RUNSWICK BAY has just won the Sunday Times' Beach of the Year accolade, and as it has been so long in our year of lockdowns since we visited the coast, we'd thought we'd pull out some archive pictures to celebrate.

The Sunday paper enthused about the North Yorkshire beach: “Our winner for 2020 is close to perfection, with pods of bottlenose dolphins often spotted on the horizon plus fossil-hunting and rock-pooling on the seemingly endless sands."

And then Peter Sotheran of Redcar wrote with a question: "May I have a ruling on how one pronounces Runswick Bay – is the ‘w’ in it silent or not?"

Warming to his theme, he moved up the coast a little and continued: “And while we are about it, what is the approved pronunciation of Staithes? Is it Staithes as it is written, or ‘Steeres’ as the locals allegedly prefer it?"

On Runswick Bay, there is unanimity among our consultees. It is "Runsick Bay", without the w, unless you are overly familiar and call it "Runnie".

The fishing village gets its name from gets its name from either an Old English landowner called Raegen or a Norseman called Hreinn (a name which means pure or bright). It was his wic, or settlement.

Staithes is an Old English name meaning "landing place", and, we are told, that true east Clevelanders should sound as if they call it "Steers" or "Steer-es".

Alice Barrigan, of the North Yorkshire History blog, said: “I wonder if the fascination with the Staithes dialect started in the 19th Century when it was both a busy fishing port and an increasing attraction to artists, tourists, journalists and writers,.

“Saying “Steeres” for “Staithes” must come from writers speaking Received Pronunciation English and trying to record the locals’ pronunciation – and the locals, after all, were just saying the name they’d always known. How it was spelt on a map wasn’t their business.

“What they said wasn’t crisp and closed, the “ai” part of the word sounded quite different to their hearers and the “th” was virtually inaudible.

" But the writers couldn’t show how long the word sounded, how slowly or quickly the locals spoke, and Steeres looks like a really drawn-out, drawling word whereas it’s really just like dialectal pronunciation of, say, “away”.”

So really locals are saying “Staithes” but not in a way that the outside ear would recognise!

This is dangerous territory. Near Staithes are the highest cliffs on the east coast where once a Viking called Bolli had his farmstead, and so they are called "Boulby". But a native east coastsman would not pronounce it like a French game of boules; they'd say "Bowlby", as in "boulder".

Until the 1970s, Ingleby Barwick was just a rural village near Stockton that was pronounced “Ingleby Barrick”. But then Europe's largest private housing estate was built there and the new residents looked at their deeds and said they were living in “Ingleby Bar-wick”.

And then, moving up onto the moors, we stumble across Chop Gate. Does anyone really pronounce it "Chop Yat"?

All theories and pronunciation puzzles most welcome. Please email