in 18th-century Whitby
Shipbuilding in Whitby increased very rapidly during the
18th century as the following figures indicate:
•1700: 113 sailboats of small tonnage;
•1734: 130 ships of 80 tonnes and upwards;
•1776: 251 ships of 80 tonnes and upwards.
It was the coastal trade which absorbed the majority of
these ships and in particular, the coal trade. Coal was shipped at Newcastle,
Sunderland and Shields for London and the east coast ports, the main part
being for the Capital. It was imported into Whitby both the domestic use and
in the alum works. In 1690, 60 tons of kelp were shipped from Berwick on
Tweed to Whitby for use in the manufacture of alum and presumably this was
not an isolated instance as the alum trade persisted throughout the century
in various states of economic decline and recovering.
In 1731 Whitby imported coals from Newcastle and Sunderland
and wine, linen, nails, firkin staves, bricks, clog wheels (cart wheels of
thick plank without spokes), and timber from Hull. There were also three
cargoes of miscellaneous goods from London. 27 shipments left the port that
year, one of alum for Newcastle, one of alum for Alloa
and 25 for London which consisted of alum, dried fish and butter. (Willan).
Young gives the imports for 1790 as timber, hemp, flax, ashes
(for soap), and iron. He makes no mention of coal that must have featured
high on the list. Exports were sailcloth (7,300 bolts), butter (1,309
firkins), hams and bacons (21 tonnes 19cwts 3 qts
10 lbs), oats (4,094 qts) ad
leather (33,615 lbs). Alum and whale oil, blubber, whale fins and whale bone
also formed part of the export trade.
Whale fishing began in Whitby in 1753 and the vessels were
sometimes used in the coal trade during the autumn and winter months and then
adapted for whaling in the summer.
Because of the increase in shipbuilding, large quantities
of timber came into the town. Most of it was from the Baltic direct or via
Hull along the coast. Whitby registered ships traded with the Baltic from
Hull and London and were also engaged in the trade in the West Indies,
Mediterranean, America and the East Indies. So
Whitby seamen employed on locally owned ships would have picked them up at
ports around the country.
There are vague hints that certain Whitby merchants were
involved with the slave trade but no definite evidence has come to light and
certainly nothing to connect the port with slave ships.
Luxury goods such as wine, tea, coffee, sugar, spices,
currents, raisins, fine dress materials and tobacco would come along the
coast from London or Hull.
One final use to which would be ships were put is that of
transport vessels in time of war. The Navy board commandeered the privately owned vessels and paid well for their use,
granting adequate recompense in the event of loss. The crew would not fare so
well if they were all pressed into the Royal Navy.
During this century Britain was at war from many years and
some shipowners must have made large fortunes.
1701-13 War of Spanish succession
1739 War of Jenkins era with staying
1740-48 War with Austrian succession
1751-57 War in India
1756-63 Seven years war with
1776-83 American War of Independence
1793-1815 Napoleonic Wars
Finch, Roger Coals from Newcastle Terence Dalton, Lavenham,
Trevelyan, GM A short history of England Penguin, 1942
Willan, T. S. The English coasting trade 1600 - 1750
Manchester University 1938
Young, George History of Whitby, two volumes Clark and Medd, Whitby 1817
Whitby about 1750
Poor Law Valuation of Whitby
Extract from website:
"What is the 1837 valuation?
The 1837 valuation of Whitby is a list of every property in
the township of Whitby in Yorkshire in the year 1837, that is 2,435 houses,
tenements, shops, offices and other places. The valuation includes the
occupier of the property, its owner, a description and its rateable value.
When I first came across it, I was fascinated by the detail of how my
ancestors lived and I knew that other people would be too. One of the aims of
family history is to give us an insight into the lives of our ancestors and
you don't get a much better insight than knowing the type of house your
family lived in over a hundred and fifty years ago. I have therefore indexed
the valuation and put it onto my site to be viewed by anyone with an interest
in the history of Whitby.
Why was the 1837 valuation created?
