‘The red or reed marshland’. Red(e)ker(re) c.1170 – 1422, Readcar 1653. Either Old English read, definite form reada, or hreod, genitive plural hreoda, + Old Norse kjarr. The land is low-lying and the rocks of reddish hue.
Information about this place-name was supplied by Victor Watts by personal communication
Redcar is not named in the Domesday Book. At the time of the Domesday Survey, Redcar was part of Marske and it may be that some of the lands of Redcar are listed as if they were part of Marske. However there is not enough detail in the Survey to make it possible to prove this.
See William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912).
The de Brus family of Skelton were the overlords of Redcar through much of the 12th and 13th centuries. Local lords in the 12th century included the Argentein family. Fountains Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey and
Guisborough Priory also had lands here.
See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923).
“A Trip to Coatham” W.Hutton (1810) describes the houses of Redcar.
“Most of their old white-washed houses, have low buildings in their front; which not only serve for washing, baking, the reception of lumber, &c. but for two other purposes, preventing the drift sand from penetrating the inner parts, and as a barricade against the Northern winds. To complete this barricade, they open but one pane in their window; thus they avoid, as an enemy, that sea wind, which the stranger, at a great expence, comes to breathe.
I thought there was something very respectable in the character of the lower ranks. I was in many of their mud-wall dwellings, and found them clean and orderly, as if conducted by the hand of prudence.
Another early mention appears in “The History of Cleveland in the County of York” J. Graves (1808)
“About two miles to the north-west (from Marske) over firm sands, we approach the village of Redcar, which is a considerable fishing town, situated close upon the beach; and consisted formerly of a few miserable huts only, inhabited by fishermen and their families: but is now such a place of fashionable resort for sea-bathing – and is much frequented during the summer season by many genteel families from the country adjacent. – The lodging-houses, which are annually increasing, are many of them neat and commodious; with bathing machines, and every other accommodation; which, in addition to a salubrious air, and the many delightful prospects in the neighbourhood, must contribute to render it a desirable summer retreat.”
The Lay Subsidy of 1301
For the purposes of this tax, Redcar and Marske were lumped together, with a total of almost 90 properties. In the 14th century, Redcar was just a small village in the parish of Marske with a few fishermen and their families, so it’s likely that the majority of the 90 dwellings were in Marske. The names of two taxpayers, John de Merske and Ralph de Redekerre might seem to suggest that one lived in Marske and the other in Redcar, but it is just as likely that John lived in Redcar and Ralph lived in Marske. Names in the lay subsidy returns are of limited use as historical evidence.
Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) (1897).
Wheatlands farmhouse (early 18th century)
St. Peter’s Church (1828)
Town clock (1913)
Concrete air raid listening post (c.1916)
Public library (1966)
Redcar Beacon vertical pier (2011)
A Few Lost Buildings
Central Railway Station (1846) much altered in the 20th century and demolished in 1964.
The Giant Racer rollercoaster (1924) taken down in 1935 and reassembled in Kent.
The Stead Memorial Hospital (opened in an older building in 1929) demolished in 2013.
Central Hall (opened in 1873 in the old central station) It was taken over as a cinema in 1910 and was demolished in 1964.
Some People of Note
Henry Greathead (1757-1818) A Richmond man who built what is now the world’s oldest surviving lifeboat, the Zetland for use at Redcar.
Hugh Bell (1844-1931) One of Britain’s most successful ironmasters who lived for almost 30 years in Redcar.
Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) A traveller and archaeologist who grew up in Redcar. She spent much time in the Middle East and played an active role in the development of modern Iraq.
Benjamin O.Davies (1856-1926) Redcar’s first mayor who went on to become Chairman of the North Riding County Council.
George M. Brown (1925-1997) A Redcar-born geologist who became director of the British Geological Survey.
Rex Hunt (1926-2012) Sir Rex Hunt was a Redcar man who became governor of the Falkland Islands.
Christopher Norman (1950- ) The Redcar-born lead singer of Smokie who topped the charts across Europe in 1976.
Marjorie Mowlam (1949-2005) A politician who was born in Watford. She was M.P. for Redcar from 1987 to 2001. She was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Nicky Jarvis (1954- ) A table tennis player from Redcar who played for his country more than 250 times.
Shona Robison (1966- ) A politician born in Redcar who moved to Scotland where she became an M.S.P. In 2014 she became a member of the Scottish Cabinet.
Carys Davina Grey-Thompson (1969- ) A Welsh wheelchair racer who moved to Redcar after her marriage. Tanni Grey-Thompson won 11 gold medals in the Paralympic Games from 1992 to 2004 and broke numerous world records. She was made a Dame in 2004.
The Hearth Tax of 1673
Redcar had few sizeable houses in 1673. 25 houses had 1 or 2 hearths and 1 house had 3 hearths. There was only one large house, which was a property with 8 hearths owned by Thomas Agar. A further 12 houses were exempt from tax, being discharged by a legal certificate as falling below the tax threshold.
