Saltburn-by-the-Sea: Council urged to save sea wall linked to world’s first railway

A council has been urged to do more to protect a deteriorating sea wall and has also been accused of neglecting historic links to a famous railway.

Pensioner David Pratt said the square padstones forming part of the wall and slipway at Saltburn had been worn “almost to destruction” and it was a “national disgrace”.

The 84-year-old, who is originally from London, but holidayed regularly in the area as a child, said he had been part of a group of volunteers who were attempting to preserve the structure until their discussions were interrupted by the covid-19 pandemic.

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Mr Pratt said research showed the padstones formed the base for the Stockton & Darlington Railway – the world’s first steam-hauled public railway – at Brusselton bank as they were originally used as stone sleepers, before later being discarded for wooden ones.

Saltburn by the SeaSaltburn by the Sea
Saltburn by the Sea

The S&DR, which marks its 200th anniversary on September 27, 2025, was extended to Saltburn at the request of the town’s founder Henry Pease and ended at the entrance to what is now the Spa Hotel.

Mr Pratt, who recently began work as an archivist for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and has written a book about fusion energy, said there was not even a historical sign to tell visitors of the connection and “what is now fast disappearing in front of them”.

Ten years ago many of the padstones, which contain fastening holes for iron chairs used on the railway, were dislodged in a tidal surge with the pensioner claiming they had been “pristine” up until then.

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Some later ended up for sale online after being taken away by unscrupulous members of the public.

Redcar and Cleveland Council said repairs had been undertaken at that time following advice from its conservation advisor.

It said the sea wall suffered further damage in 2017 when there was a partial collapse, although again repairs were carried out with conservation advice.

The council thanked Mr Pratt for raising concerns and suggested it would look at the possibility of a sign being erected to display information about the origin of the padstones and the link to the S&DR.

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Mr Pratt said there it was believed pebbles had been dislodged and swept onto the beach and were wearing the stones down. He said: “It’s a national disgrace – those stones were pristine for nearly 200 years until 2013.

“They are now worn badly almost to destruction by non-local pebbles that have appeared. (I) was incredibly upset when I visited and looked at it – it’s very significant.

“In 2025 it will be the 200th anniversary of the railway and then everybody will jump.”

He said the pebbles would not cost the earth to move, while a sign would only cost about £300.

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Mr Pratt, who now lives in Basingstoke, added: “I intend to keep pushing this project.”

Councillor Philip Thomson, who represents Saltburn on Redcar and Cleveland Council, said Mr Pratt’s input would be welcomed by the Saltburn Neighbourhood Action Partnership and Saltburn Line Users Group.