Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is a very picturesque fishing village a few
miles outside Whitby in North Yorkshire. The origins of the name
are unknown but there are many speculations.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a connection to the
legendary outlaw and this small fishing village which share a comon
The name does not appear in any records until Tudor times,
although it is sometimes called ‘Baytown’. A mile to the south of
the village are bronze age burial mounds called ‘Robin Hood’s
Butts’. There are also signs that some Romans spent some time in
the Bay. The Whitby Museum in Pannett Park indicates that
Ravenscar was once a Roman Signal Station.
Although fishing is no longer the main industry in Robin Hood’s
Bay, in the 18th and 19th centuries the village thrived on it. In
1538 ‘Baytown’ grew in size when many people from the inland
village of ‘Raw’ moved down to the coast as a Danish invasion was
no longer imminent.
In fact Robin Hood’s Bay was a more prosperous and important
fishing centre than Whitby. In the 1820s there were 130 fishermen
sailing 35 cobles and 5 large herring boats, the community was
continuously expanding. The women and boys were also kept busy,
women baited lines and barrelled fish for market, while the boys
mended nets and made the lobster pots. Unfortunately in 1920 there
were only two fishing families left in ‘Baytown’. Lack of harbour
facilities prevented the Bay from becoming a viable port and the
industry declined. Today the interest in fishing is reviving with
Robin Hood’s Bay being one of the best crab grounds on the north
Prosperity in the 18th and 19th century in merchant shipping grew
and the village was renowned for the quality of its young seamen.
The Royal Navy however had to send ‘press gangs’ to recruit seamen.
The women of the village drove them out with pans and rolling pins
while their men hid.
Smuggling in the 18th and 19th century was rife and nowhere more so
than Robin Hood’s Bay. It was an ideal location because of the
natural isolation of the bay. A lot of the smuggling was financed
by local squires and although the risk was hanging, it was thought
the perks were worth it.
In 1856 the coastguards were given the responsibility of
catching the smugglers. Robin Hood’s Bay was a tough assignment for
the Whitby based excisemen and dragoons were brought in to assist.
Houses and inns in the bay are said to have connecting cellars and
cupboards, it was said that ‘a bale of silk could pass from the
bottom of the village to the top without seeing daylight’. The
illicit trade of smuggling died out as a result of the reduction of
trade duties rather than the determination of the excisemen.
In 1780 disaster struck in the Bay, fierce gales and the strong sea
caused many of the cottages along King Street to fall into the
tide. Again in 1791, part of Park Road disappeared into the sea,
over a century later a strong sea wall was built. In 1975, at the
cost of £578,000, the highest sea wall in Britain, measuring 500
feet long and 40 feet high, was constructed ensuring no more of the
old Robin Hood’s Bay was taken to its grave by the ever faithful
Wrecks were very common in the early days. One memorable night in
1881, a large brig ‘Visiter’ was run aground. The sea was so rough
the lifeboat had to be dragged eight miles in the snow to Robin
Hood’s Bay to be launched. The whole crew of the ‘Visiter' were
saved thanks to the people of the village.
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