Perhaps one of the most popular, charming and picturesque
fishing villages in the country, Robin Hood’s Bay lies six miles
south of Whitby in North Yorkshire. The origins of the name are
unknown but there are many speculations. Unfortunately there is no
connection to the legendary outlaw and this small fishing village.
The name does not appear in any records until Tudor times, although
it is sometimes called ‘Baytown’. A mile to the south of the
village are bronze age burial mounds called ‘Robin Hood’s Butts’.
There are also signs that some Romans spent some time in the Bay,
the Whitby Pannet Park Museum indicates that Ravenscar was once a
Roman Signal Station.
Although fishing is no longer the main industry in Robin Hood’s
Bay, in the 18th and 19th centuries the village thrived on it. In
1538 ‘Baytown’ grew in size when many people from the inland
village of ‘Raw’ moved down to the coast as a Danish invasion was
no longer imminent. In fact Robin Hood’s Bay was a more prosperous
and important fishing centre than Whitby. In the 1820s there were
130 fishermen sailing 35 cobles and 5 large herring boats, the
community was continuously expanding. The women and boys were also
kept busy, women baited lines and barrelled fish for market, while
the boys mended nets and made the lobster pots. Unfortunately in
1920 there were only two fishing families left in ‘Baytown’, lack
of harbour facilities prevented the Bay from becoming a viable port
and the industry declined. Today the interest in fishing is
reviving with Robin Hood’s Bay being one of the best crab grounds
on the north coast.
Prosperity in the 18th and 19th century in merchant shipping grew
and the village was renowned for the quality of its young seamen.
The Royal Navy however had to send ‘press gangs’ to recruit seamen.
The women of the village drove them out with pans and rolling pins
while their men hid.
Smuggling in the 18th and 19th century was rife and nowhere more so
than Robin Hood’s Bay. It was an ideal location because of the
natural isolation of the bay. A lot of the smuggling was financed
by local squires and although the risk was hanging, it was thought
the perks were worth it. In 1856 the coastguards were given the
responsibility of catching the smugglers. Robin Hood’s Bay was a
tough assignment for the Whitby based excisemen and dragoons were
brought in to assist. Houses and inns in the bay are said to have
connecting cellars and cupboards, it was said that ‘a bale of silk
could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without seeing
daylight’. The illicit trade of smuggling died out as a result of
the reduction of trade duties rather than the determination of the
In 1780 disaster struck in the Bay, fierce gales and the strong sea
caused many of the cottages along King Street to fall into the
tide. Again in 1791, part of Park Road disappeared into the sea,
over a century later a strong sea wall was built. In 1975, at the
cost of £578,000, the highest sea wall in Britain, measuring 500
feet long and 40 feet high, was constructed ensuring no more of the
old Robin Hood’s Bay was taken to its grave by the ever faithful
Wrecks were very common in the early days. One memorable night in
1881, a large brig ‘Visitor’ was run aground. The sea was so rough
the lifeboat had to be dragged eight miles in the snow to Robin
Hood’s Bay to be launched. The whole crew of the ‘Visitor’ were
saved thanks to the people of the village.
We also have more information about
Robin Hood's Bay and
Robin Hood's Bay Beach as well as
Information & Churches nearby.
It is a village of two halves, the upper part level and
Victorian but the lower, older fishing village has quaint
red-roofed cottages perched on the side of the cliff and jostling
The beach has been regularly awarded
the ENCAMS Seaside Award and will be flying the distinctive blue
and yellow flag if appropriate.
Robin Hoods Bay is clearly not from
the age of the motor vehicle, with many of the streets being little
more than cobbled walkways.