REDCAR – The Beginning

3785 Beach 1850 - 580 x 230

From an article written by Hugh W. Cook in a series “Cleveland’s Ancient Villages” in the Northern Weekly Gazette dated June 3,1925

Redcar’s Interesting History
Before William the Conqueror brought his fighting hosts to England, Redcar must have existed although we get no separate entry for it in the Doomsday Book. For though Redcar, like Scarborough, be not recorded in that valuable compilation of 1080 – 1087, it is no proof that the place was non-existent. It may have, at that period, been unimportant, or it might have been entered by some name that has now perished. However, it was probably included with the Manor of Marske.

Redcar in Saxon Days
Redcar is a modern seaside resort and does not figure in the annals of the kingdom, in fact all that we hear of it for hundreds of years is the casual mention of the grant by one of its lords, Peter De Brus, to the monks of Rievaulx Abbey to purchase fish there. About 1060 one Copsi, uncle of the tyrant, Earl of Northumberland, gave to the Church of St. Cuthbert’s, Durham, half a carucate (about 50 acres) of land at Reidkarri. This proves the Redcar existed in Saxon days.

Twelfth Century Records

As long ago as 1160, one Ivo De Grancester confirmed to the Prior of Gisborough a portion of land at Reidkarr to build a church there. However, no edifice was apparently erected until 1823. Robert De Brus, on the foundation of Gisborough Priory in 1119 gave certain lands at “Cotum” and “Reidkare” to that monastery. These lands were confirmed by Henry I and Henry V.

In Remote Days

There can be no doubt from the remains of British habitations yet to be seen in great abundance on the Cleveland Hills, that the brave Brigantes launched their frail coracles – their boats of osiers covered with the skins of animals slain in the chase – from the rocks of Redcar long before imperial Rome had planted her eagle on the cliffs of old Albion or the peace-precepts of the Holy One of Nazareth had softened the hearts of the barbarians of our coast.
The first mention we get of Redcar of any note, however, is the grant of a free warren to Walter De Fauconberg in 1290.
At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the tithes of fish at Redcar, which belonged to Gisborough Priory, were given by Henry Vlll to Sir Thomas Leigh. This deed dated from November 21 st 1540.

The Forest at Redcar

The power of granting or denying license to any person to hunt was given to Walter De Fauconberg on May 25 th 1280, to hunt the wild boar, elk, roe and coney in the forests of “Mersk, Scheltone, Uplium and Redcarre”. This deed states that any other persons hunting “wythoute oure lysense shall bee commityed to vs inn ovr dett offe tenn poundes” – a large sum in those days. At this period Redcar must have been a forest of oaks, beech, sycamore and birch trees. This extensive forest would often resound with the hollas and shrill-winding horn of a De Brus, Thweng, Morley, Fauconberg, Baliol, Conyers and a hundred lesser names, who long since have been “gathered to their fathers”.
In old deeds we find Redcar spelt in various ways- i.e., Reidkarre, Ridecar, Redcarre, Reidecarre, etc. This multiplicity of names for one and the same place may seem puzzling, but it is a well recognised maxim on the interpretation of place names that the earliest form in which the name is found is most likely to give the clue to its meaning. .

A “Poare Fyshur” Town

The Cottonian MSS of some 350 years ago refer to “Redkarre as a verye poare fyshur towne where ate lowe water may be discovered manie rockes, and fisher foalk doe lavyish theyr lyves inn suche smalle troughs” (boats). They bayte theyr hookes with mussels or wormmes.
We read that in the 21 st year of Henry lll, one Sir Reginald De Argentum, who, being a Knight Templar, “lyved in a manshion neare Red-karre, and he being a Standarde bearer off ye Xtain Armie, did a gret battell againste ye Turkes near Antioch carryie ye Standarde until hys handes ande legges beying broken he was slayne”.
Camden, in his MSS of some 340 years ago, states that “seals are caught at Redcarre” and he also refers to “a curious merman – or mermaid” which frequented the shores of “Saltburne and Redcarre and soe terrified poare fisher foalke who saye that they will nott goe outte to sea, as ye manfysh is howlinge for theye bodyies” .

