New Whitby landslide puts 140-year-old kipper shop at risk

The landslide above Cliff Street near st Mary's Church in Whitby.'w124716b
The landslide above Cliff Street near st Mary's Church in Whitby.'w124716b
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A 140-YEAR-OLD kipper smokehouse in Whitby may become the latest victim of heavy rainfall after a serious landslide occurred on Thursday night.

Now Barry Brown, owner of Fortune’s Kippers on Henrietta Street, fears he may have to close the business if any more earth falls away from the cliff above.

He said: “I’m worried it’s going to come down, and I don’t know what sort of damage it’s going to go.

“If anything more comes down we are going to have to shut the shop because it will be too dangerous.”

Throughout the week debris had fallen away from the cliff, including human bones from a burial at St Mary’s churchyard.

The cause is believed to be a broken drainage pipe, which has become damaged and fallen away. This has meant further rainfall has saturated the soil, making it extremely unstable, and a stream of water can be seen flowing out of the cliff face.

“There’s thousands of gallons of rainwater in that cliff,” added Mr Brown. “There’s nothing we can do. The next dollop of heavy rain, it will all collapse.”

More cracks have also emerged at the cliff top in St Mary’s Churchyard, and warning signs have been installed along the pathway.

The land, including the cliff itself, is the property of the church and so it is their responsibility to repair the problem, if possible.

The Revd Canon David Smith said he hoped the pipeline could be repaired by Saturday, and believed that this would prevent any further slippage.

Contractors will descend the cliff face on ropes as the attempt to reconnect the drainage system.

They will also make a detailed assessment of the path around the church, in which large cracks have appeared. However, Revd Smith said the church itself is not yet at risk, adding: “Whoever built it 900 years ago built it on the most solid piece of rock they could find.”

The uncovered bones are not from a recent burial as the cemetery has been closed since the early 18th century, when Larpool Lane cemetery opened. They will be reinterred elsewhere in the graveyard.

Netting is located further along Henrietta Street to protect those below from rockfall, and Mr Brown believes that this should be extended to protect his building and the rest of the street.

However, Rev Smith does not believe that netting would help as it is designed to provide protection from falling boulders, not mudslides.

Engineers from Scarborough Borough Council assessed the site this week and agreed with Revd Smith. A spokesperson for the council said: “We have carried out an inspection and are not too concerned at the moment. We will carry on monitoring the situation and continue to liaise with the church.”