WHITBY to SCARBOROUGH
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In the 1900’s - “Although it is only six miles as the crow flies from Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay, the exertion required to walk there along the top of the cliffs is equal to quite double that distance, for there are so many gullies to be climbed into and crawled out of that the measured distance is considerably increased. It is well to remember this, for otherwise the scenery of the last mile or two may not seem as fine as the first stages.
As soon as the abbey and the jet-sellers are left behind, you pass a farm, and come out on a great expanse of close-growing smooth turf, where the whole world seems to be made up of grass and sky. The footpath goes close to the edge of the cliff; in some places it has gone too close, and has disappeared altogether. But these diversions can be avoided without spoiling the magnificent glimpses of the rock-strewn beach nearly 200 feet below. From above Saltwick Bay there is a grand view across the level grass to Whitby Abbey, standing out alone on the green horizon. Down below, Nab runs out a bare black arm into the sea, which even in the calmest weather angrily foams along the windward side. Beyond the sturdy lighthouse that shows itself a dazzling white against the hot blue of the heavens commence the innumerable gullies. Each one has its trickling stream, and bushes and low trees grow to the limits of the shelter afforded by the ravines; but in the open there is nothing higher than the waving corn or the stone walls dividing the pastures—a silent testimony to the power of the north-east wind.
After rounding the North Cheek, the whole of Robin Hood's Bay is suddenly laid before you. I well remember my first view of the wide sweep of sea, which lay like a blue carpet edged with white, and the high escarpments of rock that were in deep purple shade, except where the afternoon sun turned them into the brightest greens and umbers. Three miles away, but seemingly very much closer, was the bold headland of the Peak, and more inland was Stoupe Brow, with Robin Hood's Butts on the hill-top. The fable connected with the outlaw is scarcely worth repeating, but on the site of these butts urns have been dug up, and are now to be found in Scarborough Museum. The Bay Town is hidden away in a most astonishing fashion, for, until you have almost reached the two bastions which guard the way up from the beach, there is nothing to be seen of the charming old place. If you approach by the road past the railway station it is the same, for only garishly new hotels and villas are to be seen on the high ground, and not a vestige of the fishing-town can be discovered. But the road to the bay at last begins to drop down very steeply, and the first old roofs appear. The oath at the side of the road develops into a very lone series of steps, and in a few minutes the narrow street flanked by very tall houses, has swallowed you up.
Everything is very clean and orderly, and, although most of the houses are very old, they are generally in a good state of repair, exhibiting in every case the seaman's love of fresh paint. Thus, the dark and worn stone walls have bright eyes in their newly-painted doors and windows. Over their door-steps the fishermen's wives are quite fastidious, and you seldom see a mark on the ochre-coloured hearth-stone with which the women love to brighten the worn stones. Even the scrapers are sleek with blacklead, and it is not easy to find a window without spotless curtains. At high tide the sea comes half-way up the steep opening between the coastguards' quarters and the inn which is built on another bastion, and in rough weather the waves break hungrily on to the strong stone walls, for the bay is entirely open to the full force of gales from the east or north-east. All the way from Scarborough to Whitby the coast offers no shelter of any sort in heavy weather, and many vessels have been lost on the rocks. On one occasion a small sailing-ship was driven right into this bay at high tide, and the bowsprit smashed into a window of the little hotel that occupied the place of the present one.
The railway southwards takes a curve inland, and, after winding in and out to make the best of the contour of the hills, the train finally steams very heavily and slowly into Ravenscar Station, right over the Peak and 630 feet above the sea. On the way you get glimpses of the moors inland, and grand views over the curving bay. There is a station named Fyling Hall, after Sir Hugh Cholmley's old house, half-way to Ravenscar.
Raven Hall, the large house conspicuously perched on the heights above the Peak, is now converted into an hotel. There is a wonderful view from the castellated terraces, which in the distance suggest the remains of some ruined fortress. At the present time there is nothing to be seen older than the house whose foundations were dug in 1774. While the building operations were in progress, however, a Roman inscribed stone, now in Whitby Museum, was unearthed. It states that the 'Castrum' was built by two prefects whose names are given. This was one of the fortified signal stations built in the 4th century A.D. to give warning of the approach of hostile ships.
Following this lofty coast southwards, you reach Hayburn Wyke, where a stream drops perpendicularly over some square masses of rock.
There is a small stone circle not far from Hayburn Wyke Station, to be found without much trouble, and those who are interested in Early Man will scarcely find a neighbourhood in this country more thickly honey-combed with tumuli and ancient earth-works. There is no particularly plain pathway through the fields to the valley where this stone circle can be seen, but it can easily be found after a careful study of the large-scale Ordnance Map which they will show you at the hotel.
