Dorothy Richardson’s 1801 Tour to Bridlington Quay

Report on meeting held on 23rd November 2015

Prior Rick Hudson welcomed members and then invited Dr Zoe Kinsley, Senior Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University, to give her talk entitled “Dorothy Richardson’s 1801 Tour to Bridlington Quay”. With Zoe’s guidance, and using Dorothy Richardson’s own words and sketches, we were able to conjure up in our minds the manners, sounds, sights and smells of a thriving Bridlington Quay as witnessed over 200 years ago.

Dorothy Richardson was a 53 year old spinster when she stayed in Bridlington for 4 weeks in August 1801. Her sole companion was her maid, Peggy. Dorothy was the daughter of a clergyman and gentleman farmer and her grandfather was a respected botanist. Zoe explained how Dorothy’s journals were written to be read by others, and included an index, clear travel directions, and sketches and drawings. Women of this period were excluded from many intellectual disciplines, and travel writing became a scientific pursuit for them and not personal travelogues.

She rented the house owned by Captain Lamplugh. The house came with a maid who looked after the house and also shared the cooking duties with Dorothy’s maid. From a map Dorothy drew, we can tell this would have been on Manor Street. The house was described in detail.

The speaker quoted several passages from her journal. Dorothy describes getting up at 4.30 am to witness the sunrise and gives a description in words as clear as any picture. She concludes it was “the most splendid scene I ever witnessed” but “Mrs Brisco and Miss Brooke never could be prevailed upon to leave their beds to witness it”. She describes Quay as an “extremely neat small place” and says, with “houses chiefly let as lodgings, every lodging full, and company very genteel”. She witnesses 60 horses being loaded by crane onto a ship bound for St Petersburg. She says harbour shipping is thriving and there are ships in the bay (presumably awaiting a wharf). Dorothy was able to view “the white cliffs of Flamborough, ships in the bay, and ships in the harbour” at a camera obscura apparently set up on the north pier.

Dorothy “cannot say much in favour of butchers’ meat, but excellent fish and herrings fresh out of the sea”. She adds there was “remarkably good malt liquor to be had in the town of Bridlington”. It was clear that fishermen also earned money as visitor guides. Dorothy visited Robin Lythes Hole at Flamborough and “entered this celebrated cavern” with the help of a guide. She also visits Scarborough for a day to see horse races on the sands and there is a shower of rain. Her description is so good it takes you there to the “Spaw” and among the throng. She does however rate Bridlington above Scarborough.

The vote of thanks was given by Mrs Judy Moore. She thought that we had been given an atmospheric insight into life in Bridlington Quay at the time. When answering questions at the end of her talk it was clear there was so much more to tell, and she hoped the speaker would return at some point in the future for what could be a “part 2”.