Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Sir Hugh Cholmley was one of Whitby’s greatest benefactors, helping to completely redefine the town in the early 17th century. In 1632 he was charged with building a stone pier at the mouth of the harbour. A necessary improvement which enabled the town to accommodate the new alum mining industry and the subsequent increase in shipping it brought.

Upon completion of the pier, Sir Hugh Cholmley found that his engineering skills had been noted and held in the highest regard, eventually winning him a royal commission to build a gigantic Mole (a defensive harbour wall) in Tangier.

Up until 1661 the sea port of Tangier in Morocco had been under the rule of the Portuguese, but was ceded to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza on her marriage to Charles II.

Sir Hugh Cholmley arrived in Tangier in June 1663, bringing with him 'about 40 masons, miners and other proper artists and workmen'. Apparently it was with considerable persuasion that he had managed to attract these artisans, because it was ‘a place where, in the beginning, so many men had died’.

Work on the foundations began in the August 1663, but immediately the project was beset by a number of problems. The main one being that the cost of the project had been considerably underestimated. Cholmely decided to source the building material from a nearby quarry, which was immediately christened 'Whitby' by the Yorkshire miners. As the project continued Cholmely built ‘a little town’ at Whitby to house the workmen and their families, with stabling for ninety horses, storehouses for provisions and materials of all sorts'.

A plan of Tangier from an engraving by I. Seller dated 1680. The area named Whitby is highlighted in yellow.

When eventually the Mole was finished in 1676, it was described as ‘in its design the greatest and most noble undertaking in the world’ and was said to be 'now near 470 yards long and 30 yards broad, with several pretty houses upon it and many families. On the inner side twenty four Arched Cellars and before them a curious walk, with pillars for mooring of ships'. Also housed on the Mole was a vast array of guns readied for the port’s defence.

The Mole at Tangier, engraved for the first edition of Rev. John Smith's 1825 edition of Samuel Pepy's diary.

Sadly the commissioning of the Mole seemed to be the only success story of the English occupation of Tangier, as in all that time the management of the city itself had been left to Governors who had very little interest in maintaining a profitable and sustainable outpost on the North African coast. It was in 1680 that Whitehall finally ran out of patience and money and decided that Tangier had become expendable.

In 1683 Lord Dartmouth and his fleet set sail from England with secret instructions to abandon the city and destroy the Mole. Samuel Pepys was assigned the job of 'taking stock of the colony and winding up any unfinished business', and it was he who described its final destruction.

Bombs were planted under the Mole arches, at first unsuccessfully, but later with more exciting results. Pepys rushed from his dinner, on one occasion, to watch as a great mine cracked the Mole from side to side, showering rubble over the harbour and the ships in the bay. Later he stood at a window with Lord Dartmouth to observe the end of the Mole shoot up into the night sky, falling in fragments all around them. It was as good as a firework display.

Eventually on the 6th February 1684 Lord Dartmouth set sail for England leaving behind him the ruined city of Tangier, which on his departure immediately fell into the hands of Moulay Ismail and the Berber tribesmen of the Rif.

Source material - Tangier City of the Dream by Iain Finlayson

Enid Routh - Tangier (1912)

Written by RICHARD LOCKER exclusively for OUT ON YE!

Monday, 19 April 2010


For more than 100 years from the middle of the 18th century, whaling played a major part in Britain's prosperity. Of course Whitby has a long and well documented history in the pursuit of these huge seagoing mammals. No visitor to the town can go home without having their picture taken next to the whalebone arch on the west cliff.

Unlike today's throwaway culture, all the parts of the whale's body were utilised. The shape of the jaw bones meant that they could be pressed into service as roof supports or crucks for buildings without being refashioned. Indeed the new Whitby Marina Facilities Centre imitates this iconic shape using modern materials.

These two pictures from the 1930s show what was Moorsom's warehouse, under the shadow of Ruswarp viaduct. The structure is being dismantled and broken whalebones can be seen in the foreground. The roof was probably made from the canvas of reclaimed sails stretched across the bones. It is said that somewhere a photograph exists from inside the shed with the roof intact.

Liverpool was home to a similar shed and the roof of the blubberhouse at King's Lynn was supported by 13 upright jawbones. It is also said that the Victorians had a penchant for building summerhouses from them.
In the Beck Isle Museum at Pickering is a pair of whalebones which originally stood as an arch at the entrance to a field in Swainsea Lane. They were brought to the town by Nicholas Piper, a whaling captain who lived in Pickering and sailed from Whitby.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


The Youth at Eve had drunk his fill,
Where stands the ‘Royal’ on the Hill,
And long his mid-day stroll had made,
On the so-called ‘Marine-Parade’ -

The Lady of The Ladle (1854)

Lewis Carroll

When Lewis Carroll first came to visit Whitby in 1854, it was as a 22 year old student of Christ Church college called Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Included as a member of a Mathematical Party, Dodgson’s apparent reason for the trip was to give a series of academic lectures in and around the town, but the true significance of the visit was later recalled by Dr Thomas Fowler, a fellow member of the same reading party. He said that Dodgson "used to sit on a rock on the beach telling stories to a circle of eager young listeners of both sexes", and he believed that "it was there that Alice was incubated".

The plaque at 5 East Terrace, now La Rosa Hotel

It is also true to say that whilst on his visit to Whitby in 1854 Dodgson had his first piece of work published, a satirical poem called The Lady of The Ladle, which appeared in the local newspaper the Whitby Gazette. Dodgson was also composing a poem at the same time called She’s All My Fancy Painted Him, which went on to form the basis of the White Rabbit’s ‘evidence’ at the trial of the Knave of Hearts.

Dodgson felt these and subsequent work to be of a substandard quality saying in 1855, "I do not think I have written anything worthy of real publication (in which I do not include the Whitby Gazette or the Oxonian Advertiser), but I do not despair of doing so some day".

The first use of the pen name Lewis Carroll appears in 1856 with the publication of a romantic poem called Solitude. Dodgson’s pseudonym was actually a play on words, Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus (the Latin for Lutwidge) and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which the name Charles is derived. In this same year Henry Liddell became the new Dean of Christ Church, bringing with him his family including his daughter Alice Liddell.

Alice Liddell

Little is known of Carroll subsequent visits to Whitby (seven in all), but considering that Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (1865) and Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There (1871) had both been published in the interim and both had met with critical acclaim as well as considerable success, he may well have used the town as a pressure valve enabling him to escape the trappings of his new found fame.

Tenniel's illustration of The Walrus and the Carpenter

The only other significant connection between Lewis Carroll and Whitby is the poem The Walrus And The Carpenter found in Through The Looking Glass, which was thought to have been inspired by Carroll’s walks along Whitby beach. Whatever influence Whitby had on Carroll’s literary output, it can be assumed the unique ambience of the town and the surrounding area played an important role in his imaginings, and that he certainly had a place in his heart for the little town lost somewhere between the land and the sea.

Read the whole of The Lady of the Ladle and Coronach, another poem featuring Whitby, here.

Source material: The Origins of Alice By Derek Hudson
Wikipedia - Lewis Carroll

Many thanks to Richard Locker for writing this article.