Monday 12 July 2010

Robin Hood's Bay

Did I mention that Yorkshire has a coastline?

I've moved north and east a bit from Bingley in West Yorkshire, to the North Yorkshire coast and the small town of Robin Hood's Bay which lies in the ancient parish of Fylingdales. The first evidence of man in this area is from the bronze age, around 3,000 years ago, with buriel grounds being discovered on the high moorland around a mile south of the village. The Romans also had a presence in the area, but the first regular settlers were probably Saxons and then Norseman from Norway, come to farm the rich soil, and harvest the plentiful supply of fish to be found in the North Sea.

With a name like Robin Hood's Bay, you would expect a wealth of stories linking the town to the great outlaw of Sherwood Forest, but, in reality, it is extremely doubtful that he ever set foot in the bay, and the origin of the name is a bit of a mystery. What is sure, however, is that in the 18th century the Bay was a thriving centre for contraband and the scene of many a battle between the excise men and local smugglers. It is said that smuggler's wives used to pour boiling water over the excise men from the bedroom windows which overlook the alleyways and passages, and, as you trudge up the maze of steep, narrow streets through the town. it isn't hard to imagine it happening.

Towards the end of the 18th century and into the 19th, the danger came from the Press Gangs. The Press, was the means by which the Royal Navy conscripted men to crew her warships; particularly men who had experience of handling boats on the sea. Once pressed into service, a man was unlikely ever to return to his home again and the women of the village used to sound a drum as a warning that the Press Gang had arrived. It wan't unusual for the gang to be attacked and driven off.

Having such a rich history, in a beautiful setting and with so much character, it is not surprising that Robin Hood's Bay is a magnet for visitors. These days, the only gangs needing fending off are the gangs of tourists come to enjoy the delights of the town. On the other hand, as tourism is now the mainstay of the town's economy, perhaps there won't be so much fending.

1 comment:

  1. In Edinburgh they used to throw the contents of the chamber pots out the windows into the alleys below. I wonder which I'd rather be hit with...

    I must get back to Yorkshire. See what you've done?! :)