CROSSLEY – Harriet Mrs. Give Me old Redcar 80 years ago

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 1935

“Give me Old Redcar”
Mrs. Crossley Looks Back 80 years

   “Redcar is completely spoilt. Give me old Redcar.”
This is the plaintive cry of an old Redcar woman who was born and bred in the town and has spent all her days here, as did her father, her grandfather, and his father too, before her.
   Mrs. Harriet Crossley, of Laburnum Road, was sadly mournful for the good old days that have gone when interviewed by a “Standard” representative. Everything has sunk to a very inferior condition since those happy days, when Redcar was known as “good old Redcar.” retrogressed into lukewarm quietness, and sons of the sea do not have to respond to violent storms such as were experienced in the time of the “Zetland” lifeboat which graces the Redcar Promenade as the oldest lifeboat in the world.
I am inclined to look upon this as progress on the part of the Weather Clerk (writes our reporter), and very welcome progress too, but seemingly this attitude does not prevail in all quarters.
Mrs. Crossley remembers the time when the High Street was knee deep in water at the high tides in the stormy season, and has seen the cobbles being taken down Redcar Lane for safety.
   One of her complaints about the present Redcar is that there is so much poverty about. As the question touches myself I am almost inclined to agree with her. When the town was only small everyone had a much better chance of obtaining their livelihood their livelihood and then fishing by small cobles was a trade not, perhaps, exactly lucrative, but certainly with a better return than today.
Added to that, Redcar was an ultra-fashionable watering place in the days when it was beginning to be realised that the sea could be enjoyed in other ways than by merely sailing upon it; when to immerse the body in seawater was achieving recognition as not only a healthy exercise but a pleasant recreation.
Aristocratic visitors – though the phrase is not meant as a direct hit at present day visitors – arrived at Redcar in full state, complete with carriage and pair, horsemen and butlers, liveried servants, and the rest of a proper quipage. The season then extended until the end of October, and this in the days before the birth of Entertainment Week. In those days Redcar was an object of adoration.
   But Mrs. Crossley does’ not altogether despise the modern town. “Redcar is a nice place, if not so nice as it used to be,” she says. The romantic glamour of the past still holds her allegiance, even when making this concession.
Redcar is preferred to Saltburn, for Saltburn is summed up as “pretty, but Dear.” Another seaside resort cannot be found to compete with Redcar on the financial question, and Mrs. Crossley readily agrees that “there is now’t to beat Redcar’s sands and Promenade.”
She remembers the town when the Promenade was still a dream of the future, and the sea came in to bathe the foot of the sandbanks, the whole length of the front. At that time railway lines, traces of which still remain, ran along the banks for transporting sand to be utilised on the pig-beds of blast furnaces in the Middlesbrough district, long before the erection of the Redcar ironworks was projected.
Another memory is of the time when the Redcar Races were held on the beach. A fence was erected to prevent children straying on to the course. At this time the town could boast a pier.
   The story I set out to tell was to clarify the position regarding the drum which was beaten to call to their task the lifeboat men when their services were in urgent demand. It has been said that in addition to the drum a large gong was sounded on the sands in foggy weather to give fishermen their bearings.
Mrs. Crossley flatly denies the existence of such a gong. “There was not a gong on the sands,” she told me. A. Mr. George Dobson, who lived in Smith Street, used to beat the drum, and apparently he was allowed no one to deputise for him in the undertaking of this task,
When the “Free Gardener” lifeboat came to the town the drum was done away with. The Rev. Henry Smith used to take his gun on to the pier and fire it to warn the fishermen, and later a large gun was fixed near the lifeboat-house, and the firing of this was a signal for the horses to be brought from Judson’s far.
When the fishermen were all in bed lads would often go round beating tins to rouse them to answer the call of the deep.
Storms in those days really were storms, and the services of the lifeboatmen were frequently needed. Mrs. Crossley remembers the night of December 27, 1906 when a Japanese vessel was driven onto the rocks.
“It was a terrible storm that night,” she said. “Guns went off, and it snow and lightning something terrible. The “Free Gardener” was launched in a rough sea and was slightly damaged, and the “Burton on Trent” was also launched.”


   On that occasion the guns were fired to bring down the horses down to the beach.
Mrs. Crossley was “born and bred with the lifeboat,” and she can speak of the time when Mr. Kit Guy was drowned, the only life lost from the “Zetland” boat.
I have heard my father speak of it often,” she said. “Heavy seas were breaking, and Mr. Guy told the crew to keep a firm hold but forgot to do it himself. He was swept overboard, and his body was found beyond Saltburn next morning by some Staithes fisher woman who had gone to the beach to gather “flithers” off the rocks for bait.”


dean April 14, 2010 People & Characters