From Downstreet to Uptown: Scarborough Fisherfolk, Poverty & the Holiday Trade

Ref: C3672812

This course is based on original research into occupational and social change among Scarborough fishing families in the early 1900s. We’ll follow descendants of fisherfolk as they move out of the 'downstreet' old town and start working for some of Scarborough's notable families 'uptown'. In the process we’ll note the social and economic conditions that prompted their journeys: drownings, workhouse admissions, poor housing and high infant mortality rates, coupled with a decline in fishing and expansion of the holiday trade. In practical sessions we’ll learn about basic tools needed to undertake research into specific families, streets or occupations, using census data and other records. We will use a range of paper-based sources to investigate the social changes taking place in the town. Those with a laptop/tablet can learn how to analyse census data using a spreadsheet. We’ll then share our preliminary findings from both activities and identify topics for further study.

Course aim

Using original sources and local history techniques, follow some of Scarborough's Victorian fishing families as they move from 'down street' poverty into the thriving Edwardian holiday trade, and devise your own mini study.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • Access to a lap top or tablet computer would be helpful but not essential. Alternative paper-based activities will be offered.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • understand the social and economic conditions affecting Scarborough's old town at the beginning of the 20th century;
  • recognise the forces which impelled people to change their way of life in the expanding upper town;
  • analyse a small sample of households in different census years to demonstrate the impact of economic and social change;
  • create a simple historical spreadsheet to analyse census data on social conditions (laptop or tablet needed) OR compare data from printed sources to map local mobility, economic and occupational change;
  • plan a small study of your own, using printed or online sources.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • The course will introduce you to basic techniques of historical investigation using original sources.You will be encouraged to plan and undertake your own small-scale research after the course.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to work collaboratively with other students on small investigative projects during and after the course.

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Registration is at 9am. Lunch is not provided. Please bring a pad, pen, pencil and folder. A magnifying glass may also be helpful. If bringing a lap top or tablet, you may need to log on to the Library's free Wifi.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Printed materials held by Scarborough Library, eg histories of fishing & the holiday trade will provide useful background. If you have computer skills, familiarity with genealogy sites such as and would be useful.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • You could go on to join local history groups and heritage organisations in your home area to practise, share and enhance the skills you have learned on this course.

Download full Course information sheet

From Downstreet to Uptown: Scarborough Fisherfolk, Poverty & the Holiday Trade

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This course has been cancelled.


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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