Summer exhibitions

“Staithes Art Club [Annual Exhibition]

For many years now the district about Staithes, though, more especially, at first, at Runswick and Hinderwell, has been the summer home of a few able and conscientious artists, who have discovered unconventional subjects for their brush, and by careful study, have greatly improved their powers of perception, their appreciation of the relative values of lights and colours…Like Whitby, the paintable bits about Staithes and Runswick are illimitable …

… there was a gay and fashionable little assemblage present, which viewed with evident interest the representative collection of works on the walls of the upper room of the building which, from its large window, looked upon the the as from the deck of a steamer …

…There can be but one opinion among the fraternity of the brush as to the value of an exhibition of this kind, for comparison and criticism are the very soul of improvement and are valuable guides to a complete success.”

Whitby Gazette – Friday 8 August 1902

The exhibition referred to was the second of a series of short lived annual exhibitions held by the Staithes Art Club between 1901 and 1907. During the 1880s/1890s and 1900s artists, both professional and amateur, both men and women, lived or regularly stayed in or around Staithes, which has lead to the idea of a ‘Staithes Group’ of artists.

Most of the artists counted in the Group originated elsewhere, many from other places in the north of England. The east coast of Yorkshire had been opened up by a new railway line. Artists came and went during the period, some were just starting out, some were already academicians e.g. Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Watercolour Society.

Although many of the pictures displayed at the exhibitions were of Staithes and its environs and local people that wasn’t always the case, what was important was the artists themselves. For a period of their life they were associated with a Staithes Group because of where they lived or worked and whether they displayed their work at the Staithes Art Club annual exhibitions. It’s noticeable that it was a loose association not an artist colony or a Staithes ‘School’; indeed Laura Knight, one of the Staithes Group, gave the yearning for close companionship of other painters as one of the reasons she ended up leaving Staithes.

“Staithes Art Club – A Choice Exhibition

There appears to be no particular leader, or style … Their aims are similar, but their methods are very dissimilar. They each try to give the broad truths of nature, ignoring almost entirely anything which would detract from the first impressions.”

Whitby Gazette, Friday 18 August 1905

The High Tide, Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire – Frederick William Jackson – https://artuk.org/

Most of the pictures were rural landscapes, picturesque people (mostly working people) and conventional horses. Most of it was ‘en plain air’ that is painted outside rather than in a studio. The art was naturalistic, romanticised and sometimes impressionistic (but not too much). There was a sense of little suggestion of bohemian lifestyles or contentious art from the Group, it was all rather respectable. The 1903 Annual Exhibition had patrons including Sir Charles M Palmer MP, a North East Shipbuilder who had a country estate at nearby Grinkle Park, Loftus. Another patron was the MP for Whitby – E W Beckett – although he turned out to be rather more of a free spirit.

The writers in the Whitby Gazette who attend the annual exhibitions approve of the pictures that are well modelled and well managed faithful renderings, of good composition which are peaceful, sweet, harmonious, delightful, pleasing, rich in quality, natural in colour, strong yet tender.

“Staithes Art Club

… The visitors to this small exhibition will be at once struck by the diversity of aim and methods of the artists represented. In this respect, the work is very instructive. We may refer to the manner and treatment of both oils and water colours. May of the exhibits are successful efforts to portray the charm of colour and subtlety of things seen in the open air. We have others in which the painter has apparently ignored the latter quality, depending on bold masses of colour and strong contrasts in light and shade. Then we come to work which almost leaves colour alone, but somehow conveys it, with a hint. In each method we find some merit and reason. It is well that art can be so varied, otherwise, once and for all, colour photography would settle the thing. It is the personal interpretation, after all, which matters – the seizing upon the salient points, to the exclusion or suppression of such minor ones as would, if too much emphasised, detract from the work. If we bear those things in mind, in viewing the exhibits, and try and understand the aim of the painter, we shall receive greater pleasure and instruction.”

