REDCAR – Impressions of More Than One Hundred Years Ago
Accreditation Cleveland Standard 02/05/1936
Impressions of Redcar More than One Hundred Years Ago
“ONE STREET BUILT ON BOTH SIDES”
Keen Rivalry with Coatham
When the sands between Redcar and Coatham were a mass of struggling men is long past, but it is a mile stone in the history of the town when Redcar and Coatham were two different settlements. Those were the early days, the days when men fought with sticks and stones, until progress came which turned the inhabitants into more or less civilised individuals. But always at the bottom of their hardened natures rankled a scorn and sense of rivalry against their neighbours.
It still carried on when, the respective governing boards fought to outdo each other. But again progress intervened and the two villages became as one.
Those days are by a book under the title of “A Trip to Coatham,” by W.Hutton, F.A.S.S., published in 1810, owned by Miss Graham, of Redcar.
The book itself is in a remarkable state of preservation and the author seems to be possessed with a quiet humour. He suggests the name Coatham came from Cot—- a cottage, and ham—-a home.
“Coatham is half a street,” he writes, “that is, built only on one side; consists of about seventy houses, and is four hundred yards long. We then pass over on open green, four hundred yards more, which brings us to Redcar, which is one street built on both sides, five hundred yards long, and containing about one hundred and sixty houses.”
COTTAGES STILL STANDING
The half street which composed of Coatham of which he speaks would undoubtedly be whitewashed cottages at the top end of Coatham High Street. This street is recognised to be the oldest in Coatham and the cottages have been standing for a great number of years. The railway, as many residents will know, used to run down this street, and the station was situated where the Central Cinema now stands. Before its rebuilding the entrance resembled a station.
In Coatham High Street two cottages, originally railway men’s homes still stand. At some distance along the golf links there are still some lines which when nearer Coatham run into ground. It can be said that there is still a certain amount of rivalry between Redcar and Coatham now, while it has often been said that Redcar people are cold-shouldered.
“These two hamlets,” the author goes on to say, “an age back could have been no more than a small fishing places, which instead of being known one hundred miles off, were scarcely known know by their neighbours.”
This is true, as old prints show. The inhabitants at this period wrested a precarious living from the sea, which was generally (something) by storms. Now, however they have abated in intensity. The inhabitants at Coatham augmented their income somewhat by boiling sea water in in huge quantities on the shore and selling it at Kirkleatham and other villages – a venture which scarcely paid for their labour.
WIND REGARDED AS ENEMY
These cottages have still the low fronts which were originally used for (something) breaking the keen north winds and holding the sand which drifted to great depths. We can truthfully say we get the same winds. This wind, which was classed as an enemy rather than a friend, was the very thing visitors came to breathe.
There were still in 1810, mud walled huts in which the poorest of the poor lived. There was no manorial ‘officer’ which accounted for the independence of the populace.
Another passage refers to the gentle shores of Cargo Fleet. If the author could only see it now his rhapsodies might be rudely shattered.
Commonly known as “Slaggy” island, its spires and buildings are wrapped in a cloud of smoke which hides the sun. Disease from smoke is rife, and houses are overshadowed by idle chimneys and slag tips. Women hang out tattered bed clothing in their dingy backyards in an effort at cleanliness, while their husbands and children stand on the corners.
The old men, pathetically clinging to the warped tissue they call a body, unshaven, ragged, and tattered, with dingy mufflers round their necks, stand in idleness. The younger ones, washed and shaved, but shabby, knowing that their fate will be that of the old men if they do not get out, some a sullen expression, while the children play in the gutters.
NOT ONE RAGGED CHILD
The author of the books states that he did not see one ragged child in Coatham.
“In burying the dead.” the writer says ” the fashion in one, is a thousand years behind the other. The funeral of an old man, our next door neighbour at Coatham happened while we were there. I found it was the practice for any person to attend, whether invited or not; and the attendance was considered as a mark of respect for the defunct.”
Many of the old Coatham families have long since passed. The church was reputed to be on the sandbanks, where the dead were buried many years ago. It was two miles to the church and the old Saxon custom of singing Psalms all the way was observed.
The two streets of Coatham and Redcar were covered with deep drifts of sand, blown by the wind that brought pain to the feet at the thought of walking through it. Walking was hard, but the sand in those days was without dirt, not as is sometimes the case to-day, be spoiled with oil from passing ships which “progress” has given us. These drifts were sometimes nearly as high as the houses, and inhabitants were always busy keeping the sand clear.
Mr. Hutton notes the fact that owners of small boarding-houses in Redcar did not despise one another as in Blackpool. It is a well-known fact that the Cleveland or, shall we say Yorkshire, character does not go out of its way to pick faults. Miss Naomi Jacob, who is shortly to visit the town, stressed this fact in many of her novels.
The roads at this period, the author says, were remarkably fine. Seals, Mr. Hutton says, were common and organised hunting parties were common. “A gentleman.” he says, “attempted to gain a few hundred acres by banking out the sea; but in a moment the sea swept away his bank and £50,000.”
The sands here are everywhere safe, though there are soft patches.
The author states that there is a coal seam under the sea but how big no one knows, and the lower classes gather and sell the sea-coal. This coal has been attributed to many sources but the lasting qualities of it show that there is a seam. The ancient men of this district used it to boil sea-water, and it has been used for different purposes throughout the ages. It is still in use and still plentiful.acres by banking out the sea; but in a moment the sea swept away his bank and £50,000.”
The sands here are everywhere safe, though there are soft patches.
The author states that there is a coal seam under the sea but how big no one knows, and the lower classes gather and sell the sea-coal. This coal has been attributed to many sources but the lasting qualities of it show that there is a seam. The ancient men of this district used it to boil sea-water, and it has been used for different purposes throughout the ages. It is still in use and still plentiful.
May 10, 2010 Redcar