See “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673”, Ripon Historical Society (2011).
White’s Directory of 1840 related how Redcar “has arisen during the last 50 years, from the rank of a small humble fishing village to that of a neat and well built town and fashionable bathing place, . . .” The directory lists 5 inns, 18 lodging houses and 3 bathing machine owners. There were also 7 grocers, 4 butchers, 4 bakers, a druggist, 5 shoemakers, 3 dressmakers, 3 tailors, a straw hat maker, a hairdresser, a saddler, 2 blacksmiths 2 joiners and an earthenware dealer. By the time of Ward’s Directory of 1936, Redcar was a sizeable town with 16 grocers, 15 butchers, 7 bakers, 10 confectioners, 9 fruiterers, 4 dairymen, 2 fishmongers, 4 general dealers, 2 newsagents, 4 tobacconists, 2 chemists, 3 stationers, 12 drapers, 3 milliners, 9 bootmakers, 5 watchmakers, 2 wireless dealers and 3 hardware shops.
A Selection of Dates
1106 Robert de Brus came into possession of Marske and Redcar.
1366 Redcar market began.
1407 First mention of the manor of Redcar.
1802 The Zetland lifeboat was installed at Redcar. It was preserved in the Redcar Lifeboat Museum having been withdrawn from active service in 1846.
1829 St. Peter’s church was dedicated.
1846 The Stockton and Darlington Railway reached Redcar from Middlesbrough.
1855 Redcar Board of Health was formed.
1857 Redcar’s first gas lighting was installed.
1859 The Zetland School opened.
1863 The South Gare breakwater was begun.
1869 Sir William Turner’s Grammar School was built
1872 The first race meeting at the newly laid out racecourse was held.
1873 Downes and Co. erected two blast furnaces at Redcar. Redcar Pier was constructed.
1887 Redcar Golf Club was formed.
1894 Redcar Urban District Council was created. Redcar Cricket Club became champions of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League in the second year of the league’s existence.
1896 Redcar and Coatham Literary Institute was established.
1907 A pavilion ballroom was added to Redcar pier.
1910 Sunday School services were held on the beach.
1911 Shelters were built for visitors to sit in.
1913 The King Edward VII Memorial Clock was erected.
1922 Redcar became a Municipal Borough. The new Trunk Road from Redcar to Grangetown was
1923 The Coast Road from Redcar to Marske was built.
1924 Zetland Park was laid out.
1925 Redcar Amusement Park with a large roller coaster received its first visitors.
1929 The Stead Memorial Hospital was opened.
1930 Locke Memorial Park was opened. Redcar East railway station was built.
1931 Redcar Cricket Club won the Kerridge Cup for the third succession season.
1937 Redcar Public Library was opened. It was demolished in 1974.
1940 The whole of Redcar promenade was covered with barbed wire and the beach was defended with concrete blocks as part of the defences against enemy attack during the Second World War. Defences included pill boxes and landmines.
1941 The mayor of Redcar was amongst those killed by an enemy air raid on the town. In another raid, 10 workmen were killed at Warrenby Works and a new furnace was badly damaged.
1951 The open air swimming pool was converted to a roller skating rink.
“Sunshine Corner” which had been a popular feature on Redcar beach for several decades came to an end about this time.
1952 Teenage dance nights were introduced at the Pier Ballroom.
1954 Redcar was jammed with holidaymakers during the August Bank Holiday, with trains arriving every 6 minutes.
1955 The Cleveland Show was held at Redcar Racecourse.
1958 Redcar Jazz Club was formed.
1966 A new public library was built.
1968 Redcar became part of Teesside County Borough and later of Cleveland County.
1975 Sir William Turner’s Sixth Form College was established.
1979 Redcar blast furnace, the largest in Britain began production.
1981 The last remaining parts of Redcar pier were demolished.
1994 Redcar and Cleveland College was formed from a merger of two colleges.
1996 Redcar and Cleveland became a unitary authority when Cleveland County was disbanded.
2006 Redcar seafront was used as the background for the film Atonement, based on the evacuation of Dunkirk.
2011 Construction of the vertical pier on the sea front began. It was officially named the Redcar Beacon.
2013 Teesside Wind Farm was completed, consisting of 27 wind turbines in the North Sea, facing Redcar promenade.
2014 New swimming baths were opened.
2015 Steelworkers at Redcar lost their jobs as the works was closed down.
This list of dates was compiled using information from “Redcar and Coatham” by J.Cockroft (1976) and other secondary sources.
Selected Further Reading
“Recollections of Redcar” V.Robinson (1990)
“Redcar: A Pictorial History” P.Philo (1993)
“Old Redcar and Coatham” P.Chrystal (2017)
“Public Health in Redcar” J.Cockroft, C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin no. 27 (1974)
“The Holiday Business: Lodging Houses and Landladies in Two Nineteenth Century Cleveland Resorts” M.Huggins, C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin No. 44 (1983)