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November, 2020

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Bridlington is made up of two parts. Bridlington Old Town is about a mile inland and grew up around the Priory and was the main trading centre for the area until the arrival of the railway in the mid C19th.

Bridlington Quay is the area around the harbour which is still an impressive and well-preserved piece of C19 harbour engineering. The two only joined up in the C20th when the town grew rapidly. They still preserve their individual character.

There has been a harbour at the mouth of the Gypsey Race river since Roman times. The monks of Bridlington Priory exported wool from here, and fishing boats have been operating out of the harbour since the Middle Ages. During the Civil War, Royalist troops landed here with soldiers, armaments and ammunition.

The sea around Flamborough Head has always been dangerous for sea going vessels, and it is thought over 50,000 have been wrecked along this stretch of coast since 1500. In the shelter of Flamborough Head, Bridlington Bay was one of the few safe havens along the east coast. The harbour was officially designated a place of refuge by Parliament in 1697, which meant locals could collect tariffs from passing vessels, and the funds were used to extend and improve the harbour. By the early C19th, the harbour had been extended with a north and south pier and surrounding wharves. As many as 300 vessels could be found anchored in the bay for weeks at a time. A thriving ship repair and supply industry developed. Bridlington had one of the first lifeboat stations.

Although the harbour nearly dries out at low tide, it is still a working harbour with a thriving fish market. As fish stocks declined, shellfish have become increasingly important. Bridlington is now one of Europe’s major shellfish ports landing millions of pounds of crab and lobster each year, most of which is exported to Europe. It is often referred to as the Lobster Capital of Europe. It is also the base for the “Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club.”:

There is a small “Harbour Museum”: overlooking the harbour with a restored 1912 sailing coble, typical of those used by the fishing fleet.

The harbour remained a small fishing village until the discovery of a chalbeate spring in the early C19th, when the area grew rapidly as a seaside resort popular with industrial workers from the West Riding, brought by the newly opened railway line.

The harbour is still bustling with commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft. There is even a “pirate ship”: which gives short trips along the coast.

Bridlington is a popular holiday resort with two long sandy beaches, promenade and Spa building and attracts a lot of day trippers. “Land trains”: run along both promenades during the summer months.

The North Beach Is a long expanse of sand and shingle stretching as far as the white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head. It is still lined with impressive Edwardian buildings. Victorian families with their household staff would come by rail to spend the summer by the sea in one of these houses. This is the place to head for as there is a large funfair and amusement arcades near the harbour and plenty of eateries. Further along is a modern leisure centre.

The south beach is less well developed and stretched towards Spurn Point. C20th hotels and guest houses line the promenade, with the Spa building.

The “Spa complex”: along with the sea wall was built to the south of the harbour in 1896. After paying at the turnstile people could enter five acres of flower beds, walks and grassed areas, have meals in the refreshment rooms, go to the theatre or a concert, or just sit and listen to the band playing in the glass domed bandstand. Children would sail boats in the lake that was kept filled by the iron rich water of a chalybeate spring. Although the theatre burnt down in 1906, it was renovated and reopened the following year. It was bought by the Corporation after the First World War and soon became the became the most popular place along the East coast to go for dancing and concerts. It has been recently refurbished as is as popular as ever.

There are no arcades or other tourist attractions and only a few eateries. Just down from the Spa is the lifeboat station in a large, modern building. The beach stretches for several miles, making it popular for long bracing walks.

The area behind the harbour is the main shopping area for Bridlington with a range of small shops along Kings’ Street. This is also the site of the Wednesday and Saturday markets. Near by is the Promenades Shopping Centre with all the big name stores.

There are details of a “walk”: around Bridlington quay here.


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