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Return trip to the seaside
WE return to the North Yorkshire Coast in Yesterday Once More this week, with a second dip into Alan Whitworth’s wonderful Runswick Bay & Staithes Through Time.
A couple of weeks ago, we focused on old photographs of Runswick Bay. Today, we move on to the fishing village of Staithes.
Alan’s book contains almost 100 pages of photographs, old and new. We have chosen just a few: but they give a wonderful glimpse of what life was like in the fishing village a century or so ago.
Our first photo, by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, shows girls and young women on the beach collecting firewood, and mussels and cockles for bait. It is a stunning photograph: but the life captured so atmospherically here must have been a hard one.
Our second photograph shows Thomas Harrison and his family in about 1890, baiting lines. Again, looking at the smiling faces, it is easy to forget what a difficult life it was, Alan writes: many families struggled to make a living from the sea.
At the time this photo was taken, lining was one of the principal methods of catching fish. Local fishermen would often use smaller lines.
“Trawlers, however, would tow a line perhaps half a mile in length, which with branches could have as many as 15,000 hooks on it,” writes Alan.
Our other pictures today show:
• Staithes womenfolk helping their men to beach a coble in the 1880s. “This was a usual occurrence when most of the male population was away at sea fishing,” writes Alan.
• An old fisherman tidying up his crab pots in 1908 – an example of the work of Staithes photographer Henry Charles Morley, who had a studio in the village.
• A fine collection of traditional coble boats, moored beneath Staithes Bridge. The bridge is draped in fishing nets.
“It was long the custom to drape fishing nets over the rails to let them dry in the sun and wind, but this became such a nuisance and did so much damage through rot that a local law was passed fining anyone caught hanging their nets out,” writes Alan.
Cobles became the mainstay of the Staithes fleet.
“The dramatic sweep of the strakes, the shallow draught, the high bow, are all redolent of the Viking longships which came to these coasts to rape and pillage,” Alan notes.
Runswick Bay & Staithes Through Time by Alan Whitworth is published by Amberley, priced £14.99