Whitby Gazette, Friday 17 August 1906

Carting Sand – James William Booth – https://artuk.org/

It’s clear from the reporting in the Gazette that the venues used for the exhibitions were small. At first it was the Fisherman’s’ Institute in Staithes; then Andersons Gallery, Well Close Square, Skinner Street in Whitby; and then The Gallery, Waterloo Place, Flowergate in Whitby. The pictures exhibited were therefore also small, in one of the exhibition reports the writer suggests this means they could be usefully hung in an ordinary house. Most of the professional artists at least would have been attempting to make some kind of living.

It has been suggestion that this restriction in size as well as the small regional market for pictures were reasons for the falling away of the Staithes Group. It’s noticeable that the same time as the Staithes Art Club annual exhibitions are advertised in the Whitby Gazette each year there are more adverts for other art exhibitions. Art Clubs had become a popular concept in all sorts of provincial places.

Figures on the Shore – Arthur A Friedenson – https://artuk.org/

A loose association is easily dissolved. William Gilbert Foster an original member of the Club died in 1907 and the Knights left Staithes in the same year. The last official annual exhibition of the Staithes Art Club was held in 1907. Joseph Richard Bagshawe suddenly died in 1909, he had been another founding member. Leandro Garrido also died in 1909.

However it didn’t mean everyone just left; it’s clear from paintings held at the Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby that Staithes Art Club artists were still painting locally in 1920.  Around the same time the Fylingdales Group of Artists was founded in Robin Hood’s Bay to the south of Whitby. Nowadays the Fylingdales Group still exist and Staithes is still a focus for artists, there is even a Staithes Art School.

Toil – Mark Senior – https://artuk.org/

So why for that brief period were turn of the 20th century artists drawn to Staithes and the north east coast of Yorkshire – Laura Knight shared her reasons in an autobiography thirty years later.

“The roofs were red tiled or thatched, the walls made of brownish-yellow ironstone, and there and there was a white-washed cottage with green shutters. The wooden quay, called the e stretched right across the beach forming a poor protection against a nor’-easter. Two walls of cliff formed barriers on either side; the northern side reached out its rounded arm, along which the Beck ran into the sea from springs on the high moor. The excuse I offer for writing about Staithes at such length is its tremendous influence on work, life and power of endurance. It was there I found myself and what I might do. The life and place were what I had yearned for the freedom, the austerity, the savagery, the wildness. I love it passionately, overwhelmingly. I loved the cold and the northerly storms when no covering would protect you. I loved the strange race of people who lived there, whose stern almost forbidding exterior formed such contrast to the warmth and richness of their natures.”

Oil Paint and Grease Paint, Autobiography of Laura Knights, 1936

When Laura Knight describes why her and her husband left for Cornwall and the Newlyn ‘School’ in 1907 she describes being tired of wet and cold and lonely winters and tragedies (i.e. the drowning of boat men). But she’s still very sorry to go.

Staithes – James William Booth – https://artuk.org/

Below a is a non comprehensive list of artists associated with the Staithes Group and links to an example of their work from around the same time as the Group was active.

John Atkinson

Joseph Richard Bagshawe

James William Booth

Owen Bowen

John Bowman

Andrew Charles Colley

Lionel Crawshaw

Ernest Dade

William Gilbert Foster

Arthur Friedenson

Leandro Garrido

Ralph Hedley

Rowland Henry Hill

Henry Silkstone Hopwood

John William Howey

Hannah Hoyland

Spence Ingall

Frederick William Jackson

Isa Jobling

Robert Jobling

Harold Knight

Laura Knight

Charles Hodge Mackie

Frank Henry Mason

Fred Mayor

Frederick Stuart Richardson

Mark Senior

Albert George Stevens

Joseph Alfred Terry

Take two minutes

Alison Goodwin, Moor to Sea Project* Officer

Most of us will have seen the shocking images from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 programme: oceans full of plastic and beaches filled with detritus. On our UK beaches, the Marine Conversation Society revealed in 2018 that just under 7 tonnes of litter was collected at a handful of beaches over a 3 year period.

