150 YEARS ago this month, the Echo’s sister paper reported of a dispute in the new railway resort of Saltburn, where the engineer of the pier, John Anderson, was being sued for £3 6s 8d in Stokesley County Court.

Mr Anderson was a railway engineer from Norton, near Stockton, who had also built the Alexandra Hotel and four four-storey townhouses on the clifftop directly above the pier.

However, it was a long drop for tourists from the clifftop to the pier so Mr Anderson contracted a Mr Henderson, of Middlesbrough, to sink a shaft for a lift. Mr Henderson started digging, quickly penetrating a layer of sand and soil before he encountered some really hard rock.

Then Mr Anderson turned up on the scene and told him he hadn’t dug the shaft wide enough “on which account the plaintiff left off sinking and claimed the above amount for the work done”.

The judge awarded Mr Henderson £1 8s 9d, saying he had overcharged for digging the easy bit of the shaft.

Perhaps because of the hard rock, Mr Anderson gave up on the idea of a conventional elevator and instead designed a remarkable vertical hoist.

People on the clifftop walked out along a wooden gantry supported by slender, spidery legs until, 120ft in the air, they climbed into a circular cage, which could hold 20 people. Using waterpower, it plummeted them down to the prom.

Presumably delayed by the aborted lift, the vertical hoist did not open until July 1870, the pier having opened in May 1869.

Because the vertical hoist was entirely wooden, it rotted and in 1883, it was replaced by the country’s third water-balanced funicular tramway.

But what if, 150 years ago, Mr Henderson hadn’t aborted his digging? Would we now be going up and down in a lift without a view? And, somewhere on the clifftop, are there the remains of a deep liftshaft?