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The Victorian who built a town

Updated on February 9, 2017

A 150th anniversary

On the 17th August 1861 the first steam train pulled into Saltburn-by-the-Sea. For one man, Victorian railway owner and politician Henry Pease, it was the realisation of a vision, a dream come true. A new town, a 'railway town' built from nothing on the cliff tops of the North Yorkshire coast. Today Saltburn-by-the-Sea celebrates its anniversary 150 years, a small but vibrant seaside resort with a population of around 6,000 people.

From Early Beginnings - The Popular Story of Saltburn's Foundation

According to popular story one day whilst walking the coast between his brother's house and 'old Saltburn', a fishing hamlet by the sea of no more than a 'smugglers inn' and a handful of fishermen's cottages, Henry Pease was inspired by a vision to build a town on the cliffs above. Iron stone had previously been discovered in the nearby hills and the Pease family had played an important role in developing Middlesbrough only 13 miles away as an industrial centre.

Land was purchased from the Earl of Zetland, surveyors commissioned to design a town layout and his fellow directors of the Stockton and Darlington Railway company persuaded to extend the line.

Streets of terraced houses named after gemstones, Coral, Garnet, Ruby, Emerald, Pearl, Diamond and Amber, were built all with sea views. A 'railway' hotel with its own private platform, The Zetland Hotel, was finished in 1863. A pier with a landing stage for steamers was constructed and opened in 1869. The elegant Queens Hotel followed in 1875.

In the early 1880s a cliff lift, an inclined tramway running from the beach at the bottom to the town at the top, was built to replace an earlier cliff hoist. Ornamental Italian gardens were laid out with walks through a wooded valley. Saltburn by the Sea had become a popular and elegant seaside resort.

The dream was complete.

Saltburn by the sea

A markerSaltburn by the sea -
Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Redcar, Cleveland, UK
get directions

The 150th Anniversary Mosaics

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

The Saltburn-by-the-Sea Mosaics

As part of the celebrations local community artists Helen Gaunt and Derek Mosey have been creating and unveiling a series of mosaics (with the help of 2000 residents!)

Five commemorative panels now adorn the exterior wall of the local supermarket in the town centre next to the station. Below are just a few pictures showing some of the detail in these mosaics.

Saltburn-By-The-Sea Today

Saltburn Surf School!

Did you know - Saltburn Surf School The only approved Performance Surf School on the UK's east coast!

With its wide sweep of sand, donkey rides in summer and backed by a promenade the beach is popular with families and surfers alike. In fact it is has now been named as one of the UK's top 10 surfing hot spots.

Retaining much of its original Victorian charm Saltburn is a delightful place to visit today. A haven for artists and lovers of the great British seaside. A favourite destination for walkers and cyclists.

The pier, now half its original 1400ft length, is the only remaining pier in the north east of England and makes a great viewpoint to look back on the town and up and down the coast.

The cliff lift, the oldest working water powered funicular in the country, still transports visitors from the beach and lower promenade to the town above. There in a series of well laid out streets a variety of interesting shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels can be found.

Alternatively walk through the valley gardens, or take the miniature railway to enjoy the wooded valley, stream and ornamental gardens.

For those wishing to venture further afield there are delightful cliff top walks. Behind the old smugglers Ship Inn lies Huntcliff, towering cliffs where the Romans built a signalling station rising to more than 365 feet. An energetic climb but well worth it for the views over industrial Teesside to the north and southwards along the Yorkshire coast to Staithes.

Saltburn Pier

The Saltburn Pier Company was formed in 1867 to provide a landing stage for coastal steamers to disembark passengers from Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Whitby and Scarborough. Opened in 1869 the pier was constructed from iron with timber decking, was 1500 feet long and illuminated by gas lighting with two kiosks at the pier head.

Over the decades the pier has been damaged by storms, suffered collisions from shipping and had sections removed to prevent invasion from German troops during World War II.

Today Saltburn pier is the oldest and only surviving pier on the north east coast, although it is considerably shorter at 681 feet and no longer used as a landing stage. It was voted Pier of the Year in 2009.

The Cliff Lift Tramway

Opened in 1884 this water powered funicular 'inclined tramway' has transported people 207 feet along a track, originally in wooden cars with stained glass windows, from the lower promenade to Marine Parade and the town 120 feet above at the top of the cliff.

Each car is fitted with a 1000 gallon water tank and linked to the other by steel cables. When the tank of the car at the top of the tramway is filled with water and becomes heavier than the car at the bottom, it descends pulling the other car up to the top.