Since then there’s been a grassroots-level movement emerge with people keen to do more. Whitby Beach Sweep is one such community organization. Running since February 2018 in association with Surfers against Sewage, they’ve been organising community litter picks along Whitby beaches. Eager to expand their focus to reach wider audiences, they’ve now linked up with the #2minutebeachclean board initiative. By promoting the scheme through social media, and by having a physical board sited on the beach, it’s hoped others will be encouraged to lend a hand.

Close up on a #2minutebeachclean board. Copyright NYMNPA.

These #2minutebeachclean boards are looked after by ‘guardians’ and provide volunteers with all the necessary equipment and instructions. This simple idea run by Beachclean.net has reduced beach litter by 61% in trials. With such good statistics, it’s clear to see why Whitby Beach Sweep thinks it’s a good investment. So we’ve helped support their vision by donating funds towards purchasing more boards.

Beach clean launch - Whitby Beach Sweep and Whitby Surf School. Copyright NYMNPA.

Last week saw the unveiling of the Whitby board outside Whitby Surf School, who’ve kindly volunteered to look after it.  In the next couple of weeks, boards at Staithes and Runswick Bay will also be in situ. Don’t forget to look out for them if you’re out and about – and feel free to share the love and have a go.

*A Coastal Communities Fund funded project 

Coastal Communities Fund logo

A to Z: a collection of Cs

C

CANON ATKINSON – a literary celebrity

John Christopher Atkinson (1814–1900) was an author and antiquarian. He was born in Essex, and ordained a priest in 1842. Progressing from a curacy in Scarborough, he first became domestic chaplain to the 7th Viscount Downe in 1847 before in the same year being made Vicar of Danby. So Atkinson  relocated to this isolated Parish in the Cleveland Hills.

Danby Parish and the surrounding area offered a new panorama to a gentleman antiquarian. Atkinson explored the history and natural history of his parish and acquired a unique knowledge of local legends and contemporary customs using primary sources i.e. his parishioners and the landscape around him. He produced studies on local dialects and, in 1872 he published the first volume of ‘The History of Cleveland, Ancient and Modern’. He went on to write and edit a number of books and was recognised in his lifetime with an honorary degree from the University of Durham. By far his best-known work was a collection of local legends, traditions and reflections on modern rural life which he published in 1891, with the title ‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish: reminiscences and researches in Danby in Cleveland’.

Atkinson died at the Vicarage in Danby, on 31 March 1900, and is buried at St Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale. He was married three times and fathered thirteen children, in between his writing.

CLAPPER BRIDGES

Clapper bridges are rare in the North York Moors and where they do survive they are often hard to find due to their simple functional appearance which is often hidden by a modern highway road obscuring their unique construction.

Clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPA

Underside of a clapper bridge - copyright NYMNPAThey are one of the earliest known bridge designs – the design is found across the world. Clapper bridges were built with long, thin slabs of stone to make a beam-type deck and with large rocks or piles of stones for piers. Some clapper bridges were wide enough to accommodate a cart, while others were designed for pedestrians or horse riders only, with carts crossing at a ford alongside the bridge. The word “clapper” could derive from an Anglo-Saxon word – cleaca – meaning “bridging the stepping stones”, but it is also suggested that the word derives from the Medieval Latin – claperius – meaning “a pile of stones”.

Clapper bridges would have once have been common in Britain but over time these bridges began to fall into disuse as more substantial methods of bridge construction were needed and, undoubtedly, many clapper bridges were destroyed to make room for newer bridges.

Clapper bridges are most commonly found on upland areas in Britain. Elsewhere the importance of these bridges is recognised and protected through designation but as yetClapper bridge near Castleton - copyright NYMNPA there are no listed clapper bridges in the North York Moors. We’re keen to make sure that all surviving bridges in the North York Moors are at least recorded; please let us know if you come across one. Graham, our Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer, found this one near Castleton while out walking. An application has been made to Historic England to help secure its survival.

