Shrove Tuesday – The ringing of the Pancake
On Shrove Tuesday, in Scarborough,
the South Bay foreshore is crowded with people for the skipping
As long ago as 1853 townspeople
gathered here to celebrate ‘Ball Day’ annually on Shrove Tuesday.
It was one of the few public holidays when apprentices and servants
could be sure of having at least half a day to enjoy
Until the turn of the century it
was known as Ball Day. It was recorded in 1903 that ‘a few bairns
were skipping near the lifeboat’ but by 1927 in a national
publicity campaign it was acclaimed as ‘Scarborough’s Skipping
At the end of the last century the
South Foreshore on Shrove Tuesday was like a fairground. Stalls
were arranged on the sea front which offered gingerbread,
liquorice, coconuts, and similar delicacies, to all who wanted to
A contemporary account relates that
‘Baskets and balls of various qualities and colours
were prominent too and battledores and shuttlecocks were bought
even by men and women. On this day grown up folks can skip and play
without being thought childish. Everyone becomes something
different from their usual selves on Shrove
In those days, of course, there
were no real traffic problems. The Foreshore Road between the Spa
and Eastborough is now closed to traffic during the afternoon of
Shrove Tuesday. The fact remains that from mid-day onwards there
are likely to be thousands of ‘young’ people of all ages
enjoying themselves along the seafront.
The other custom which is still
retained at Scarborough is the ringing of the Pancake Bell. Over a
century ago the bell used to hang in St Thomas’ Hospital which was
then on a site in North Street.
It was used as a curfew signal
at 6am and 6pm, before the days of the BBC time signals. On
Shrove Tuesday, however, it was rung at noon as a signal to
housewives to start frying the traditional pancakes.
With the demolition of the hospital
the bell was removed to the Rotunda Museum in 1861 where it
continued to be rung for the next 50 years. When age made it
unsafe, a ship’s bell, presented to the Rotunda in 1979 to mark its
150th anniversary, was substituted. A new replica Pancake Bell was
installed at 86 Newborough above what used to be the Next clothes
shop in 1996.
The new Pancake Bell was provided
by Scarborough Borough Council with the assistance of Tate and Lyle
Sugars, Morrisons Stores and electricity supply nominees.
The only break in the tradition
occurred during the war years of 1939-45 when bell ringing was
prohibited. Now, it is always rung by the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor
of the Borough of Scarborough.
For further information, please contact the Scarborough Tourism
Bureau on 01723 383636.