COATHAM – Ancient the Camp of Refuge

Accreditation The Cleveland Standard 1930s

Ancient Coatham
The Camp of Refuge
By Joseph F. Hurst, North Ormesby.

   This ancient Cleveland resort has a history second to none in our very interesting and historical district. In the earliest period of its history East Coatham was a hamlet within the parish of Kirkleatham, and belonged to the Brus family, Lords of Skelton, which with the manor of Kirkleatham eventually came into the possession of the Turner family. It is a very interesting fact that at one period Coatham selected as the last stand of a band of sturdy north countrymen who were determined not to submit to the all-conquering powers of William the Conqueror until their strength and resisting powers were exhausted.
Here it was on Coatham Marshes (near the site of the golf links today) that the camp, was formed. This camp was protected by the sea and marshes, and could be approached only by a narrow belt of land. Thither by many secret ways came those who had refused to submit to the Conqueror, bringing with them all their valuables and a good supply of food. Here they lived, free from all care, thinking no power of the Conqueror could harm them, but they were soon disillusioned, for William set out from York in January 1070 with a strong force. The rebels fled by night, when they heard of his approach, and he took the camp without any opposition, and remained there a fortnight.
Watheof, Gospatric, and Archill made their submissions. Four years later Watheof was beheaded at Winchester for his share of the “Camp of Refuge” at Coatham. The harrying of the north, the greatest blot on William the Conqueror’s character, was his own work. He had sworn, “By the splendour of God,” that he “would not leave a soul of the insurgents alive,” and he carried out his object with ruthless cruelty. When the work of destruction was completed, he returned to York, but the danger was not yet past, and another insurrection was imminent.

Important Fishing Port

   At one period Coatham was one of the chief centres of the North Sea fisheries. Grants of fish and fisheries were very important at a time when the pious ate no meat in Lent, or Fridays at all, or feast days. Peter de Brus gave the Priors at Guisborough Priory the liberty of buying fish at Coatham, and to carry it by any route through his hands. There is no doubt that the old road which runs from Kirkleatham main road and through Dormanstown to-day, known as Maggoty Lane, is the road those pious old monks used for that purpose. Adam de Brus exempted the monks of Byland Abbey from the tolls payable to him as Lord of the Manor on the fish they bought at Coatham; there was also at one period a toll of 100lb of fish annually on each fishing boat, payable to the Prior, in an endeavour to show the importance of Coatham as a port at a little later period, the fishing trade, of course, being its chief factor.
Yarm, Coatham, Whitby, and Scarborough were then the chief ports of our district. Yarm in 1206AD was a place of considerable importance. In that year a tax of 1/15th was levied on the goods of all merchants, and to this Yarm paid £42.17shillings., Scarborough £22.0s.4d., Coatham 16s.11d., and Whitby only 4shillings. So in those far-off days Coatham was a larger port than Whitby. Another interesting fact connected with Coatham was its salt and alum industries. The monks from the near-by abbeys and priories worked the salt deposits at the mouth of the River Tees.
The Prior of Guisborough paid to the Brus family one measure of salt annually for a pan on Coatham Marsh.
At a later period Sir Charles Turner made great improvements around East Coatham, about 1780-90, besides exerting himself with spirit in the repair of the country roads. Instead of the paltry ale houses, which were the frequent haunts of smugglers, and an encouragement to idleness and drunkenness, he built two large and commodious inns, one in Kirkleatham, and one at Coatham.

Refined Resort

   The following extract from a London newspaper, dated September 7, 1795, which may interest readers resident in Coatham:-
“Nature seems to have designed this romantic-spot in he most lovely mood, the delightful scenery and extensive prospects, with which it is surrounded, conspire to attract the admiration of all who visit and contemplate its beauties. The small though elegant circle, which at present enlivens the hemisphere of Coatham, proclaim it an infant watering place which in all maturity may vie with the most fashionable resorts of the age. Its sister village, Redcar, agreeably situated on the shore, is rather larger, though inferior in many qualities which complete the interest of Coatham. A very respected company of comedians perform at the former village with considerable applause. Much were it to be wished that the innocent enjoyment of Coatham might take the place of the more fashionable dissipation of public watering places, and that Fair, in lieu of ceding to the frantic infatuation of the gaming table, might as in the simple retreat of Coatham, repose in the bosom of ease and tranquility.”
So, as will be seen from the foregoing quotation even in those far off days, Coatham was noted as a quiet, reserved seaside resort.


dean April 7, 2010 Coatham, Military & War Years