Discover Our Collections 2017-11-27T16:08:36+00:00

Discover Our Collections

We are working towards a complete online catalogue of our collections. Please contact us if you require further information about any of the Scarborough Museums Trust holdings listed below.

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The Art Collections

Works on Paper

The collection holds work by notable artists such as Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious and Frank Brangwyn and local artists including Henry Barlow Carter, Albert Strange and William Roxby Beverley.

A variety of media are represented, including pencil and charcoal sketches, gouache, watercolours, etchings, pastels and prints. In 2016, Scarborough Art Gallery became the official repository for the Printmakers Council archive, and a selection of prints enter the collections biennially.

236 of the works are railway and corporation posters by John William Broadrick, Frank Henry Mason and Frank Newbould, among others.

Oil Paintings

Many of the oil paintings within the collection were gifted by the wealthy art collector, Tom Laughton.

He donated 17th-19th century works by artists such as Richard Cosway, William Etty, Francis Nicholson and John Atkinson Grimshaw, and 20th century works by artists including John Armstrong, Sir Matthew Smith and Bruce Turner.

The collection also includes Scarborough scenes by marine artists Frederick and Ernest Dade and Robert Ernest Roe.

Sculpture and Applied Arts

Scarborough Art Gallery has a modest sculpture and decorative arts collection, but continues to acquire new works. Sculptures includes works in marble, bronze and lead by notable artists such as Lady Kathleen Scott and Phoebe Stabler. The decorative arts collection includes some late 18th century furniture, a small group of Leeds Creamware and a number of longcase clocks.

The Archaeology Collections

Two centuries of excavation are represented within the collection – formed through acquisitions from digs by archaeological companies, academic institutions and by the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society. These include material of national importance and small local finds.

SMT holds a collection of excavated Early Mesolithic material from Star Carr and other sites around the now extinct post-glacial Lake Flixton. In 2015 SMT accepted a deposition of finds and paper archives from the Vale of Pickering Research Trust, which investigated the Palaeolithic site of Seamer Carr between 1975 and 1996.

The collection holds objects from the Bronze Age, including cinerary urns, pygmy cups, food vessels and a beautiful collection of bronze axe heads. However, the most significant assemblage from the period is the Early Bronze Age burial deposition of Gristhorpe Man. Discovered in 1834, the Gristhorpe Man find is one of the most important tree trunk burials ever discovered.  Research on Gristhorpe Man’s remains and grave goods has changed archaeological understanding of how people may have lived in Early Bronze Age Britain.

The collections include a small group of items from dynastic Egypt, donated to the Scarborough Philosophical Society in the 1840s by Mrs Alice Lieder, a teacher and missionary.

The Roman collection holds significant material such as the Romano British cemetery from Norton, which was discovered in the 1960s and consists of 28 skeletons and grave goods. Furthermore, collections of material from the Scarborough Castle headland and Filey Carr Naze chart the last days of the Roman Empire in the North of England, while human remains from the Windypits burials of the North Yorkshire Moors point towards potential human sacrifice in the late Iron Age and Early Romano-British period.

The medieval collection includes a 14th century Scarborough Ware ram shaped aquamanile and 15th century silver items purchased by the Scarborough Philosophical society in 1836, including a silver ring and silver gilt-reliquary.

The Natural History Collections

Birds and Animals

We hold thirteen documented specimens from a collection of trophy heads of exotic animals shot by Lieutenant Colonel John James Harrison, including an adult male pygmy antelope collected in 1904. SMT also holds a mounted specimen of a giant tortoise from the Galápagos Islands donated by John Wharton in 1840.

The mounted birds, both domestic and international in origin, include the Rowntree family’s pet Herring Gull, a Little Bustard and three Great Bustards, three Passenger Pigeons, many impressive birds of prey, and a collection of Birds of Paradise also brought back by Lieutenant Colonel Harrison.

The mounted mammals, birds, fish and crustaceans are a mixture of cased and uncased examples.

Palaeontological material

Arguably the most important discrete collections held are the 80 Type and Figured specimens which are of international significance. A list of these Type fossils and ones held at Whitby can be found on the Scarborough & Whitby Museums type & figured fossils catalogue website.