Dazzling sunshine, a furious wind, flapping and screaming gulls, crowds of fishing-boats, and innumerable people jostling one another on the sea-front, made up the chief features of my first view of Scarborough. By degrees I discovered that behind the gulls and the brown sails were old houses, their roofs dimly red through the transparent haze, and above them appeared a great green cliff, with its uneven outline defined by the curtain walls and towers of the castle which had made Scarborough a place of importance in the Civil War and in earlier times.
The wide-curving bay was filled with huge breaking waves which looked capable of destroying everything within their reach, but they seemed harmless enough when I looked a little further out, where eight or ten grey war-ships were riding at their anchors, apparently motionless.
From the outer arm of the harbour, where the seas were angrily attempting to dislodge the top row of stones, I could make out the great mass of grey buildings stretching right to the extremity of the bay.
I tried to pick out individual buildings from this city-like watering-place, but, beyond discovering the position of the Spa and one or two of the mightier hotels, I could see very little, and instead fell to wondering how many landladies and how many foreign waiters the long lines of grey roofs represented. This raised so many unpleasant recollections of the various types I had encountered that I determined to go no nearer to modern Scarborough than the pier-head upon which I stood. A specially big wave, however, soon drove me from this position to a drier if more crowded spot, and, reconsidering my objections, I determined to see something of the innumerable grey streets which make up the fashionable watering-place. The terraced gardens on the steep cliffs along the sea-front were most elaborately well kept, but a more striking feature of Scarborough is the magnificence of so many of the shops. They suggest a city rather than a seaside town, and give you an idea of the magnitude of the permanent population of the place as well as the flood of summer and winter visitors. The origin of Scarborough's popularity was undoubtedly due to the chalybeate waters of the Spa, discovered in 1620, almost at the same time as those of Tunbridge Wells and Epsom.
The unmistakable signs of antiquity in the narrow streets adjoining the harbour irresistibly remind one of the days when sea-bathing had still to be popularized, when the efficacy of Scarborough's medicinal spring had not been discovered, of the days when the place bore as little resemblance to its present size or appearance as the fishing-town at Robin Hood's Bay.
We do not know that Piers Gaveston, Sir Hugh Cholmley, and other notabilities who have left their mark on the pages of Scarborough's history, might not, were they with us to-day, welcome the pierrot, the switchback, the restaurant, and other means by which pleasure-loving visitors wile away their hardly-earned holidays; but for my part the story of Scarborough's Mayor who was tossed in a blanket is far more entertaining than the songs of nigger minstrels or any of the commercial attempts to amuse.
This strangely improper procedure with one who held the highest office in the municipality took place in the reign of James II., and the King's leanings towards Popery were the cause of all the trouble.
On April 27, 1688, a declaration for liberty of conscience was published, and by royal command the said declaration was to be read in every Protestant church in the land. Mr. Thomas Aislabie, the Mayor of Scarborough, duly received a copy of the document, and, having handed it to the clergyman, Mr. Noel Boteler, ordered him to read it in church on the following Sunday morning. There seems little doubt that the worthy Mr. Boteler at once recognized a wily move on the part of the King, who under the cover of general tolerance would foster the growth of the Roman religion until such time as the Catholics had attained sufficient power to suppress Protestantism. Mr. Mayor was therefore informed that the declaration would not be read. On Sunday morning (August 11) when the omission had been made, the Mayor left his pew, and, stick in hand, walked up the aisle, seized the minister, and caned him as he stood at his reading-desk. Scenes of such a nature did not occur every day even in 1688, and the storm of indignation and excitement among the members of the congregation did not subside so quickly as it had risen.”
The cause of the poor minister was championed in particular by a certain Captain Ouseley, and the discussion of the matter on the bowling-green on the following day led to the suggestion that the Mayor should be sent for to explain his conduct. As he took no notice of a courteous message requesting his attendance, the Captain repeated the summons accompanied by a file of musketeers. In the meantime many suggestions for dealing with Mr. Aislabie in a fitting manner were doubtless made by the Captain's brother officers, and, further, some settled course of action seems to have been agreed upon, for we do not hear of any hesitation on the part of the Captain on the arrival of the Mayor, whose rage must by this time have been bordering upon apoplexy. A strong blanket was ready, and Captains Carvil, Fitzherbert, Hanmer, and Rodney, led by Captain Ouseley and assisted by as many others as could find room, seizing the sides, in a very few moments Mr. Mayor was revolving and bumping, rising and falling, as though he were no weight at all.
