The evening after our brush with Biff from Saxon was damp and wet, so it was with a little bit of apprehension we turned in for the night at the Bagdale Hall Lodge. Saturday dawned a little damp and misty but on the whole dry. When I say dawned it probably was dawn as the Whitby seagulls must have been mating or something, as they didn’t stop squawking all night. We had to be careful too going in and out of the Lodge as the gulls seemed to be enjoying using the guttering at a toilet, sticking their bottoms over the edge, while depositing whatever they felt over any unexpecting lodge guests below. After having breakfast and then after a near miss in “seagull bomb alley” we set off on our day out, driving out of Whitby though the damp mist and the fine rain showers. We headed south towards the fishing village at Robin Hoods Bay. Robin Hood’s Bay is a small fishing village and a bay located within the North York Moors National Park, five miles south of Whitby and 15 miles north of Scarborough on the coast of North Yorkshire. The origin of the name is uncertain, and it is doubtful if Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity. An English ballad and legend tell a story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the fisherman’s boats and the northeast coast. The pirates surrendered and Robin Hood returned the loot to the poor people in the village that is now called Robin Hood’s Bay.
The town, which consists of a maze of tiny streets, has a tradition of smuggling, and there is reputed to be a network of subterranean passageways linking the houses. During the late 18th century smuggling was rife on the Yorkshire coast. Vessels from the continent brought contraband which was distributed by contacts on land and the operations were financed by syndicates who made profits without the risks taken by the seamen and the villagers. Tea, gin, rum, brandy and tobacco were among the contraband smuggled into Yorkshire from the Netherlands and France to avoid the duty. In 1773 two excise cutters, the Mermaid and the Eagle, were outgunned and chased out of the bay by three smuggling vessels, a schooner and two shallops.
A pitched battle between smugglers and excise men took place in the dock over 200 casks of brandy and Geneva (gin) and 15 bags of tea in 1779.Fishing and farming were the original occupations followed by generations of Bay folk. Fishing reached its peak in the mid-19th century, fishermen used the coble for line fishing in winter and a larger boat for herring fishing. Fish was loaded into panniers and men and women walked or rode over the moorland tracks to Pickering or York. Many houses in the village were built between 1650 and 1750 and whole families were involved in the fishing industry. Many families owned or part owned cobles. Later some owned ocean going craft. A plaque in the town records that a brig named “Visitor” ran aground in Robin Hood’s Bay on 18 January 1881 during a violent storm. In order to save the crew, the lifeboat from Whitby was pulled 6 miles overland by 18 horses, with the 7 feet deep snowdrifts present at the time cleared by 200 men.
The road down to the sea through Robin Hood’s Bay Village was narrow and had awkward bends, and men had to go ahead demolishing garden walls and uprooting bushes to make a way for the lifeboat carriage. It was launched two hours after leaving Whitby, with the crew of the Visitor rescued on the second attempt. The main legitimate activity had always been fishing, but this started to decline in the late 19th century. These days most of its income comes from tourism. Unfortunately the village now consists of many holiday lets which means out of season the village is a little bit deserted. Robin Hood’s Bay is also famous for the large number of fossils which may be found on its beach.
After the long steep climb back to the car we head to Scarborough some 15 miles south and headed straight for the castle. Scarborough Castle is a former medieval Royal fortress situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the North Sea and Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England. The site of the castle, encompassing the Iron Age settlement, Roman signal station, an Anglo-Scandinavian Settlement and chapel, the 12th century enclosure castle and 18th century battery, is a scheduled monument of national importance.
The castle’s location takes advantage of a naturally defensive site on a headland with steep cliffs, 300 feet (91 m) high, on three seaward sides. The promontory is joined to the mainland by an isthmus, where a ditch or moat was cut, and a wall or palisade with a gatehouse built on the southwest landward side. The stone curtain wall dates from the late 12th and early 13th centuries when it was strengthened by the addition of twelve round towers at intervals on its 230 yards (210 m) length. The wall does not surround the inner buildings of the castle. The entrance consists of a barbican, or fortifications to protect the gateway, completed in the 14th century and flanked by two half-circular towers on high ground. Modifications to the barbican have removed evidence of a portcullis and its grooves. The barbican stands in the place of a 12th-century fortification built close to the remains of an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon chapel.
