COAST – Changes on our coast during the last half century

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 20/09/1871

Changes on our coast during the last half century

     In our issue of last week we published a very interesting, and in more ways than one, an important communication respecting a submerged forest in our neighbourhood, wherein the author gives an account of a discovery made by him of hazel nuts etc in the vicinity of the battery, which has induced him to come to the conclusion that at some remote period on that spot there must have been dry land, with a grove of hazels and trees growing upon it. Now, if this discovery had been a solitary one, we might easily find other methods of accounting for the presence of these things in such a position, the first occurring to one’s mind being that they must have been washed down by the winter’s torrents from inland copses into the sea, had drifted hither, and had become “sandwarped” as it is termed, for an unknown number of years, just as the ribs of the vessel which was wrecked below Bath Street upwards of 70 years ago, have been.

     But this explanation is inadmissible, seeing that from time to time, near the same place, and by the side of what is locally known as the first “water race” the existence of a buried forest has been recognized, because when by reason of some peculiar circumstances connected with the wind and the tide a portion of the sand had been swept away, boughs, trunks, twigs, nuts, etc which must have been located in that position when above ground, have been seen in profusion.

     The conclusion to be drawn from the above fact is that in the neighbourhood of Redcar there is a gradual change taking place in the contour of the coast, and from many unmistakeable indications it is apparent that to the east it is being encroached upon by the water, while to the west, the land is gaining upon the sea. It is an acknowledged fact that but for the presence of the Saltscar and other reefs of rocks, the present town would soon be numbered like Ravenspur and several other places formerly on the Yorkshire coast, south of Flambro’ Head, among the towns that have been. To show that this is not at all impossible still, we may mention that in the past generations, the legend hath it, the site of the town was near the place where the seaward end of the pier will be, that is some 400 yards further north than where Redcar is now, and that as the water encroached, the houses were removed to suit the varying rises of the tide, indeed there is amongst the rocks below the battery, where it is thought out forefathers were laid when they had “gone the way of all flesh,” and to this day it is called by fisherman the “churchyard.” When we stand, therefore, on the extreme end of the pier after its completion, we may indulge in retrospection as to how the in habitants of the hamlet that once existed of that very spot, conducted themselves by, whether they then as now supported themselves by fishing, and whether as we hear other ancient fishermen did, they could ride out in the heaviest storm.

     At the Cliff some thirty or forty years since, the sea allowed the existence of a roadway upwards of 60 feet wide between the houses and the edge of the hill, but just before the construction of the promenade the aspect of affairs had materially changed, and the sea approached the cliff nearly every tide, thus causing the cliff to be denuded so that in lieu of the 60 feet roadway there was only a narrow footpath. Along the coast to Marske and Saltburn there are to be perceived very conclusive evidences that the land is being encroached upon by the sea.


The Lobster Public House as seen today (2013)

     The explanation of the causes of the above mentioned changes is difficult to be found, but it is conjectured that the silting up to the west is owing to the alteration in the bed of the Tees, whilst the encroaching to the east may be accounted for by the current which sets in from the Atlantic, round the North of Scotland and down the east coast, the effects of which may be seen of the North of Norfolk, where its full force is expended. There may also be something in the soft composition of the earth forming the hills.

     The case of the encroachment of the sea is not without parallel on the Yorkshire coast, since between the projecting headland of Flambro’ and Spurn Point (the coast of Holderness)  we find waste particularly rapid, the reason being without  doubt, that the soft clayey nature of the coast is unable to resist the action of the waves. On old maps of the county we see sites of villages marked, which are now entirely destroyed – Auburn, Hyde, Hartburn, Kilnsea, of which only the “tradition is left.” Ravenspur which in the 14th century was a rival of the port of Hull, and was of so much importance that expeditions for Scotland sailed from thence, and where Henry IV, disembarked when he came to depose his cousin Richard II, is wholly submerged, and not a vestige of it to be found. The church at Owthorne when built two centuries ago, was ten miles from the coast, and at present it is just on the verge. At Sheringham, in Norfolk, an inn was built in 1805, at a distance of 50 yards from the beach, and it was computed that it would be seventy years before the sea reached the site, but this proved to be incorrect, for in 1899 it overhung the waters and now there is 24 feet of water on the spot.

     The utility of the sea wall at Redcar may be perceived in more ways than one; it is a protection for the eastern end as well as a promenade, and may be the western if the changes continue, so that we may, congratulate ourselves in having at last accomplished so great a work.


dean July 26, 2011 History General