There’s more to Lythe than one may imagine. Most motorists will know Lythe Bank – the long, steep hill climbing from Sandsend north of Whitby, to a church commanding extensive views over land and sea – but little more.
We were to have quite a surprise, as we travelled from Whitby along the A174 to Sandsend. Being a glorious weekend, there was no available parking, and the beach and walkways were packed. Continuing along the A174 up Lythe Bank we reached the little village of Lythe, about 500ft above sea level.
Beyond St Oswald’s Church we entered Lythe’s main street, with The Stiddy public house to the right. I suggest you park opposite, or just past the obvious car park along Lodge Road, as signed left to Ugthorpe 3.5 miles.
Start from Lodge Road by turning left beside the main road. Yes, it’s a busy, noisy road but has some most interesting features and connections as you’ll soon discover!
Almost immediately, you’ll be tempted to enter Lythe Community Shop and small cafe run largely by volunteers. How about a bacon or sausage bread bun? The friendly staff may tell you about the naming of ‘The Stiddy’.
Continue alongside a row of stone cottages. They seem to have names rather than numbers, such as Damson Cottage, Hazel, Chestnut and Oak. Then passing a farm you’ll observe Saunder’s Sawmill selling logs and sticks, before a grand playing field is reached alongside the local C of E primary school. Don’t rush by, for on its lawn features the stout trunk of an old tree, hollowed in the centre. Look again, and you’ll see – an angel. The Angel of Lythe was skilfully carved by Ed Elliot. It took four weeks to complete, and was much admired by school pupils. The school sculpture was unveiled, and blessed by the Bishop of Whitby on June 9, 2016. Read all about it in St Oswald’s Church later.
Next, cross the road to an old chapel, and turn right to return down the main road.
Immediately beyond is a pair of white painted cottages named Sunnyside, and Kipling Cottage. Did you know that the great grandfather of Rudyard Kipling lived here, in the early years of the 19th century?
Descending further, you’ll find Lythe Village Hall opposite Lythe Community Shop. Next is The Stiddy, with facilities for dining outdoors when weather permits.
Look at the inn sign. What does it mean? Lythe has an old custom – that of firing the stiddy on special occasions. The anvil is pulled out, originally from the blacksmith’s shop, and upturned, when a charge of gunpowder is placed in it. This is detonated by means of a long metal bar heated red hot at one end. A gentleman I spoke to had attended the custom twice in five years.
Beyond, Metalworks deal with all aspects of fabrication and welding; a caravan and camping park is nearby, and the adjacent fire station. Just past The Compass, immaculate hedging leads to the church, with a side turning off left for parking. Please read the notice if parking.
Follow the fenced footpath to the church entrance and enter the massive graveyard. The clear air must be very healthy here. It’s said that a good number of graves are of those who had attained 100 years of age or over. The majority of Lythe’s population are, or have been employed on Mulgrave estate, where the focal point is the imposing Mulgrave Castle, seat of the Marquis of Normanby. Within the grounds are ruins of the former castle built in the reign of King John. Due to subsidence the ruins are crumbling, but since repair, this castle on the mound may be visited. [Access to it later, is via a beautiful park with rhododendrons, best entered from a car park in Sandsend].
Now, walk around the churchyard from the stone cross seen upon entering, which bears the names of 17 men of the village who died for peace. There is also a record of seven unknown sailors washed ashore in the war years from 1914. Behind the war memorial you’ll observe a sundial on the wall.
This ancient church is dedicated to the martyr king, St Oswald.
It’s a great landmark, with sweeping views across to Whitby four miles away. A church existed on this site from around AD900. It was begun by the Saxons and fashioned by the Normans. It was made ‘new’ over 700 years ago and has been beautifully restored since.
Massive buttresses form a handsome feature of the exterior. They were built to withstand the strong winds. The north aisle is on old foundations. The south aisle, tower, stone spire, fine porch, and vaulted chapel were all made with the old stones.
Enter, and admire the attractive, beautiful wood in the benches, pulpit, choir seats and lovely traceried screens. Discover two lancet windows in the east wall, a fine double piscina and trefoiled niche - all part of the 13th century church. See ‘The Stones of St Oswald’s’ and a medieval stone coffin.
Find memorials to the Phipps, Earls and Lords of Mulgrave. Their great house, Mulgrave Castle, is on slopes of a wooded ravine, south of Lythe.
Finally, with time to spare, return to the bridge in Sandsend. Turn off at The Hart Inn, and from the car park explore Mulgrave Woods.
Access: Private transport to Sandsend or beyond. Bus from Whitby, or walk Sandsend to Lythe return 3 miles or from Whitby return 8 miles approximately.
Refreshment: Plenty of selection in Sandsend, or lovely savouries and tempting cakes at Lythe Community Shop.