IT is nearly the summer holiday season and the forecast says that in the coming week it will stop raining and may even become a little warm. Where to go?

“Marske is situate about midway between Redcar and Saltburn, and occupies a somewhat elevated position in close proximity to the bent-covered hills that here skirt the sandy marge of the German Ocean,” wrote Samuel Gordon in his 1869 guide to “the watering places of Cleveland”.

As he suggests, Marske has a sandy beach on the margin of what we have known since the First World War as the North Sea. It has the grass-covered Cleveland Hills behind it.

The entrance to the beach at Marske, where Spout Beck runs into the sea in the early 1970s

“Though rather bleak from exposure to the keen northern blasts, its situation is very pleasant,” continues our travel writer. “On one hand is a boundless expanse of sea, and on the other the eye rests upon the huge outlines of some of Cleveland’s lofty hills, here exhibiting a moorland sterility, or there, crowned with exuberant foliage, with a stupendous range of cliffs stretching along the coast as far as the eye can reach, presenting a pleasant diversity of natural scenery which, together with its marine attractions, render Marske by no means an uninviting place for a brief summer sojourn.”


He probably does Marske a disservice, for with its ancient hall, its Gothic clifftop residence, its low cruck fishermen’s cottages made of honey-colour blocks and its enigmatic ruined churchtower which still stands sentry above the waves, there is plenty of interest in the fishing village, as this delve into The Northern Echo’s archive reveals…

Marske Hall was built by Sir William Pennyman around 1625, but he had to sell it in 1650 to pay his £1,200 fine for supporting the Royalist cause. The new owners were the Lowther family who remained for 100 years before selling to the Dundas family who, as the earls of Zetland, were acquiring much of the Cleveland coast. In the First World War it was requisitioned by the Royal Flying Corps, which had an airfield nearby. It later became a school but here, in July 1961, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire is discussing with local officials his nursing home organisation taking it on and in 1963, it became the Teesside Cheshire Home. It is still a nursing home

Cliff House, seen here on June 7, 1960, was the seaside retreat of Joseph Pease, whose statue stands in the middle of Darlington’s High Row. He built it on top of a couple of fishermen’s cottages in 1844Cliff House was the seaside retreat of Joseph Pease, whose statue stands in the middle of Darlington’s High Row. He built it on top of a couple of fishermen’s cottages in 1844, just as his creation of Middlesbrough was taking off and he was beginning to mine in the Cleveland Hills – it is built of stone from his Upleatham mine. It was from here one summer’s day in 1859 that his brother, Henry, took off on a walk and had the idea of creating a railway tourist resort at Saltburn. In the 1920s, the iron firm of Dorman Long took it on with a view to turning it into a workers’ convalescent home but instead in 1934 it was taken on by the Holiday Fellowship, which organised working class seaside holidays. The fellowship left in 1974 and the house fell derelict until in the early 1980s it was converted into retirement homes with splendid sea views.

Joseph Pease's Cliff House fell derelict, and was badly vandalised, during the 1970s, but here in October 1978 it is about to be converted into retirement flats


The First World War hangars in January 1989Marske aerodrome was the biggest Royal Flying Corps airfield in the Tees Valley during the First World War. Planes had been landing on the fields since 1910, but when war broke out, the fledgling fliers requisitioned Marske Hall as their headquarters, and the airfield grew to have 17 hangars and a railway connection. It was particularly an air gunnery school, with WE Johns, the author of the Biggles books, being stationed there, and for five months of 1918, the 25th Aero Squadron of the US Army Air Service was there. The airfield was reinvigorated during the Second World War, in case the RAF needed it, and its hangars survived until this picture was taken in January 1989 when ICI, the owner, sold the airfield for housing

A misty summer's day at St Germain's Church, Marske-by-the-Sea

St Germain’s Church, named after the 6th Century Bishop of Paris who was known as “the Father of the Poor”, was consecrated by Bishop Aethelric between 1042 and 1056 when he was Bishop of Durham. It was once the parish church for Redcar and Saltburn with parishioners walking along the beach for services.

It was once surrounded by a fishing village which, over time, moved inland, especially as Victorian ironstone miners settled there. As St Germain’s deteriorated a new church, St Mark’s, was built in the middle of the population in 1867, and St Germain’s was due to be demolished – however the “hob men” rebuilt overnight whatever had been taken down the day before. In the end, the chancel was demolished in 1955 but the tower, with its steeple that was added in 1821, was left as a landmark for fishermen. The churchyard contains many bodies of sailors who perished on the rocks below and of ironstone miners who died below ground. It also is the resting place of James Cook, who died in 1779 not knowing that his son, Captain James Cook, had been killed two months earlier on Hawaii – Charles Dickens is supposed to have visited St Germain’s to see this grave.

It was also known as the Smugglers’ Church, with stories of secret tunnels connecting it to the village’s oldest houses. Sexton William Stainton, aka “Will Watch”, kept an eye out for the Revenue men on behalf of the smugglers, and even stored their contraband in his church and in a fake grave. Eventually, the Revenue men had enough of his antics and murdered him in the churchyard and buried him where he fell. The ghost of Will Watch is still said to haunt this enigmatic part of the world.

St Germain's tower in 1979Drama student Francesca Hansen models extremely bravely for an Echo photographer on Marske beach on October 1, 1986READ MORE: HOT STUFF: THE FIVE BIGGEST FIRES IN DARLINGTON'S HISTORY