Beyond the main gateway, a stone bridge, built between 1337–1338, to replace two drawbridges, leads to the baileys or courtyards. It leads to the inner bailey, which was used for workshops, offices, a kitchen, and a storage area. Usually a castle’s inner bailey is accessed through the outer bailey; however the opposite is the case at Scarborough. Once occupied by garrisons and governors who often menaced the town, the castle has been a ruin since the sieges of the English Civil War, but attracts many visitors to climb the battlements, take in the views and enjoy the accompanying interactive exhibition and special events run by English Heritage.
After a visit to the castle we visited the nearby grave of Anne Brontë which resides in the graveyard of the church of St Marys just at the foot of the slope to the castle. Anne Brontë (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels, appeared in 1848. Anne’s life was cut short when she died of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 29.
Mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne’s death; she is less known than her sisters Charlotte, author of four novels including Jane Eyre, and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. However her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature. Her grave has two headstones on it, the original one which has eroded badly and a new one which is barely a month old. The new gravestone which was put in place in April 2013, corrects an error on the original. She died in in 1849 after succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 29.Her headstone though gave her age as 28.The new plaque on her grave was officially unveiled during a service of dedication.
With history in mind we decided on one further visit to a historical relic and then on the way home a further drive through Goathland. The venue for the visit we decided would be the wonderfully situated Rievaulx Abbey. The Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey headed by the Abbot of Rievaulx. It is located in Rievaulx, near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England. It was one of the wealthiest abbeys in England and was dissolved by Henry VIII of England in 1538. Its ruins are a tourist attraction. Rievaulx Abbey was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission for the colonisation of the north of England and Scotland. It was the first Cistercian abbey in the north. With time it became one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, second only to Fountains Abbey in fame. The remote location was ideal for the Cistercians, whose desire was to follow a strict life of prayer and self-sufficiency with little contact with the outside world. The patron, Walter Espec, settled another Cistercian community, founding Wardon Abbey in Bedfordshire on unprofitable wasteland on one of his inherited estates. The abbey lies in a wooded dale by the River Rye, sheltered by hills. To have enough flat land to build on, a small part of the river was diverted several metres west of its former channel. The monks altered the course of the river three times during the 12th century. The old course of the river is visible in the abbey’s grounds. This is one illustration of the technical ingenuity of the monks, who over time built up a very profitable business mining lead and iron, rearing sheep and selling wool to buyers from all over Europe. Rievaulx Abbey became one of the greatest and wealthiest in England, with 140 monks and many more lay brothers, receiving grants of land totalling 6,000 acres (24 km²) and establishing daughter houses in England and Scotland. Towards the end of the 13th century the abbey had incurred a great deal of debt with its building projects and lost revenue due to an epidemic of sheep scab (psoroptic mange). This ill fortune was compounded by Scottish raids in the early 14th century. To make matters worse the decimation of the population caused by the Black Death in the mid 14th century made it difficult to recruit new lay brothers for manual labour. As a result the abbey was forced to lease much of its land.
By 1381 there were only fourteen choir monks, three lay brothers and the abbot left at Rievaulx, and some buildings were reduced in size. By the 15th century the original Cistercian practices of strict observance according Saint Benedict’s rule had been abandoned in favour of a more comfortable lifestyle. It was then permitted to eat meat and more private living accommodation was created for the monks, and the abbot now had a substantial private household. The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1538.
At that time there were said to be 72 buildings occupied by an abbot and 21 monks, attended by 102 servants, with an income of £351 a year. It also had a prototype blast furnace at Laskill, producing cast iron as efficiently as a modern blast furnace; according to Gerry McDonnell (archeometallurgist of the University of Bradford), the closure of Rievaulx delayed the Industrial Revolution for two and a half centuries. Henry ordered the buildings to be rendered uninhabitable and stripped of valuables such as lead.
The abbey site was granted to the Earl of Rutland, one of Henry’s advisers, until it passed to the Duncombe family. In the 1750s Thomas Duncombe III beautified the estate by building the terrace with two Grecian-style temples; these temples, now called Rievaulx Terrace & Temples, are in the care of the National Trust. The ruins of the abbey are in the care of English Heritage. When awarded a life peerage in 1983, former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a Yorkshire man, adopted the title Baron Wilson of Rievaulx.
* Historical information supplied via Wikipedia **All images c2013 Freewilluk (except Bronte portrait & Lord Wilson)