Bay has been inhabited since before Roman times, as burial mounds found
on the moors behind the village suggest, but never has its appeal been
more apparent than now. This delightful hideaway, with its steep track
down into the bay, is another picture postcard example of the East Coast
delights, its sheltered anchorage offering an ideal spot for fishermen,
whalers and smugglers.
The Preventive Service was still active on this part of the coastline
as late as 1828, when smuggling began to decline. Now the same beaches
which were the stamping ground for illegal traders are appreciated by
visitors who wander round the tiny back streets of the blue and white
painted village to the north or down the narrow alleyways which link the
tiered stone cottages to the south.
The lifeboat has an extraordinary history - on one occasion is was manned
entirely by women when their men were caught in a freak squall. The old
thatched coastguard's cottage, life-boat house and boat park still stand
at the edge of the village, but only by good fortune.
Over the years Runswick has suffered the ravages of time and terrible
weather and in 1682 a landslide destroyed the entire settlement with the
exception of one cottage. Fortunately no-one was hurt because two mourners
attending a wake realised what was happening and evacuated the village.
A new community was built on the cliff side but its precarious position
has always made it vulnerable to the forces of nature. Another landslide
in 1858 destroyed a small iron-smelting works and cracks were appearing
in the cottages as late as 1969, but the completion of the sea wall in
1970 hopefully secured the future of Runswick once and for all.
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