Tucked behind the Spa’s famous Sun Court is another iconic feature of South Cliff Gardens The Italian Steps or as they were once know the Italian Terrace, a place where the wealthy residents and visitors of Scarborough once gathered to promenade, a popular Victorian pass time for which ladies and gentlemen would dress up in fine clothing and stroll slowly past each other exchanging polite greetings as they went.
The steps were designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, one of the most famous landscape gardeners and architects of his era, world renowned for the construction of The Crystal Palace which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Much work had already been done on the Spa site including designer Henry Wyatt’s addition in 1839 of a Gothic Saloon which housed a concert hall, garden and promenade. However with a capacity of only 500 visitors it was quickly found to be of insufficient size to cope with the ever growing popularity of the Spa complex.
Paxton, who was himself a regular visitor to Scarborough, was brought in to redesign the site. Consultation began in 1856 and Paxton estimated the total cost to be £30,000 for a design which included a much larger central assembly room and galleries with seating for up to 2000. The complex opened in 1858 and was considered such a success that Paxton was asked to design a further extension to the South of the site. A new three story tower was constructed and connected to the main Spa building by the creation of the Italian Steps.
The new building and grounds brought tremendous financial success for the Spa’s owners and shareholders and were enjoyed by thousands of visitors until the main complex was lost to fire in 1876.
Though the Spa was quickly rebuilt the only original part of Paxton’s design that remains visible today are the Italian Steps which are still enjoyed by visitors and provide a popular backdrop for wedding photographs.
FUN FACT: At the height of its popularity 100,000 tickets a season were being sold to visit Paxton’s redesigned Spa.