AN HISTORIC kipper smokehouse considered closing for the first time in 140 years over further fears of a landslide – when human bones and debris crumbled from a cliff.
Fortune’s Kippers, on Henrietta Street in Whitby, has been on the same site since 1872 and is famous for its smoked fish, which it sells to a range of top restaurants and high profile customers.
But there were concerns it would become the latest casualty of Whitby’s crumbling cliff face when a broken drainage pipe was damaged, leaving a stream of water flowing down the cliff face and sending mud sliding towards the historic building.
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The smokehouse is just yards away from Aelfleda Terrace, where five homes are currently being dismantled after a landslide left the buildings hanging over a sheer drop.
Barry Brown, who co-owns the Fortune’s Kippers with his brother Derek, said he had spent the past few days nervously surveying debris falling away from the cliff, including human bones from St Mary’s churchyard.
The graveyard has been closed since the early 18th century and the bones were returned to the church to be reinterred elsewhere.
Mr Brown said: “It was a burst pipe and the water was coming down the cliff in two to three different places. There was a lot of mud and a few bricks and boulders. Some human bones came down last week. They’ve been returned to the canon who will reinter them.
“There’s quite an accumulation of mud behind the shreds which are the other side of the yard from the smokehouse and shop, about five to six metres away from where we are now.”
Mr Brown, whose great, great grandfather William Fortune established the smokehouse, added: “I don’t remember anything ever happening like this since the smokehouse has been here. We’ve never had to close.”
St Mary’s Church, which owns the land above Fortune’s Kippers, has taken measures to fix the leaking pipe.
Gabrielle Jandzio, Scarborough Borough Council's communications officer said: "Our engineers met with the rector of St Mary's Church and the owner of Fortune’s Kippers to discuss the slip that occurred last week on church-owned land above Henrietta Street.
“We have subsequently agreed to put up a new section of fence between two and three metres back from the cliff edge near the clock tower, the cost of which will be met by the council with a contribution from the church.”