Other collections include: Lower Jurassic fossils, Middle Jurassic terrestrial material (mainly ichnology and plant remains) and Upper Jurassic marine collections.

Little vertebrate material exists in the collections, however the remains of the Speeton Plesiosaur were acquired after its discovery in 2001. This Plesiosaur was uncovered from a stratigraphically significant interval, helping to constrain evolutionary trends in the Lower Cretaceous.

The Dinosaur footprint collection and associated academic data from the Yorkshire Coast compiled by the late Dr Martin Whyte of the University of Sheffield was also acquired in 2013.

Study Skins

Most of the study skins held originate from the collection of the 20th century British born naturalist Wilfred James Plowden-Wardlaw.

We hold Avian Eggs including a Great Auk egg, a passenger pigeon egg and a Great Bustard egg.


The Herbarium collection houses specimens collected by several botanists, including Walter Waters Reeves and Georgiana Wise. In the year 2000 the specimens were conserved by the Liverpool World Museum but have since returned and are accessible for researchers.


The Mollusca collection is largely formed from the collection of local naturalist William Bean bought by the Scarborough Philosophical Society in 1923 and added to by Walter J. Gyngell in 1926. In 1999 the collection was catalogued and repacked.


The Entomology Collection largely consists of James M. Brown and George Beckworth Walsh’s insect collections, both of which are important examples of 19th and 20th century natural history collecting with strong local provenance.

The Geology Collections

The Rotunda: William Smith Museum of Geology was reopened in 2008 after a two-year restoration and redisplay. The name was changed to acknowledge the huge role that William Smith played in the development of practical geology and in designing the museum. The geology collections comprise around 8000 specimens; including mostly palaeontology and mineral specimens.

Mineral Material

The mineral collections are extremely diverse and include some rare examples of Weardale material; however, there is very little provenance data for the specimens.

The Social and Local History Collections

Local history

The local history collection is relatively small, however, a notable example is the archive of the British Tunny Club – an important contribution to the history of rod and line fishing in Britain. The collection is in a range of media, books and ephemera.

The Borough Council’s tourism archive includes ephemera, such as posters, some of which date to the late 18th century.

Social history

The Trust is actively acquiring items for the social history collection. It currently comprises material representing general domestic life and objects of relevance to the Scarborough Borough area, such as a climming kit used to take seabird eggs from Bempton Cliffs.

Clarke Charms collection

The Clarke Charms collection is of particular significance, due to the range of material and belief systems represented from around the world. The collection numbers over 500 items and was accumulated between 1890 and 1945 by local naturalist and folklorist William James Clarke, a founder member of the Scarborough Field Naturalists Society.

Seaside Heritage collection

The Seaside Heritage collection has recently been documented thanks to an Esmee Fairbairn Foundation grant. Efforts are being made to collect more material to represent the history of Scarborough as a seaside resort, including items from the earliest years of the town as a tourist destination.


The costume collection is relatively small but includes some beautiful pieces, such as several pairs of embroidered early 20th century shoes, a collection of bathing costumes dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, including a mid-20th century Janzen maternity suit and a selection of ladies’ evening wear. The collection is lacking in 19th century clothing but one piece of note is a Georgian cotton maternity or nursing dress.

Within the jewellery collection is an anti-slavery brooch dating from the early 19th century and several quality pieces of Whitby jet jewellery.

The Ethnography Collections

The collection dates mainly from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and contains material from Africa, North, Central and South America. The most important items in the collection include the photographs and audio recordings of a group of pygmies from the Congo brought to England by Lieutenant. Colonel John James Harrison in 1906.

The Numismatics Collection

The coin, medal and token collection includes the Kendall collection which ranges from Hellenic Greece to Victorian England: Greek, Roman, Medieval, Early Modern and Victorian coins, medals and tokens are all represented. The medal collection includes medals made from the shells fired on Scarborough during the German bombardment of the town in 1914. The tokens date from the 17th through to the 19th centuries and originate not only from local Scarborough tradesmen but also locations throughout the British Isles, together with several international examples and some with religious connections.