The Halfpenny Bridge

For over 100 years the Halfpenny Bridge was Saltburn's most famous and iconic landmark. Alas no more!

In1869 an iron bridge was built on 7 trestle supports to span the Valley between Saltburn and the road to Skelton, the purpose being to avoid the steep Saltburn bank which was difficult for horse drawn carts to safely negotiate with heavy loads. At a cost of £7000 the bridge was 660 feet long, 18 feet wide and 160 feet high at its mid point. The toll to cross the bridge was one half penny. Not designed to take 20th century motor vehicles and reduced to pedestrian traffic only the bridge gradually fell into disuse and disrepair. Finally in 1974 the bridge was blown up and demolished. All that remains today is the toll keepers cottage on the Skelton side, and an observation platform and bandstand erected where the Salthurn toll booth once stood.

Saltburn Foreshore

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Huntcliff Nab, 365 ft high cliffsThe PierView along the beachCollecting the catchThe Pier and Cliff LiftSaltburn Pier
Huntcliff Nab, 365 ft high cliffs
Huntcliff Nab, 365 ft high cliffs
The Pier
The Pier
View along the beach
View along the beach
Collecting the catch
Collecting the catch
The Pier and Cliff Lift
The Pier and Cliff Lift
Saltburn Pier
Saltburn Pier

Saltburn Town

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About the author

Antony was born in the small coastal town of Saltburn-by-the-sea, and lived in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire before returning to his native Yorkshire. He has spent his adult life in the north of England working for a UK Bank and two Government Agencies.

Now living in Yorkshire between the Dales and the Moors Antony enjoys writing and taking photographs. He has written and published two ebooks bringing together some of his short stories and humorous anecdotes, and been published in The Yorkshire Dalesman.

His interests include walking, photography, history, travel, watching cricket and reading books..

© 2011 Antony J Waller

Do you have a favourite Victorian town? - Guestbook comments

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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      got a bone to pick, Antony. You haven't got a comments box on your 'Canny Yatton' page!

      That aside, this is a decent pair of local interest Hub-pages. You know the old anecdote about how tight-fisted Ayton folk were known to be? When the bridge was built over the R. Leven, townsfolk (I always knew it to be a town, nearby Little Ayton is a village) didn't want to wear out the, bridge by using it. "Yattoners'll wade ower beck t'save t'brig".

      Saltburn has always been a favourite of mine, more than Redcar, although I like Marske as well.

      I like walking up the path through Riftswood, and used it as a shortcut when - before I could drive - I took my wife and kids (back in the late 80's) to stay at a farmhouse off the Skelton road, opposite the big hotel that used to be a grand house.

      I've got to take you to task about a detail: it was the Angles ('Aengle') who settled north - and south of - the Humber, the area between the Humber and the Tees being the kingdom of Deira, later part of the Danish kingdom of York.

      (That taken care of, good luck with your Hub-pages. Tek care - where between Moors and Dales do you live, by the way? Northallerton or Thirsk area?)

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      Antony J Waller 5 years ago from North Yorkshire

      @JohnTannahill: Thanks for your comments. I have yet to visit Leamington Spa.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I was born in Stockton-on-Tees - I remember going to Saltburn with my Uncle but not a lot about it. I think I do remember the lift though. Oddly enough, we moved to Leamington Spa when I was 7 - and that's my favourite Victorian town.

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      Antony J Waller 6 years ago from North Yorkshire

      @anonymous: Thanks for that super endorsement. I'd be delighted to be your Saltburn guide! Glad you enjoy my travel articles and hope you find the time to read them all.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      This article is so inspiring and makes me determin to visit Saltburn, a place as yet I have never seen. The writing is clear, factual and very interesting.The excellent photos enhance and adorn this article beautifully. With regard to the Lift on the Cliff ... a 'lift to town' was clearly in common usage long before roads stuffed with cars came into being ! thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more of your travel articles.

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      Antony J Waller 6 years ago from North Yorkshire

      @DuaneJ: Thank you. Saltburn does take a nice photograph!

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      Antony J Waller 6 years ago from North Yorkshire

      @emmajowebster: Thanks, I'm glad you know it too.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 6 years ago

      Beautiful!

    • emmajowebster profile image

      emmajowebster 6 years ago

      I LOVE saltburn!!!

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      Antony J Waller 6 years ago from North Yorkshire

      Glad you enjoyed the tour!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Really good writeup, I enjoyed my visit!