Redcar and Coatham
Redcar began as a little fishing village which grew as a coastal resort in the nineteenth century with the extension of the railway here from Teesside. Like Saltburn, Redcar is still frequented by day trippers in search of the scent of the sea but the biggest attraction is undoubtedly the Race Course around which the town seems to encircle. This opened in 1872 and ensured that day-trippers continued to flock.
Redcar seems to have been named from neighbouring red-coloured rocks or carrs or perhaps from the same word carr which can also mean poorly drained land, so it could be the ‘reedy carr’. This is possible as nearby Marske-by-the Sea has a boggy name that comes from the Scandinavian pronunciation of the English word marsh.
Old names for Redcar include Redker in 1165, Ridkere in 1407 and Readcar in 1653. It was only a ‘Poore Fishing Toune’ in 1510 as most activity in the area was was centred on its then more important neighbour, Coatham which held a market and fair from 1257.
Coatham’s name derives from Cot -Ham and means ‘the shelters’. Fishing boats probably took shelter from the stormy seas. Coatham was one of the most important fishing villages in the area and in 1801 it had a population of 680 people. Comparable population figures in the district show that 993 people lived at Hartlepool, 167 at Thornaby and only 25 people lived at Middlesbrough.
Redcar rose from obscurity in 1846 when an extension of the Stockton and Darlington Railway brought industry and seaside day trippers to the area. Redcar quickly expanded and soon absorbed Coatham.
Industrial growth in the late eighteenth century came in the form of ironworks and later steelworks of which the most prominent were those of Dorman and Long. In the following century Dorman and Long built a new town in 1918 called Dormanstown right on Redcar’s doorstep to accomodate the expanding workforce of the district and add further to the population of the Redcar area.
The town of Redcar is less known as the home of the world’s oldest lifeboat called the Zetland which is displayed in the museum of that name in King Street. It was built around 1810 by Henry Greathead of South Shields and originally worked at Spurn Head until it was bought by Redcar fisherman in 1802. The Zetland was built twenty years after the first ever lifeboat which was also built at South Shields.
Saltburn to the north of Boulby was an important Victorian bathing resort and we are reminded of this by the presence of the North East’s only pleasure pier (1868) which juts out 600 feet from Saltburn beach. Originally the pier was 1400 ft long but its length was severely reduced during a storm in 1924 when it was rammed by a ship called the Ovenberg. Another intriguing feature related to Saltburn’s role as a Victorian resort lies directly above the pier where we find the oldest working water balanced inclined tramway in Britain.
Dating from the 1870s this was specially designed to transport visitors back and forth from Saltburn town to the pier and beach. Although the town’s most obvious features are of Victorian origin, its history goes back much further as we know that in the thirteenth century it was inhabited by a hermit and in even earlier Roman times it was the site of a fortified Roman signalling station.
The earthworks of this fort are situated on Hunt Cliff, a vertical sea cliff 365 ft above sea level, a mile to the east of Saltburn. Huntcliff was one of a number of Roman signaling stations situated along the Yorkshire coast which were built as watchtowers against the threat of barbarian from Denmark, Germany and Pictland, Dating from around 369AD the station was eventually overrun by the raiders in the later fourth century A.D. when its occupants were murdered and reputedly dumped in a nearby well. In a 1923 excavation in 1923 the victims were discovered when the skeletons of fourteen people – men women and children were found. They were clearly the victims of murder.
The Anglo-Saxons who would later settle Cleveland and give Saltburn its name may have been responsible for the murderous raid. The name ‘Sealt-Burna’ salty stream, perhaps from its salty water or because of the salt-like alum found in the neighbourhood. The stream still flows through the town cutting a deep wooded ravine before making its way into the sea after cutting through the middle of Satburn beach.
When the Vikings came three centuries they changed the name of the stream from burn to beck but the village of Saltburn retained its retained its name, but the stream became the Skelton Beck.
The little fishing village of Saltburn grew beneath the prominent Cat Nab hill near the beach and its still there beneath the Victorian town which towers above. This small place, was famed for smuggling and fishing until 1860, when the Stockton and Darlington Railway was extended to the site and Henry Pease of Darlington set about the development of the wonderful Victorian coastal resort of Saltburn-by-the-Sea.
Highlights of this charming town includree some lovely Victorian buildings including the former Zetland Hotel, the pleasure pier, the Valley Gardens, the beautiful beach and the cliffs that tower above the coast to its north and of course Saltburn Cliff Lift – a funicular railway of 1884 that can carry people from the cliff top to the beach itself.
Vikings and Smugglers on the Cleveland Coast
Cleveland is an ancient district of Yorkshire with a name that historically called ‘Cliffland’ and seemingly a reference to the coastal cliffs of the area. In fact it could mean ‘hilly district’, the word cliff in its old sense referring to rolling hills rather than steep-faced cliffs. The word ‘cleve’ in Cleveland may also be related to the modern word cleavage. Cleveland is often thought to be a modern invention, but although the County of Cleveland, abolished in April 1996 was not created until 1974, the real Cleveland is much older.
