Library & Archives Blog – Ravenscar: The Town That Never Was but is…very interesting!

One of my outreach groups is interested in Ravenscar, so I thought I would have a dig around for information.

Firstly, I discovered, with help from a couple of volunteers, small research booklets compiled by Simon Rhodes, F.C. Rimington and Gary Marshall, which were useful for gathering initial information for my presentation. I soon realised there was much more to the area than I thought including the Alum Works and Raven Hall Hotel, once named Peak House. This early information inspired me to visit the area…and of course, it rained which according to “British Rainfall” is less likely in Ravenscar!

Following on from this I discovered, by chance, a box in the archives that contained information about the whole area carefully researched by a man called Alan Green. There are magazine and newspaper articles, letters, photographs, booklets, adverts and maps. A couple of the articles made reference to a book called The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker as it has a delightful illustrations, one which was of Alum Works – I believe based on the one that was at Sandsend.


I thought I would write 10 snippets of historical information that I have been reading about – some are facts, some are myths:

  1. 1. Around AD 800, Danish Pirates are reputed to have landed at Ravenscar, climbed the clifftop and raised a flag with motif containing a picture of a raven!
  2. 2. Peak was the former name for Ravenscar.
  3. 3. A principle process in the manufacture of Alum is to soak the shale in large vats of urine!
  4. 4. It is rumoured that Rev. Francis Willis lost ownership of Peak House in the 1840’s over a single bet on a race between two woodlice across a saucer!
  5. 5. Apparently, there is a tall tale about a man who was shot so they could start a cemetery at the new church in 1852!
  6. 6. The house and estate were sold to Ravenscar Estate Company Ltd for £10,000.
  7. 7. 300 men were employed to lay drains, construct roads and gardens in an attempt to create a ‘new seaside resort’.
  8. 8. In 1897 Peak House became Raven Hall Hotel
  9. 9. In 1947, the railway line was blocked for six weeks with snow drifts!
  10. 10. In 1979 the National Trust bought the land on the Ravenscar cliffs, but the single cannon on the cliffs, that was suggested warded off pirates, mysteriously disappeared at the time of the sale!

I also decided to have a look at the Digital Whitby Gazette and soon found several articles relating unfortunately to several accidents of people falling off the cliff!

  • One woman reported seeing someone falling off the cliff but fortunately, it turned out to be a mattress! (WG May 1961).
  • In April 1937 there was a plane crash which narrowly missed two children playing in their back yard!
  • A group of Manchester students discovered remains of a 20ft Plesiosaur (WG March 1960). This story led me to research further and was directed towards the book ‘The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology’ by Roger Osborne, which is available to buy in the Museum and we have one on our shelves in the library too. It took two days, in appalling weather conditions, to extract the remains and is on permanent display in the foyer of the Geology Department at Manchester.

If you have an interest in Geology & fossils there are numerous books in the library and the ‘famous green boxes’ feature information too.

If you are interested in accessing this information, call into the library and enquire (open Tuesday-Friday 10am-4.00pm) or contact us at

Claire Marris Archive Development Officer