Previous drainage structure fails to prevent new slide

Barry Brown inspects the cliff slipp at the back of Fortunes Kipper House.
Barry Brown inspects the cliff slipp at the back of Fortunes Kipper House.

Heavy rain has led to fears that a new landslip could be heading for Henrietta Street in Whitby.

Just over two years since the east cliff slipped into the streets and houses below, this week’s severe rainfall has prompted fresh fears as water continues to gush out from beneath Whitby’s historic church.

Cliff slipp Henrietta Street.

Cliff slipp Henrietta Street.

While the rest of Whitby started its clean-up operation after a week’s worth of heavy rainfall which culminated in Monday’s deluge, specialist engineers are being despatched to the worst of the problem, behind the historic Fortune’s Kippers in Henrietta Street.

Thirteen sets of 60-metre drainpipes, fitted in December 2013 after the last serious floods and some of which are already broken, are not collecting and directing water away from the cliff.

Instead, water is gushing out from the sides of the cliffface taking more mud and grass with it in scenes reminiscent of that winter, and coming out in an old drain next to the smokehouse.

Barry Brown from Fortune’s told the Gazette he collected four litres of water in four seconds from it on Tuesday morning and it is only a wire fence that is stopping mud and silt from washing into the business and rows of cottages beneath the church, which is over a thousand years old. He said: “We noticed water trickling out on Monday morning so we knew there was a build-up somewhere. But as soon as we got here on Tuesday morning we knew there was a problem.

Water gushes out of the old drain, whilst little water emerges from new drainage, at Fortune's Kippers Yard.

Water gushes out of the old drain, whilst little water emerges from new drainage, at Fortune's Kippers Yard.

“I filled a four-litre bucket in four seconds, and that is from the bottom of the cliff not the top so it makes you wonder where is it all going?

“The new pipes are not where the water is and they are not doing what they should. It has not just happened overnight, that water has been running for ages and ages.”

The new area of landslip is directly beneath St Mary’s and the surrounding graveyard. The Archdeacon of York, Ven Sarah Bullock, has been to the site to see the damage for herself and has requested that engineers also assess the stability of the east cliff.

A spokeswoman for the 
Diocese of York said Alan Wood Engineers who carried out the emergency repairs would decide if any more work needed to be done.

Mr Brown added: “It is obvious the water is coming off the plain and was building up all day. My granddad used to tell us when we were kids ‘never block the drain because you will bring the cliff down’. There is something adrift. I am no expert but it is coming from the graveyard and if there was some sort of drainage behind that and the car park it would stop it coming down here. Water is not being caught.”