Robin Hood's Bay - The Storm family website
Family history is keenly recorded in many ports up and down the Yorkshire coast. But there is a general rule - the smaller the port then the more intense is the interest in the fishing heritage and family history. In ports such as Hull the major Scarborough fishing families would be lost. But in Scarborough the Normandales, the Mainprizes and the Pashbys would just be another fishing family with the thousands of other fishing families. Yet in Scarborough the history of the fishing is revolves around family histories. If you step down to smaller ports then the families become even more important. Filey entirely revolves around family histories - the Jenkinsons, Cammishes and Haxby families to name but a few. Perhaps the best historical records exist in Robin Hood's Bay. This little fishing town is dominated by just one family - the Storm family. This article is intended as a review of the Storm family website.
The Storm family is remarkable in that it can trace back its name so far. The earliest reference to the name Storm in Robin Hood's Bay occurs in 1539! The men of Fylingdales parish were mustered - amongst them were Jacob Storm, Matthew Storm, Peter Storm, Robert Storm, William Storm, John Storm and Bartholomew Storm. The name appears to go back even further in the local area. John Storm was outlawed in 1330 in the Pickering area after he was accused of stealing a hind calf and failed to appear at court. The name also appears in Beverley, Hull Scarborough and also inland at Ripon and York. But the name has always been the most common in the Robin Hood's Bay area.
The Storm family website is particularly important because it is an acculmulation of knowledge over a hundred and fifty years. There have been three Storms over the years who have approached the subject of fishing is a systematic historical way. Jacob Storm recorded history in his own time in the mid 1800's. Alan Storm updated the family history in the 1970's. Now the process has continued onto the internet with Roy Storm. They all had the same passion for local and family history.
Jacob Storm is particularly important as a historian. Someone who recorded the way people thought and the cultures and traditions of the fishermen. Few first hand accounts appear recording the fishing industry. Scarborough had Hinderwell who was a shipowner - he had collected some excellent accounts of shipwrecks. In Filey - George Shaw was important in the 1860's recording the histories - he was not a fisherman but rather a primitive Methodist (The Filey Fishermen were devout Methodists) who could walk amongst the fishermen and understand the way they thought and behaved. These people bring to life the life and times of these areas.
Jacob Storm for instance recorded the following thoughts - "The women were a noble breed. They shouldered great responsibility during long absences of their men at sea, and suffered great sorrow when ships went down. I was only a child at the time but I remember the awful day in 1846 when the news arrived that the three Granger brothers had been lost on their way home from the fishing ground. They were related to most families, my own especially; but if the sorrow was widespread so was the support for the afflicted. After Mr. Walter White visited the 'King's Head', he wrote in his book 'A Month in Yorkshire', with some astonishment, that there had been over two hundred mourners at the funeral of the late husband of his hostess, my cousin Martha, but anyone who knew anything about local customs and above all about the meaning of family in Bay need not have been at all surprised." Jacob Storm, the storm family website.
Jacob Storm also records his voyages on the SS Fylingdales in 1887. These ships logs are fascinating and bring to life the reality of the voyages. Particularly fascinating are the little references eg 'time to hand out paint pots again'.
It is easy to argue that Robin Hood's Bay and the Storm family history is one and the same thing. Thats certainly the case from a maritime perspective. The Storm family is enourmous. It has been the most common name in Robin Hood's Bay for many years. But because it is so common then virtually everyone in Robin Hood's Bay is a Storm or is related to one by marriage in some way. The other important and common Robin Hood's Bay names such as Bedlington, Harrison, Robson, and Trueman all have very strong links to the Storms. Indeed the website covers these families because they are really off shoots of the Storm family. For instance the section that deals with vessels features not only vessels owned by the Storms but also Bedlington vessels, Harrison vessels, Skerry vessels, and Robinson vessels to name but a few.
The Storm family history is remarkably accurate in another sense. It follows its family members where ever they went. They have photos of gravestones in South Africa containing family members. Most family histories will follow the family as long as it stayed within the locality.
Some of the Storm family went onto become important and influential in the wider world. Henry Matthew Storm, became a member of the Massachusets Senate. His son Henry Hallgate Storm knew of his families humble origins and valued his freedom in the land of milk and honey. He wished to return some day to Bay and declare "I am a citizen of the United States of America". He had little respect for the old world where the locals doffed their caps to the Lord of the Manor.
The Storm family website has a remarkable collection of photos. They have photos of the people and the family. They have photos of the lifeboats through the years. There are even class photos! There are one or two unknown portraits featured - taken by the great Whitby photographer Frank Meadows Sutcliffe. If that is not enough they even have many pieces of artwork - especially watercolours painted by the Storm family.
The Storm website is not short in analysis of major historical transitions in Robin Hood's Bay. They examine the enclosures which forced men to look for jobs at sea. Work on the land became less easy to find and the men had to either move to towns or to seek an existence from the sea. Robin Hood's Bay became a most prosperous area with many shipping owners. Yet the fishing and maritime industry went into decline.