Whitby, North Yorkshire.

Having been here as an interviewee so recently, I'd thought I'd do a short blog about Whitby. I recently bought a local book called Life In Regency Whitby by Prudence Bebb. It's more bits and pieces than a coherent whole, but still full of interesting material. I see she's written a number of Life in Regency xxxxxx books which could be useful for using any of those places in a Regency novel. (check out Amazon UK for a listing.)

The View From On High

There are lots of aerial views of Whitby here.  You'll see, for example on this one that the town sits on both sides of the River Esk, and it's the safe harbour of the Esk that made Whitby a good port back to early times.

The North Sea Coast is a rough place for shipping, even though so many people have made their living up here from the sea. This picture of a rough sea was taken on a day pleasant enough for a walk into town! Bebb has interesting detail about the way captains caught in a storm would see if Whitby could offer refuge. I high flag on the harbour tower meant deep water in the river harbour. Middle meant a shallow draft, and low meant impossible.

Famous Connections.

One Whitby wreck was a Russian ship, the Demeter, which carried Count Dracula to England — fictionally speaking. Hence the famous Goth weekends here. The next one is on the 24th and 25th of this month.

Cook The other important connection is Captain Cook, who trained here as an apprentice and then began his seafaring career, which is why there's a statue overlooking the harbour.

The Past Is Not Always Comfortable.

In the Regency, Whitby was a whaling port, which brought in a lot of wealth as whale oil was used in oil lamps.I just looked whale oil up on Wikipedia and was interested to learn that it's a liquid wax not an oil.

I also came across an interesting article about old oil lamps.

I assume most of us aren't too happy about killing whales for their oil. Will this affect our reading of a novel in which the characters are using oil lamps? The oil was also used to make candles, so unless beeswax is specified….

Is this yet another way in which the past can be uncomfortable for the modern conscience. Would it bother you?


Let's Hear It For Young Heroes!

 Whaling, good or evil, demanded heroics, and I liked one story because William Scoresby, the captain of a whaler, was only 26. I write young heroes but sometimes people seem to think that young means callow.

Briefly, the ship the Esk was holed by ice in Greenland. Other ships came to help, but everyone thought the ship lost. William, however, came up with a plan. Everything was taken off the ship onto the ice so it floated high, then it was rolled on its side and the huge hole mended. Then, with the help of his brother-in-law, the captain of another ship and no older, the Esk limped home to Whitby.

William was also a scientist and made important discoveries about the Arctic. You can read more about him here.

My sort of guy!


Some Regency Houses.

A few years later he rented a house in what is now called Saint Hilda's terrage. I'm not sure this is the one, but it would be like this. The annual rent was 34 pounds.

Here's another candidate.


And to balance the picture — how the lower orders lived. Some 17th century cottages, which now sit below street level.


I hope you've enjoyed this little bit about Whitby.