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RAVENSCAR AND STAINTONDALE STORIES

 

The Link With "mad" King George

Peak House , the building which is now the Raven Hall Hotel was , from 1788 , owned by the Rev. Dr. Francis Willis who owned an asylum to the south in Lincolnshire where he treated King George the third for his bouts of insanity . As portrayed in the film "The Madness of King George" the treatment was by our terms barbaric , consisting of bleeding with leeches , restraint and deluging in baths of water . It is rumoured the King was treated at Ravenscar to be away from all publicity.

 

Smugglers and secret tunnels

Throughout the centuries the difference in taxes on little luxuries between Britain and the rest of Europe have encouraged smugglers to use fishing boats to bring contraband into the isolated bays and tiny fishing villages of North Yorkshire. At times in the past , Revenue troops were permanently stationed in the area but their presence seems to have made little difference as baccie and brandy were always available. It is rumoured that a tunnel exists from the cellar of the old Blue Robin Inn (now the Smugglers Rock Guesthouse ) down to the beach at Ravenscar (a distance of 1/2 mile and a drop of 600 feet). Through this tunnel contraband was reputedly delivered directly to thirsty consumers.

Importing urine by the boatload

From 1640 to 1862 Ravenscar had an industry of world class importance. A chemical called Alum was produced from the local shale. Alum was used to cure leather and fix dyes in cloth as well as for medicinal uses. This chemical was of huge economic importance and the Peak Alum Works even attracted raids by foreign pirates and was guarded by cannon set into the cliff top. The extraction process to produce alum was peculiar, involving burning the rock for months over huge bonfires then pouring human urine over the heaps of rock. Ravenscar has always had a sparse population and so the urine had to be collected from cities all over England and imported by the boatload. It is said that the first public toilet in the world was built in Hull to provide solvent for the Alum Trade. Quite how this method of production was discovered is not recorded.

The country house gambled on a bug race

The Rev. Francis Willis was a heavy gambler and it is said that in the 1840's he lost Peak House (now the Raven Hall Hotel), and its extensive grounds to a gentleman called Hammond in a single bet on two woodlice running across a saucer.

The town that never was

At the beginning of this century a Victorian entrepreneur decided that a town should be developed around the village then known as Peak . A railway line was being built to link the towns of Scarborough and Whitby , and Peak was the central point. Roads were built , sewers were laid and plots of land sold to city dwellers who liked the idea of living by the beach. The plan was badly researched as the route to the shore is precarious and the area, though beautiful, is very exposed. The building company folded in 1913 having built less than a dozen houses but it had altered the area for ever .Peak was re-named Ravenscar , the wide roads remained and the houses built for a new town look strangely out of place in the middle of open countryside. Foxcliffe Tearooms is part of this history , being situated in part of the old Ravenscar House Hotel, built to house the city dwellers visiting to choose their plots. Outside, an overgrown station stands next to the old railway line which is now a bridleway.