Perhaps the most prominent recent feature to be added to South Cliff Gardens is the Star Map or Star Disc.
It is the biggest of its kind in the United Kingdom with a diameter of 26 meters and may even be the largest in Europe.
The disk contains 42 fiber-optic terminals which each represent one of the 42 brightest circumpolar stars (stars which never set) that can be seen from Scarborough. The Pole star is almost at the center of the map and it can be used to identify a number of well-known star patterns including the Big Dipper also known as The Plow. Capella, the she goat, held in the arms of Auriga the Charioteer, is the brightest star visible from the disk and it is also the sixth brightest in the night sky.
The map also has sunrise points indicating the exact dates the sun will rise over the North Sea which are illustrated on the inner-wave wall seating located nearby. There are information boards to help visitors make use of the map and a viewing point just below the Putting Green by the Esplanade where visitors can also enjoy fantastic views of Scarborough’s South Beach and on towards the lighthouse and castle.
The original use of the site is also of historical interest as it was the location of the first large tidal bathing pool in Britain and the largest in Europe at 330 feet long and 167 feet wide. It was built in an art deco style and was filled with fresh seawater pushed in by the tides.
TOP TIP: The best times to see Capella from the star map are low in the north on a clear night during summer and overhead at midnight on a clear night in mid-winter.
The tidal pool was the brainchild of famous Scarborough Borough Engineer Harry W Smith who also designed our beautiful Italian Gardens. Smith was believed to have been inspired by a trip to a similar site in Guernsey.
Construction began during WW1 and the development came under threat when the town was bombarded by two German battle ships on December 16th 1914. During the course of half an hour over 500 shells rained down on Scarborough, tragically 17 people lost their lives but the workers on the tidal pool were saved as they were able to find shelter behind the half completed wall they were building!
Smith’s plans for the pool were ambitious and encompassed features not seen before in Scarborough such as changing facilities, diving boards and water chutes, the pool was also designed to act as part of the town’s sea defenses.
The development was also part of a bigger initiative for the South side of town aimed at emulating the successes of improvements to North Bay such as the introduction of beach huts which had driven up tourism in the area. Many of these new features can still be seen in the gardens to this day such as the ever popular Clock Café, additional cliff paths and as mentioned the Italian Gardens.
TOP TIP: If you’re visiting the Star Map and want to know your exact geographical location on Earth then take a moment to stand where all the lines converge at the center of the disk. You are now at a latitude of 54 degrees, 16 minutes, 13.4 seconds north of the Equator and a longitude of 00 degrees, 23 minutes, 36.8 seconds west of the Greenwich Meridian.
The Tidal Pool opened in 1915 but all works were not completed until the following year. According to the Scarborough and District Red Guide by 1930 a swimming ticket cost 6p. The pool proved so popular not only with swimmers but also spectators to the regular competitions and aquatic displays held there that in 1934 it received an upgrade in seating provision and facilities. That year also saw the instillation of a 32ft diving board which later led to Scarborough hosting the 1948 Olympic Diving preliminaries.
The pool remained extremely popular with locals and tourists alike for many decades but fell out of fashion as swimmers turned to the relative luxury of heated indoor facilities. Visitor numbers declined and the pool fell into a state of disrepair which resulted in its permanent closure in 1989. The site lay derelict for several years until it was finally filed in and repurposed as the site of the Star Map we see today.
FUN FACT: True North from the center of the star map is exactly in line with the tower of St Mary’s church (located near the Castle).