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Rare Historic Film of Scarborough Skipping Day

Rare Historic Film of Scarborough Skipping Day

Published by Jon Burke at 6:31am 25th February 2020.

Rare cine-film footage showing Scarborough’s famous Skipping Day, held each year on Shrove Tuesday, can now be seen in a new exhibition at Ryedale Folk Museum.

For over a century, Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’ has been celebrated by crowds gathering to take part in ‘Skipping Day’ on Scarborough seafront. At its height, thousands of participants take up their ropes for the mass-skipping event.

Now, rare footage, dating from the 1930s can be seen, capturing this spectacle early in its history.

Project Officer, Holly Smith, from Ryedale Folk Museum, has been cataloguing the Geoffrey Willey Collection - photography, slides, film and cameras bequeathed to the Museum by the photographer.

She said:

“We’re delighted to have been able to preserve and share this very rare footage,” explains Holly, “and, in particular, to work with the Yorkshire Film Archive. Thanks to this partnership, historically-important footage has been digitised and is now part of their amazing collection of Yorkshire filmography.

The film was very exciting to discover. It was in a box, with a number of other films recorded by Geoffrey and is unlikely to have been seen by anyone for several decades.

The footage really captures the size of the event and reinforces that this has been a tradition that people of all generations have enjoyed. The skippers look well-wrapped up that year, so it appears to have been a cold Shrove Tuesday down on the seafront. But it didn’t deter them!”

Holly's been speaking to Yorkshire Coast Radio's Jon Burke..

It is believed that the tradition grew out of the fishing heritage, as local fishermen sorted and mended their ropes and nets by the beach.

Collections Manager at Scarborough Museums Trust, Jim Middleton, said:

“The exact reasons for the tradition are unknown, but it was a half-day holiday and plenty of rope was available around the harbour.

Skipping on Shrove Tuesday has been a tradition in Scarborough since at least 1903 and probably longer. In the 19th Century, the day was known as Ball Day and the Foreshore Road was lined with stalls selling toys and balls, so there would have been a great atmosphere of leisure and celebration; today’s skipping is a continuation of much older traditions."

The footage has been made available to view as part of an exhibition at Ryedale Folk Museum, A Life Through the Lens, telling the life of the Yorkshire-born photographer, Geoffrey Willey. 

Living to the age of 103, Geoffrey photographed and recorded glimpses of life across many decades, before leaving his collection to the Museum upon his death in 2015. Raised in Scarborough, having moved from West Yorkshire when he was 8, Geoffrey had a life-long connection with the town and surrounding area and was also educated at Scarborough College

Holy said:

“But for the Museum, Geoffrey’s life and photography also have a deeply personal resonance. Already an established photographer, Geoffrey was involved from the very start, photographing whilst the Museum was actually being built in Hutton-le-Hole in the 1960s and, of course, he was involved at the end of his life once more through his generous bequest.”

Geoffrey Willey / A Life Through the Lens is on display in the Art Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum until Sunday 29 March, open daily from 10am until 4pm. Entry to the Gallery is free. 

You can find out more about the exhibition and Ryedale Folk Museum on the website:




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