CLEVELAND PRACTICE

The Cleveland Practice of blast-furnace technology for iron-making relates to a move away from large stone furnace structures towards larger, less enduring iron-clad construction. The zenith of this practice was reached in the Cleveland area from the mid-1860s, when for about 10 years the region took a world lead in blast-furnace practice. By 1875, the Cleveland area was producing 32% of the national output making it the greatest single iron-making district in the world.

The Cleveland Practice was distinctive, with the ironstone always first roasted in a calcining kiln, close to the blast-furnaces, to which it would be transferred whilst still hot. The blast-furnaces took the form of tall cylinders, rising to a height of 80 feet, with an average capacity of 30,000 cubic feet. Furnaces were worked with closed top systems to avoid heat loss, with multiple hot-blast blowing engines used at higher speed / pressure and with powerful machinery to move supplies to the kiln tops more efficiently. This technique was developed specifically to smelt large quantities of relatively low grade ironstone as cheaply as possible and, to achieve this, reliance was placed on improving energy efficiency – the height of the furnace stack was increased in order to utilize the heat generated at the base of the furnace to heat the materials being charged in at the top. The disadvantage of poor quality Cleveland ironstone (generally with a purity of only 26-33%) was offset by the huge quantities that were available locally and the high quality coke from the Durham coalfields to smelt it.

The transition from the old style blast furnaces to the new ‘Cleveland Practice’ style can be seen between the sites of the Beckhole and the Grosmont Ironworks in the North York Moors. The low quality ironstone from the Moors was contributing to the total at this stage but our most important period was pre-1850; once the Eston Mines came on-stream in the 1850s they were producing enormous quantities of (relatively poor-grade) ironstone which invigorated the rise of Teesside at the end of the 19th century.

COMMUNITIES…in general

Unlike in many other National Parks across the world, National Parks in the UK have human populations. People continue to shape the landscape, conserve their cultural heritage and maintain their natural environment. The nature of the North York Moors landscape means we have a pattern of dispersed settlements and individual farmsteads making up the communities in our National Park. The majority of communities are small fairly isolated settlements with a limited range of services and facilities. Given the chance however communities work hard to make the most out of what is practical and to provide essential services as well as retaining and promoting a strong proactive sense of community and identity. The National Park Authority’s planning policies within our Local Development Framework allow for some limited development opportunities including the creation of new facilities, housing and employment.  We have a long track record of working with communities whether that’s information exchange through regular Parish Forum meetings or the provision of funding support for community ideas through our Community Grant and the recent North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme.  See also below.

COASTAL COMMUNITIES…in particular

The North York Moors National Park has 26-miles of coastline with towering cliffs and rocky shores, steep wooded valleys, sheltered bays and sandy beaches. To showcase this fantastic coastline and the natural, fishing, artistic and culinary heritage of the coastal villages such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes and Runswick Bay, we’ve secured £455,000 from the PrintCoastal Communities Fund (CCF) to deliver the ‘Sea Life, See Life’ initiative from now until the end of December 2016. The Fund aims to encourage the economic development of UK coastal communities, and through this project we’re looking to attract new visitors who want to do something different, and to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more.

Fishing coble at Staithes - copyright Brian Nicholson, NYMNPA

It’s a partnership project, with the National Park Authority working with local businesses and communities to define what really makes this area special and different. Workshops and skills training will set up local businesses and communities to be ready to guide visitors to the high quality experiences available and encourage them to support local supply chains to strengthen and sustain the North York Moors’ economy. The project includes small-scale infrastructure projects such as interpretation, heritage restoration works, village improvements, and new public artwork to be delivered alongside a strong public relations and social-media led campaign. There’s also support for new events, festivals and activities, including an interactive trail in Staithes to capitalise on CBeebies’ Old Jack’s Boat, which is filmed in the village.

