ground floor and the first-floor balcony. The booklet was published by Raymond Fieldhouse and John Barrett in 1973, a few months after the hotel was reduced to rubble. Two other eminent hotels, the Cambridge on the South Cliff and the Balmoral at the bottom of Westborough, bit the dust in the same year.
A few years ago, Pavilion House, which replaced the hotel, came top of a list of buildings which the town would be better off without, as part of a Channel 4 series called Demolition. Voters described it as "resembling a concrete fortress" and "a symbol of Scarborough's decline". Another said the demolition of the Pavilion Hotel had "destroyed the Victorian vista of central Scarborough”.
In second place was the ugly block bounded on three sides by Market Street, Queen Street and Newborough.
The Pavilion Hotel is fondly remembered by many locals including Steve Messruther, who says: “I went into the hotel in 1970 when I was 16 and working as an apprentice gas fitter. We had to go into one of the rooms and service a fire, which was ancient. Despite the grand appearance on the outside it was pretty average inside. Just typical hotel rooms.
“Most Scarborians will tell you they hate the look of the current building – me included”, adds Steve, who helps his partner Mary Nightingale to run the Scarborough Bottom End & Old Town page on Facebook.
“But, I guess you have to look back at the state of the country to appreciate how the choice of materials came about. We were in a pretty poor state back then – strikes everywhere and power cuts. So I guess there was only a limited amount of cash available and perhaps that is why they chose concrete for the facade rather than the more expensive option of brick and stone”.
* Many thanks to Mary and Steve for the photos.