The contours of Saltburn provided a major inconvenience from the start, simply because the streets are over a hundred feet higher than the beach. A writer in The Middlesbrough Weekly News and Cleveland Advertiser (November 1st 1867) remarked,–
One of the first objections to Saltburn as a seaside resort, especially by elderly people, or even by any whose tendency to embonpoint makes them averse to bodily exertion, is the fact that it is SUCH A HORRIBLY TIRING PLACE. To go down to the beach involves a certain amount of unpleasant jarring of the system, and to come up again such a waste of muscular power…
John Anderson, the railway contractor who owned the Alexandra Hotel and designed Saltburn Pier, resolved this difficulty with a vertical hoist linking the Marine Terrace, just outside the Alexandra, with the pier.
This structure was built of timber, and powered by water-gravity: it opened in July 1870, and carried up to twenty passengers at a time in its cage for a halfpenny each way.
It was closed precipitately after an inspection in 1883, and replaced by the inclined cliff-lift (also water-gravity powered) which continues to operate on the same site.
The cliff lift was developed by George Croydon Marks (1858-1938, latterly Lord Marks), chief engineer of Tangye Ltd, the company that had devised the first cliff lifts in Scarborough from 1869 onwards. It lifts passengers 120 feet from the promenade to the streets.
The two cars, connected by cable, carry water-tanks beneath their carriages: the uppermost tank is filled with water and the lower tank emptied, so that the weight-differential lifts the lighter car as the upper one descends. Operation is controlled by the banksman in the upper cabin.
The Saltburn cliff lift is the oldest water-balanced funicular still in operation in Britain, and was upgraded for the first time in 1998 when a supplementary hydraulic braking system was added. Superficial modernisations have been reversed: the 1979 passenger cars were restored in 2011 and the upper banksman’s cabin was refurbished in 2014.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all: the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside: the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.
The 72-page, A4 handbook for the 2015 Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.