HINDERWELL: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake of Langbaurgh East - Electoral Division of Hinderwell - Petty Sessional Division of Whitby Strand - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Whitby - Rural Deanery of Guisborough - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

This parish stretches along the coast from five to nine miles N.W. of Whitby, and extends inland about 4½ miles. Its area, exclusive of the strand, is 4,400 acres, and the number of inhabitants 2,653. It includes the township of its own name and also the chapelry of Roxby. The former contains about 2,000 acres, and is valued for rateable purposes at £4,535. The coast is lined by lofty cliffs, and inland the surface rises into craggy hills. Alum was formerly manufactured from the rocks on the coast, but the industry was abandoned several years ago. Jet, of fine quality, is occasionally met with.

This place appears to have been originally called, from its position on the sea shore, Seaton, and so the manor is still designated; but subsequently it became known by its present name, a corruption of Hilda's Well, a clear spring of water in the churchyard (now covered by a pump), dedicated to the sainted Abbess of Whitby. Little is known of Hinderwell previous to the Conquest. In the reign of the last Saxon king the manor of Seaton (Hinderwell) was held by a person named Norman, and after the conquest it was granted to the Percys. Subsequently it came into the possession of the Thwenges, of Kilton Castle, from whom it passed in marriage to the Lumleys, and remained with this family till the attainder of Lord Lumley, in the reign of Henry VIII. It afterwards belonged to the Mauleys, lords of Mulgrave; and in the reign of Charles II. it was in the hands of the Sheffield family, whence it descended to the Normanbys, and was sold some years ago, by the present marquis, to Charles M. Palmer, Esq., M.P., now Sir C. M. Palmer, who is also chief landowner.

The village of Hinderwell stands on rising ground about a mile from the sea, and nine miles N.W. of Whitby.

The church (St. Hilda) is a plain building erected in 1773, on the site of one which dated from Norman times. It was again partly rebuilt in 1847, at a cost of £600, and was re-roofed a few years ago. It possesses no interesting features. The living is a rectory, held in conjunction with Roxby, worth £494, and in the gift of J. Corner, Esq.

There are chapels in the village belonging to the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists. The latter one is a neat stone structure, built in 1873, with accommodation for 300 persons. A Sunday School was added in 1886, at a cost of £300.

Runswick is a village in this township picturesquely situated in a bend of the coast called Runswick Bay. The houses are confusedly ranged in tiers on the slope of the cliff, a footpath winding up the steep acclivity from one terrace to another. Standing at one door you may look into, if not down, the next neighbour's chimney. The village presents an old-world appearance, and is completely hidden from view until the visitor comes suddenly upon it. Landslips occasionally take place, and during one, which occurred about 190 years ago, the whole village, with the exception of a single house, was destroyed. A very considerable fishing trade was formerly done here, but it has declined in late years, and now only a few cobles are so employed. The Independents and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel in the village; and there are also an inn, a temperance hotel, and several lodging houses.

In the lower part of the cliff, about the middle of the bay, is Hob-hole, a natural cavern in the rock, which has been formed by the action of the tides. Here, according to the popular belief, in days "when George III. was king," there dwelt a sprite, named Hob. He was of a benign disposition, and was firmly believed to possess the power of curing the whooping cough. Mothers who had babies so afflicted brought them to the mouth of the cave, and cried out

"Hob-hole Hob
Ma' bairn's gotten 't' kink cough
Tak't off! tak't off!"

Though the present generation of Runswickians disclaim all belief in the healing powers of Hob, persons still living have seen suffering little ones taken to the moor above, and held by their mothers over a hole in the ground newly made, to breathe the fresh earth, under the belief that it would cure the malady.

Staithes is a large fishing village at the north-eastern extremity of the parish, and partly in the adjoining parish of Easington. It is romantically situated in a deep narrow creek, between Coburn Nab and Penny Nab, which completely conceal it from the view of the approaching traveller until he reaches the summit of the cliff above. A stream, formed by the junction of the Rousby and Easington becks, flows through the deep narrow glen between the cliffs, and contributes not a little to its picturesqueness. The houses are built in terraces, one above another, on the slope of the cliffs, the floor of one row being on a level with the chimneys of that in front. The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in fishing, in which an extensive business is carried on. The greater part of the fish taken is sold to merchants, and forwarded by rail to the large towns in various parts of the country. The Fishermen's Institute, converted out of two cottages, was opened by Sir C. M. and Lady Palmer, on the 15th August, 1888. It contains a lecture hall and reading and recreation rooms; a good library further contributes to the intellectual pabulum of the members. The spiritual needs of the inhabitants are well supplied. The old National School, superseded by a Board School, has been converted into a chapel-of-ease, or mission room. The Congregationalists, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans have each a chapel in the village. That belonging to the latter body is a handsome structure of brick and freestone, consisting of two stories. The upper one is the chapel, and will seat, including gallery, 500 persons. On the lower story are the vestry, and a schoolroom with accommodation for 250.

The Catholic Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Our Lady, Star of the Sea," is a neat Gothic edifice, erected from the designs of Mr. M. Carr, architect, Middlesbrough. The need of a chapel had long been felt by the Catholics of the village and neighbourhood, and at the request of the Right Rev. Dr. Lacey, the Rev. Father Sullivan undertook the very laborious task of establishing the mission. The foundation stone was laid on the 31st July, 1884, and the church was publicly opened on the 2nd of June, 1886. The altar is pitchpine, very chastely carved and highly polished. Above the west door is a statue of the Blessed Virgin holding up the hands of the Divine Child to bless, and a representation of a boat rowed by two angels.

The village does not date from any remote period, and the only historic interest it possesses is its association with Captain Cook, who was bound an apprentice here to the grocery trade. The shop and other premises were washed down by the tide several years ago; and a school, in the memory of persons still living, stood on a spot now covered by the sea.

Port Mulgrave is a modern village, situated on the coast between Staithes and Runswick. It owes its existence to the iron mines of the locality, the ore from which is shipped here for the Tyne. A jetty has been built, and a tramway constructed from the Grinkle mines, which emerges at this place from a tunnelled cutting, about a mile in length.

ROXBY is a township and chapelry in the parish of Hinderwell, comprising a total area of 2,410 acres, chiefly the property of Captain E. H. Turton, of Upsall Castle, Thirsk. The inhabitants number 186, and are principally employed in agriculture. The rateable value of the township is £1,474.

Roxby formerly belonged to the Boyntons, but in the last century Sir Griffith Boynton, Bart., of Barmston and Burton Agnes, sold the manor and estate to J. Turton, Esq., M.D., physician to the royal household, and subsequently physician in ordinary to George III. and the Prince of Wales. He died in 1806, without issue, and bequeathed his estates to Edmund, third son of the Rev. William Peters, M.A., F.R.S., who thereupon assumed, by sign manual, the name and arms of Turton. The present owner is his son.

The village is small and scattered. A chapel-of-ease was founded here by the Boyntons in the reign of Henry V., and some of the family were buried here. It was rebuilt by public subscription in 1819, and it was re-roofed a few years ago. The tithes were commuted, before the year 1800, for a grant of 165 acres of land.

A School was erected here, in 1876, for the education of children belonging to Roxby and Borrowby. It is a neat freestone building, with accommodation for 50 children.

The name of the village, which is sometimes written Rousby, is said, by some writers, to signify Rock town, but a more probable derivation is Rook's town.

At the time of our visit there was living here an old lady, Mrs. Markham, who had then recently celebrated her 104th birthday. She was still hale and hearty, a regular attendant at church, and has been presented with a portrait of the Queen by Her Majesty.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]


  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890.

Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.