COMMON COTTON GRASS Eriophorum angustifolium

Patches of cotton grass – featherlike white smidgens of fluff – flutter in the early summer across the wetter areas of moorland .

Cotton Grass - copyright NYMNPA

Cotton grass is a sedge, not actually a grass. A sedge is a grass/rush like plant with triangular solid stems and unassuming flowers which usually grow on wet ground.

CONNECTIVITY

We do go on a bit about Habitat Connectivity on our Blog. That’s because it’s the fundamental concept articulated by Sir John Lawton in his Making Space for Nature review in 2010 which is guiding natural environment conservation efforts across the country. In the North York Moors we’re putting connectivity principles into practice working at a local scale.

Slide 1

BETTER ecologically valuable habitat sites through improving condition

Slide 2

BIGGER ecologically valuable habitat sites through expansion and bufferingSlide 3jpg

MORE ecologically valuable habitat sites through creation and enhancement

Slide 4

BETTER CONNECTED ecologically valuable habitats through creation/enhancement of corridors and stepping stones

Slide 5

The result is a connected landscape making it easier for species to move through

Slide 6

CROSSES

The remains of stone crosses can be found across the moorland area of the North York Moors. They are such a particular feature of the area that the North York Moors National Park took Young Ralph’s Cross to be its emblem.

The survival of original moorland crosses is very variable – some only comprise the base or socket stones, whilst others appear more complete, although the latter may be due to modern repairs or replacement – such as Ainhowe Cross on Spaunton Moor which was replaced in the 19th century. There are different styles of cross-heads – such as wheelheads (White Cross and Steeple Cross) and the simple upright cross shafts with projecting arms (such as Young and Old Ralph, Mauley and Malo crosses) – the latter make up the majority of the surviving examples.

Old Ralph Cross - copyright Tammy Andrews, NYMNPA

In the North York Moors the most relevant reasons for the original crosses seems to be as way-markers, boundary markers and memorials – potentially all three at once. For a Christian traveller coming across a symbol and reminder of Christianity whilst crossing the desolate moorland must have given hope and succour. Crosses may also have been erected by landowners to mark boundaries and as a good deed, or pre-existing crosses used as a local landmark to help define a boundary. The most famous memorial cross on the Moors is also meant to be the earliest – Lilla’s Cross – which is said to mark the burial site of the servant who sacrificed his own life to save that of his King, Edwin of Northumbria, in the 7th century AD. Although the surviving roughly cut maltese cross is actually dated approximately to the 10th century AD.

Lilla Cross - copyright Mike Kipling for NYMNPA

After the Protestant Reformation in England, the cross came to be seen by some as a symbol of superstition and this led to the slighting and destruction of individual moorland crosses. This may help to explain – in addition to weathering and deterioration over hundreds of years – why so many crosses today are missing their upper shafts and cross arms.

A new stone cross was erected in Rosedale in 2000 to mark the Millennium, continuing a cultural tradition of the local area.Millennium Cross, Rosedale - copyright Jay Marrison, NYMNPA

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B

Swallows and Amphibians (and ponies)

John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer

The six ponds installed last year through our Habitat Connectivity programme (“Linking Landscapes”) are thriving with life this spring. I’ve just returned from a site visit to the area north of Robin Hood’s Bay and found the ponds full of tadpoles, water boatmen, backswimmers and whirligig beetles. It’s a marvellous sight given that these shallow hollows in the landscape previously held no water at all and contained very little in the way of wildlife.

We arranged the project with the landowner (National Trust) and tenant, and paid for the contractor with his mini digger to form these scrapes and ponds. The ponds were fenced off to allow the vegetation around them to grow up and not be grazed off by stock. This type of habitat should be ideal as breeding sites for amphibians.

