After we left Staithes, we’d about another ten miles to go to reach our next destination. Among other places, we went through the small town of Skinningrove where the steel works and the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum reminded us of the iron industry which had been the basis for the area’s prosperity and sharp population growth in the mid-19th century after the discovery of ironstone deposits in the Cleveland Hills.
At this time, Saltburn – where we were going to spend the afternoon – was only a small fishing village, consisting of nothing more than an inn and a row of houses sheltered from the east wind by the steep Huntcliff.
In 1858, however, Henry Pease – a member of the Quaker family of bankers, industrialists and politicians, is said to have had a vision of building a beautiful town there whilst walking along the coast path to visit his brother. He told his wealthy family of this vision and they agreed to buy the land and build the town on top of the cliffs to the west of the original village.
Near to the rapidly-expanding town of Middlesbrough, and easily accessible by railway and by sea, within ten years Saltburn was becoming a popular resort. In keeping with Henry Pease’s vision, some of the streets were named after jewels, including Ruby, Emerald, Pearl, Diamond and Amber, and a deep wooded valley situated between the original village and the new town was turned into a leisure garden.
In 1869 a pier was built out to sea from the bottom of the 120 foot/37 metre cliff, but this meant a very steep climb for anyone wishing to get into the town from there. To solve this problem, a vertical hoist was built inside a wooden tower in 1870. However, this wasn’t very reliable and in 1883 it was condemned as the timbers were rotting.
In the following year the hoist was replaced by a funicular railway, travelling the same height but over a distance of 207 feet/63 metres to make a steep slope, rather than a vertical lift. It had two cars, each of which could carry 12 people. Each car also had a 240 gallon/1100 litre watertank underneath which was filled when the car was at the top. A man in a cabin would then release the brake and the weight of the car going down pulled the other car up to the top and the process was repeated.
Our bus dropped us off near the top of the lift which still works in exactly the same way, but as it was such a lovely day and Saltburn was busy, there was quite a long queue to get on. So Mum and I stood to one side for a few minutes just looking round at the scenery and watching the lift go up and down.
Eventually we got our turn and, after a smooth ride down, we found ourselves on the promenade, opposite the entrance to the pier. By this time, however, the sausage roll in Thirsk was a distant memory and, as the longed-for crab sandwich had never materialised, Mum was getting hungry and in danger of turning into the Tasmanian Devil.
Her friend suggested going in the nearby Seaview Restaurant, but there was a massive queue there as well and, after a few minutes, we realised it wasn’t moving very fast. Then Mum remembered that another friend had been to the 16th century Ship Inn for a meal earlier in the week and said it was very good and so we decided to walk along there instead.
It was a lovely walk along the edge of the beach and past the entrance to the leisure gardens, but, when we reached the Ship Inn, we were in for a disappointment. Though the menu looked good, a disaster in the kitchen minutes before our arrival meant that no food could be served just then – and nobody knew how long the delay would be.
As they were thirsty as well as hungry, Mum and her friend decided to have a drink and, just as they were finishing it, the waitress came with good news and bad. The good news was that the problem in the kitchen had been solved – the bad news was that they’d be starting to serve meals again in an hour and we didn’t have time to wait…
So we walked back to the Seaview Restaurant, where the queue had disappeared as it was past lunch-time, and got a table by the window upstairs. Mum’s friend had haddock and chips, while Mum had scampi and chips, which tasted all the nicer for the fish being locally caught and very fresh.
While they were eating, I sat on the table and looked out of the window, watching people walking by and enjoying their day at the seaside. Then I spotted some donkeys giving rides up and down the beach and I asked Mum if I could have a go. But she said no, as I was too little to go by myself –
– and I knew knew that she was too big to go with me as she would probably squash the donkey.
To make up for that, however, she took me for a walk to the end of the pier, which celebrated its 150th anniversary this year and is the last remaining pleasure pier on the Yorkshire coast. As in Thirsk, the local yarn bombers had been busy, knitting all sorts of seaside characters and creatures to decorate the railings. Mum took lots of photos of them.
They also inspired her to get her needles out when she got home and make this.
She also made this video of Saltburn from the end of the pier.
Then all too soon we’d to walk back to the lift and make our way back to the coach. It’d been another lovely day out and we’d enjoyed every minute
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