Original Redcar

There can be no doubt that ancient Redcar occupied a site further removed from the tides than at present. Up to the beginning of the last century Redcar and Coatham were separated by a marsh of common both being small fishing villages. It was not until 1808, when William Hutton, the Birmingham antiquarian, made his first journey to Redcar, that any real record of the place was penned.
Writing in his “History of Cleveland” in 1808, the Rev. Graves states “That so orderly are the people of Redcar that there is not a single constable at either Redcar, Coatham or Kirkleatham”.
The author of “Pickwick,” Charles Dickens, once visited Redcar, and he did not think much about it, according to reports. .

Redcar’s Lifeboat

Redcar holds the honour of possessing the first lifeboat- the oldest in existence. The old craft, the Zetland,” was built at South Shields and sent to Redcar in 1802. She remained in active service for some 60 years and saved 520 lives. In 1864 this old boat was superseded the “Crossley” and later on by the “Burton-on –Trent.” After saving 61 lives this boat was replaced in 1884 by the “Brothers.” In December 1906 she was replaced by the “Fife and Charles,” the present lifeboat.
In years gone by the loss of life from the shipwrecked sailing vessels on Redcar was most appalling and the terrible spectacles of poor humanity ever and anon cast ashore by the remorseless waves, the harassing scenes of destruction on the shores for miles could never be effaced from memory. All honours to the gallant “Old Zetland” and the crafts which followed her. Much heroic work has been done by the Redcar lifeboats, but up to recent years there is unfortunately very little authentic accounts. .

Redcar’s Ancient Market Charter

A general market has just recently been established at Redcar, this being held in the fine old High Street every Saturday and is well attended. It is interesting to note that a charter was procured as long ago as 1257 by Marmaduke De Thiveng (Thweng), Lord of Kelton Castle, to hold a weekly fayre and markette at Reidkarre. This charter was confirmed by Edward l in 1293., but there appears to be no record nor tradition of such market or fair ever having been held.

Parish Church And Its History

Previous to 1823 Redcar did not possess a church, although one stood on the sand banks at Coatham from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries.
The foundation stone of St. Peter’s Parish Church was laid in June 1823, but owing to lack of funds the edifice was not completed until August 1829. It was erected as a chapel-of-ease to the Mother Church of St. Germain at Marske, where the register books were kept until 1832.
The building was erected at a cost of £2700. The edifice was enlarged in 1848 and re-benched in 1888. The tower is a landmark for mariners and contains a striking clock with three bells, the tenor being cast by Mears of Whitechapel in 1832, and the two smaller bells were fixed with the clock in 1865. This church contains nothing of antiquarian interest. A scheme in hand to enlarge the church and provide an additional seating accommodation of over 300.

Modern Redcar

Redcar Pier, which is 1300 feet long was erected in 1871. Formerly there existed also a fine pier at Coatham 2000 feet long, but this was dismantled some 20 years ago. The Zetland schools were first erected in 1859. The old Central Hall, now used as a picture palace was for many years the railway station and terminus. However, when the line was extended to Saltburn in 1860, the present station was erected.

Redcar’s Rapid Strides

Redcar as a leading watering hole on the north east coast has made rapid strides of late years. The peculiar combination of sea and land and mountainous air make Redcar an ideal spot as a residential resort. Redcar has the finest stretch of sands in the kingdom. The sands extend many miles. Redcar and Coatham, although now one town, are separated for ecclesiastical purposes. The latter place has an ancient and interesting history.
The population in 1801 was 431, in 1831, 729. and in 1861, 1,515. At present the total population (with Coatham) is about 16,000.

Many thanks to Peter Whiteside – February 2005


dean June 13, 2009 History General