Whilst looking for submerged wildlife, I also saw my first Swallow of the year as it swooped to drink from the ponds freshwater after its long journey of migration. The Yorkshire Coast must have been its first landfall for thousands of miles. It’s incredibly satisfying to think that you’ve added to the whole biodiversity and wildlife interest of the area with a few scoops from a digger.

Further up the coast at Wrack Hills near Runswick Bay, hardy Exmoor ponies are settling in well on the undercliff grassland. Undercliff habitat is found alongside soft cliffs where the land has slumped and settled, and been recolonized by vegetation over time. During the winter we’ve fenced off part of the existing SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and installed a watering point. The fencing, in part, follows an historic fence line which implies that there was stock in the past on this useful, if difficult to access, rough pasture. We were previously talking about putting cattle on the undercliff but instead the land manager has managed to arrange for Exmoors to begin to tackle the coarse grasses and scrub that have been taking over the site. This conservation grazing regime is aimed at halting the decline of the patches of species rich grassland that are left here. Big thanks to the land manager and the Exmoor Pony Trust for taking on this challenge. We’re promoting this type of grazing management on the National Park’s coastal undercliffs wherever possible.

The two ponies (one small mare and one larger gelding) were introduced to the site in April. Since then the paths they’ve made (and dung piles they’ve left!) show that they’ve explored much of the site and have started to make an impact on some patches of grassland. Encouragingly there are plenty of primroses, bluebells and a few early-purple orchids in flower, so it doesn’t look like the ponies are eating the flower heads.P1030889

It might be good to have more ponies on the undercliff when the ground is drier and less liable to poaching up. Otherwise combining ponies with the land manager’s own shorthorn cattle might be advantageous. Mixes of ponies and cattle have an added benefit that ponies can graze the best grass very tightly, which encourages cattle to tackle the rough stuff before the ponies might get round to it. In addition, after the bird breeding season, if human labour is available, it might be worth strimming some of the edges of the bramble patches, or creating routes though them which the ponies can then expand. The same could apply to bracken patches, although I hope the ponies might make inroads there themselves.

Coastal connections

John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer

I work out on the glorious North York Moors coastline and I’m currently spending a lot of my time re-linking the myriad of habitats found there. Magnificent gill woodlands, orchid filled cliff top grass fields, coastal slopes that have escaped the plough, ancient hawthorn hedges and lichen encrusted stonewalls all make up the diverse range of land based wildlife habitats that exist alongside the sea.

As part of our habitat connectivity programme I recently negotiated the planting of 3,020 metres of new hedgerow with local landowners on the coast. Hedgerows will provide vital highways for wildlife to move through in years to come. In the main, the National Park Authority have provided the materials – the plants and the fencing needed to protect the hedgerow as it initially grows, whilst the landowners have provided the labour. Hedging shrubs (known as whips) that have been planted include Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Holly, Field Maple and Crab Apple. If you want to see what’s been going on – recent planting is visible as you drive along the A174 out of Lythe village towards Runswick Bay.

In Fylingdales Parish, nearly a hectare of seed rich ‘green hay’ has been cut from a donor site and transported to a cliff top location north of Robin Hood’s Bay to boost the currently species poor meadows there which have a lot of potential. Fingers crossed that the seed germinates and we have a flower filled buffer strip in early June for the benefit of pollinators.

Elsewhere on the coast, hardy native breed cattle are returning to the cliff slopes during the summer where it’s accessible and manageable. I’ve been working with a landowner north of Runswick Bay to enable restoration of the flower rich coastal undercliff at Wrack Hills which is part of the Runswick Bay SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The cliff slope has been fenced, a water supply installed and half a dozen cattle will be led down to begin grazing later this year. The cattle will battle the scrub and bracken that is gradually engulfing the rare plant life there. Wrack Hills gets its name as an area where locals used to dry the seaweed, known locally as wrack, before applying it to the cliff top fields as a natural fertilizer!

Future negotiations with coastal landowners will include pond creation, scrub control and tree planting possibilities. I’ll you know how it goes.