Trinity House 10
One of the properties in Scarborough designated as a Grade II* listed building (the star denotes a particularly important building), Trinity House has played a significant role in the seafaring life of the town. It is one of only four such establishments in the country, the others are at London, Hull and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and its foundation reflects the importance of Scarborough as a port in the early 17th century. The original Society of Ship Owners and Master Mariners (35 of the former and 39 ships’ captains) built almshouses on the St. Sepulchre Street site, and later bought the land itself for £100 in 1665. A gift, left by Admiral Sir John Lawson (circa 1616 to 1665) in his will to the poor of Scarborough, funded the erection of the first Trinity House. It contained 27 apartments for aged or maimed seamen and/or their widows, as well as ‘two fine rooms’ in which the trustees could hold their meetings. These trustees had to be either shipowners, master mariners or naval officers, a requirement which still applies today.
An Act of Parliament of 1747 created a merchant seamen’s fund to finance such charitable institutions, financed by a levy of 6d (21/2 pence) a month from all persons employed on any vessel belonging to the four ports involved. During the five-year period from 1747 to 1752, over £1,000 was raised locally by the levy – an enormous sum in those days. This fund financed the construction of the Merchant Seaman’s Hospital opened in 1752 on the site of the current fire station. Even Scarborough Corporation found it convenient to borrow money from Trinity House!
In this building, the entire business of the port was conducted: ships were bought and sold in the impressive first-floor board room that remains a notable feature of the interior, cargoes arranged, insurances effected and indentures signed. Rebuilt in 1832 to the designs of R. H. Sharp of York, Trinity House is a fine example of classical style architecture in ashlar-faced stone. Behind this distinguished frontage are now seven, self-contained modern flats, housing retired seamen and their dependants. The historic board room is lit by three chandeliers given by the Belfast descendants of Edward Harland (of Harland and Woolf fame) who, as a schoolboy, watched 'splendid East Indiamen of some 1,000 tons burden' being built at Scarborough shipyards of the Tindall family (see page 20). This boardroom, with its numerous maritime mementoes, is still used for the statutory bi-annual meetings of the 15 trustees. Trinity House also controls an annexe of 18 flats on Tollergate, rebuilt in 1959, although there were seamen’s almshouses on the site from 1752. Wilson’s Mariners Homes on Castle Road, designed by John Barry, were founded and endowed by Richard Wilson - himself a former trustee of Trinity House - in 1836. They are typical single-storey almshouses built in the Gothic Style.