powered by FreeFind





Whitby in 1843

WHITBY, a parliamentary borough and seaport, 243 miles north by west from London, in the North Riding of York shire. The parish is chiefly in Whitby Strand Liberty, but a small part of it is in a Langbaurgh Liberty. The town is situated on both sides of the river Esk, where it falls into the German Ocean, the larger and better part being on the west side of the river. A drawbridge connects the two parts of the town, and allows ships to pass into the inner harbour, which is formed in the river, and is capacious and secure, with dry docks for building and repairing. The harbour has ten feet of water in ordinary neap-tides, and fifteen feet and upwards in spring-tides. The east pier and west pier, which protect the outer harbour, run out into the German Ocean, and two inner piers break the force of the waves in stormy weather. The ground on each side of the river rises rapidly, especially on the east side, where the ridge is so steep as to have stopped the building of houses in that direction, and the town on this side is continued southwards in a narrow column of houses along the bank of the river. The ridge is less steep on the west side, and the streets have been carried over the crown of the hill, and there the best houses are situated. The streets are very narrow in both parts of the town, but they are well paved, and lighted with gas. The oldest houses have been built quite close to the river and sea.

There is a town-hall, a custom-house, a news-room, a dispensary, and a seamen's hospital for widows and children of seamen. The theatre was burnt in 1823, and we have no authorities who mention the rebuilding of it. The church stands on the summit of a high cliff to the east, and a flight of 190 stone steps leads to it from the town below. The living is a curacy, in the gift of the archbishop of York, of the net annual value of £206. The ruins of Whitby Abbey are near the church, overlooking the sea at the height of 240 feet. The beautiful central tower fell in 1830 ; the existing remains consist of the choir, the north transept, nearly entire, and part of the west front. There are two or three chapels-of-ease in the lower part of the town and neighbourhood, and there are places of worship for Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, and Unitarians. There are Lancasterian and other schools for children of both sexes.

In 1837 an act was passed 'for better paving, cleansing, lighting, watching, and improving the town of Whitby,' and in 1841 another act was passed 'to alter and amend' the above act. In 1833 an act was passed for making a railway from Whitby to Pickering, which is distant about 20 miles south by west. This railway was opened in May, 1836, for passengers and general traffic : it has only one track, and is worked by horses and two inclined planes. A branch railway goes to the freestone-quarries, which are about three miles from Whitby.

The population of Whitby, in 1821 was 8,697 ; in 1831 it had fallen to 7,765. The number of depositors in the savings’ bank, Nov. 20, 1842, was 1,157. The smallest sum on which interest is allowed is 15 shillings.

Whitby returns one member to the House of Commons. The electors are householders of £10 and upwards. The number on the register in 1835-6 was 431 ; in 1839-40 the number was 445. The population of the parliamentary borough, which includes the townships of Ruswarp, Hawkser, and Stainsacre, was, in 1831 10,399 ; in 1841 it was 9,862.

Whitby is an ancient place : it seems to have arisen originally from the neighbourhood of an abbey founded by Oswy, king of Northumberland, in 867 ; but both abbey and town were utterly destroyed by the Danes, and lay in ruins till after the Norman conquest, when the abbey was rebuilt, and the town became a considerable fishing town, in which state it continued several centuries. It did not rise in commercial importance till towards the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the working of the alum-mines in the neighbourhood was greatly extended, the harbour was improved, and ship-building was carried on. Alum was exported to France and other parts of the continent. During the late war seven dockyards were in full employ in ship-building and repairing, and manufactures of sailcloth, ropes, and other necessaries for shipping were carried on to a great extent. In 1819 twelve ships were employed in the whale-fisheries. The export of alum to the continent has ceased, and it is now sent chiefly to London and other British Ports. The port has nearly if not entirely ceased to employ its ships in the whale-fisheries. The manufacture of sailcloth has diminished, and only three or four of the dockyards are now used. The foreign exports are inconsiderable : the chief imports are timber, and hemp and flax from the Baltic. The chief article sent coastwise is freestone from the quarries in the neighbourhood.

Whitby is still a very considerable seaport. There are only seven in England which exceed it in the number of registered ships (London, 2,405 ships, 598,554 tons ; Newcastle, 1,143 ships, 259,571 tons: Liverpool, 1,097 ships, 307,852 tons ; Sunderland, 803 ships, 174,202 tons ; Whitehaven, 341 ships, 55,501 tons : Hull, 323 ships, 67,795 tons ; and Yarmouth, 315 ships, 34,676 tons). According to a parliamentary return, dated March 23, 1842, the number of registered vessels above 50 tons was 291, the burthen of which was estimated at 47,837 tons ; and, according to an other return, the gross receipt for customs' duty in 1840 was £6,654, 18 shillings and 7 pence, £3,914, 14 shillings and 10 pence having been remitted to the receiver-general after payment of expenses.