Historically Cleveland was a district of northern Yorkshire situated entirely to the south of the River Tees. The earliest record of the name was in Viking times when Harald Hardrada is said to have landed in that part of Yorkshire called Cliffland. Unlike the present county, old Cleveland did not include places like Billingham, Stockton, Egglescliffe and Hartlepool which were part of County Durham.
Guisborough was in Yorkshire but was also the ancient Cleveland capital, while Yarm was the main place of industry and commerce in old Cleveland until Middlesbrough rose to prominence in the nineteenth century. Old Cleveland stretched further south than then now defunct Cleveland county, almost as far south as Whitby and included Egton, Stokesley, Great Ayton, Staithes and Carlton in Cleveland. Ironically Carlton in Cleveland and most of the Cleveland Hills were never part of the modern county of Cleveland
Cleveland’s sea cliffs at Boulby to the north of Staithes are 679 feet high, which makes them the highest on the whole eastern coast of England. Their rugged recesses once provided shelter for smugglers who were especially active on the Cleveland coast during the eighteenth century.
The steeple of a nearby church was one of the places where illicit kegs of wine, gin and whisky were once hid. Smuggling was a highly profitable business and was once a common activity on the coasts of Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire. The naturally secluded shelters of Cleveland’s cliffland coast once frequented by the smugglers may have been used in even earlier times by Viking longships, as the Vikings seem to have settled this area in particularly large numbers.
We know this from the evidence of Viking place names which are abundant in the area. Examples include Skinningrove, Carlin Howe and Loftus meaning `Skinner’s Pit’ `Witch’s Hill’ and ‘House with a Loft’. A mix of Viking and Anglo-Saxon village names can be found just inland from the coast. The Viking names include Stanghow, Moorsholm and Boosbeck which translate as Pole Hill, Moor sland or moor houses and ‘cow shed stream’. Brotton, Liverton and Lingdale are likely Anglo-Saxon and all named from the valleys of little streams. Brotton is thought to mean brook-farm, Liverton a stream name (as with Liverpool) and Lingdale from ling a word for heather.
Staithes – Captain Cook’s Coast
Staithes, situated in a deep narrow creek formed by the Roxby Beck which cuts its way through the steep cliffs ten miles north of Whitby, is undoubtedly one of the prettiest coastal villages in England. Originally it was settled by the Vikings who gave the village its name which means `The Landing Place’ but romantics argue that the village owes its origins to a French shipwreck whose survivors settled ashore. Staithes is very popular with visitors who come primarily for the excellent scenery. Perhaps some also come in search of the headless ghost of a young girl who reputedly haunts the coast hereabouts.
More often than not visitors to Staithes are on the trail of Captain James Cook who worked at Staithes as a boy apprenticed to a local grocer. It was here at Staithes that he acquired the love of the sea that set him on course for his long and eventful career. Indeed upon leaving Staithes Cook headed straight for Whitby and from 1775 he worked for a Whitby shipowner employed on colliers shipping coals from the River Tyne to London.
Cook’s knowledge of the sea went from strength to strength and upon joining the navy he quickly progressed to the rank of Captain. In his voyages as Captain many important discoveries of new land were made in journeys that took him to Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Tahiti and Hawaii, where he eventually lost his life on the 14th February 1779 after a disagreement between local tribesmen and members of his crew.
Whitby – St Hilda and the Synod
Whitby in Yorkshire also has links with North Eastern England north of the River Tees. Before Viking settlement fell upon Yorkshire, Whitby lay within the Kingdom of Northumbria and was the site of an Anglo-Saxon abbey founded in 657 A.D. The abbey stood on the site now occupied by Whitby’s ruinous Norman abbey overlooking the River Esk and was dedicated to a Northumbrian princess called St Hilda, who moved here from Hartlepool and was the first abbess. In later years the abbey was destroyed by the Vikings who raided Whitby in 870 A.D.
Vikings eventually became peaceful settlers at Whitby calling it `Hviteby’ – `the White Town’ In 664 A.D Whitby abbey had been the setting for the Synod of Whitby , an important meeting held to decide if the people of Northumbria should adhere to Celtic or Roman teachings of Christianity. The meeting was chaired by Oswy, King of Northumbria, who listened to the arguments of St Wilfrid (of Ripon and Hexham) and St Colman who spoke respectively for the Roman and Celtic causes. In the end it was St Wilfrid’s highly persuasive oratory skills that won the support of King Oswy and determined the outcome of the synod. The Celtic christianity introduced by St Aidan thirty years before was abandoned in favour of Roman practices. Roman Catholicism thus became the primary religion of northern England for centuries to come.
Caedmon the Saintly Poet of Whitby
In the time of St Hilda, Whitby was the home of an Anglo-Saxon called Caedmon who has been described as the man “who laid the first great temple of English poetry”. Caedmon was originally an illiterate cow herder with an embarrassing inability to sing and according to legend his problem was such that he would hide away in a cow shed while his working friends entertained each other with music and singing.
One evening while hiding in the shed Caedmon fell into a deep sleep and dreamt that an angel sent from heaven taught him how to sing. The following morning Caedmon awoke to discover that his dream had come true and that he now had a marvellous gift for singing phrases from the testament in the form of verse. St Hilda, the abbess of Whitby, was greatly pleased with Caedmon’s discovery and encouraged him to utilise his talent in spreading the word of God.