If the castle does not show many interesting buildings beyond the keep and the long line of walls and drumtowers, there is so much concerning it that is of great human interest that I should scarcely feel able to grumble if there were still fewer remains. Behind the ancient houses in Quay Street rises the steep, grassy cliff, up which one must climb by various rough pathways to the fortified summit. On the side facing the mainland, a hollow, known as the Dyke, is bridged by a tall and narrow archway, in place of the drawbridge of the seventeenth century and earlier times. On the same side is a massive barbican, looking across an open space to St. Mary's Church, which suffered so severely during the sieges of the castle. The maimed church - for the chancel has never been rebuilt—is close to the Dyke and the shattered keep, and so apparent are the results of the cannonading between them that no one requires to be told that the Parliamentary forces mounted their ordnance in the chancel and tower of the church, and it is equally obvious that the Royalists returned the fire hotly.
The great siege lasted for nearly a year, and although his garrison was small, and there was practically no hope of relief, Sir Hugh Cholmley seems to have kept a stout heart up to the end. With him throughout this long period of privation and suffering was his beautiful and courageous wife, whose comparatively early death, at the age of fifty-four, must to some extent be attributed to the strain and fatigue borne during these months of warfare. Sir Hugh seems to have almost worshipped his wife, for in his memoirs he is never weary of describing her perfections.
'She was of the middle stature of women,' he writes, 'and well shaped, yet in that not so singular as in the beauty of her face, which was but of a little model, and yet proportionable to her body; her eyes black and full of loveliness and sweetness, her eyebrows small and even, as if drawn with a pencil, a very little, pretty, well-shaped mouth, which sometimes (especially when in a muse or study) she would draw up into an incredible little compass; her hair a sad chestnut; her complexion brown, but clear, with a fresh colour in her cheeks, a loveliness in her looks inexpressible; and by her whole composure was so beautiful a sweet creature at her marriage as not many did parallel, few exceed her, in the nation; yet the inward endowments and perfections of her mind did exceed those outward of her body, being a most pious virtuous person, of great integrity and discerning judgment in most things.'
On one occasion during the siege Sir John Meldrum, the Parliamentary commander, sent proposals to Sir Hugh Cholmley, which he accompanied with savage threats, that if his terms were not immediately accepted he would make a general assault on the castle that night, and in the event of one drop of his men's blood being shed he would give orders for a general massacre of the garrison, sparing neither man nor woman.
To a man whose devotion to his beautiful wife was so great, a threat of this nature must have been a severe shock to his determination to hold out. But from his own writings we are able to picture for ourselves Sir Hugh's anxious and troubled face lighting up on the approach of the cause of his chief concern. Lady Cholmley, without any sign of the inward misgivings or dejection which, with her gentle and shrinking nature, must have been a great struggle, came to her husband, and implored him to on no account let her peril influence his decision to the detriment of his own honour or the King's affairs.
Sir John Meldrum's proposals having been rejected, the garrison prepared itself for the furious attack commenced on May 11.
The assault was well planned, for while the Governor's attention was turned towards the gateway leading to the castle entrance, another attack was made at the southern end of the wall towards the sea, where until the year 1730 Charles's Tower stood. The bloodshed at this point was greater than at the gateway. At the head of a chosen division of troops, Sir John Meldrum climbed the almost precipitous ascent with wonderful courage, only to meet with such spirited resistance on the part of the besieged that, when the attack was abandoned, it was discovered that Meldrum had received a dangerous wound penetrating to his thigh, and that several of his officers and men had been killed. Meanwhile, at the gateway, the first success of the assailants had been checked at the foot of the Grand Tower or Keep, for at that point the rush of drab-coated and helmeted men was received by such a shower of stones and missiles that many stumbled and were crushed on the steep pathway. Not even Cromwell's men could continue to face such a reception, and before very long the Governor could embrace his wife in the knowledge that the great attack had failed.
At last, on July 22, 1645 - his forty-fifth birthday - Sir Hugh was forced to come to an agreement with the enemy, by which he honourably surrendered the castle three days later. It was a sad procession that wound its way down the steep pathway, littered with the debris of broken masonry: for many of Sir Hugh's officers and soldiers were in such a weak condition that they had to be carried out in sheets or helped along between two men, and the Parliamentary officer adds rather tersely, that 'the rest were not very fit to march.' The scurvy had depleted the ranks of the defenders to such an extent that the women in the castle, despite the presence of Lady Cholmley, threatened to stone the Governor unless he capitulated.
Three years later the castle was again besieged by the Parliamentary forces, for Colonel Matthew Boynton, the Governor, had declared for the King. The garrison held out from August to December, when terms were made with Colonel Hugh Bethell, by which the Governor, officers, gentlemen, and soldiers, marched out with 'their colours flying, drums beating, musquets loaden, bandeleers filled, matches lighted, and bullet in mouth, to a close called Scarborough Common,' where they laid down their arms.”
More to follow ...