In 1834, the New Poor Law came into operation in England
and Wales. As part of this, parishes were grouped into Poor Law Unions. These
were administered locally by a Board of Guardians, elected by each parish or
township, and answerable to a central Poor Law Commission, based in London.
Those families who could not fend for themselves were
either given money or food to sustain themselves (known as out-relief) or
were taken into a Union Workhouse, where the workhouse master and his staff
would take care of their immediate needs. However, the workhouse was
segregated by sex and the inmates were expected to perform laborious tasks in
return for their food and lodging, so this was an option that the poor
avoided whenever possible.
The funds to pay for the relief of the poor were collected
from the population of the township or parish, according to the value of the
property they occupied. The value of each property, or more particularly, the
rent it would fetch if rented for a year, was assessed. The local Board of
Guardians would decide how much they needed in each year and each householder
was liable for a proportion of this, depending on the annual rateable value
of his property.
In 1837, the Board of Guardians for the Whitby Union came to the conclusion that the rateable values that they
had been using prior to that date was out of date. They requested permission
from the Poor Law Commission to conduct a new valuation. When this was
granted, in order to record the annual rateable value of each property, the
Board of Guardians appointed a valuer. He wrote a list of properties with
their owners, occupiers and their rateable values, presumably by walking
around the town and interviewing people. This list was published by a local
printer so that people could check that their rateable value was correct and also that no-one else was being charged too low a
rate. A copy of the list was sent to the Poor Law Commission and it is that
copy that I have transcribed.
What do I need to know about the transcription?
The transcription was made by me in the National Archives
at Kew. I have tried to transcribe the names exactly as given. However, for
ease of indexing, where the name was followed by a number
of 'do's representing repetition of the same name, this name has been
copied. For the property descriptions, a number of
abbreviations were used by the original valuers, many of which were included
in a list at the back of the document which I have transcribed here. Note
that in some cases I have already expanded the abbreviations in the
Note that street names appear as they are on the original
document. They are not repeated on subsequent pages. If you need to know the
street on which your property is located, you may need to go back to the
previous page or occasionally, a few pages before that, to find the street.
Where can I see the original records?
The original record from which I have transcribed this is
at the National Archives at Kew, in reference MH12/14656. This is a large
volume, ordered approximately in date order. It contains the correspondence
sent to the Poor Law Commissioners regarding the Whitby Union and copies of
their responses, from 1834 to 1843. The valuation is towards the end of the
More information relating to the National Archives and how
to view the documents they hold can be found on their website
If you know of any other copies or the location of any
other valuations prior to 1900, please let me know at the email address
What plans are there for adding to the valuation?
I would like to add a street index. I'd also like to do
some analysis on the rateable values of different types of property. For
instance, if your ancestor had a tenement with a value of £1 10, was this a
large, small or average sized tenement?
I am also planning to provide an index of people mentioned
elsewhere in the Poor Law Correspondence. "
DRACULA CAME TO WHITBY
How Bram Stoker’s visit
to the harbour town of Whitby on the Yorkshire coast in 1890 provided him
with atmospheric locations for a Gothic novel – and a name for his famous
A GOTHIC SETTING
Bram Stoker arrived at
Mrs Veazey’s guesthouse at 6 Royal Crescent,
Whitby, at the end of July 1890. As the business manager of actor Henry
Irving, Stoker had just completed a gruelling theatrical tour of Scotland. It
was Irving who recommended Whitby, where he’d once run a circus, as a place
to stay. Stoker, having written two novels with characters and settings drawn
from his native Ireland, was working on a new story, set in Styria in
Austria, with a central character called Count Wampyr.
Stoker had a week on his
own to explore before being joined by his wife and baby son. Mrs Veazey liked to clean his room each morning, so he’d
stroll from the genteel heights of Royal Crescent down into the town. On the
way, he took in the kind of views that had been exciting writers, artists and
Romantic-minded visitors for the past century.
The favoured Gothic
literature of the period was set in foreign lands full of eerie castles,
convents and caves. Whitby’s windswept headland, the dramatic abbey ruins, a
church surrounded by swooping bats, and a long association with jet – a
semi-precious stone used in mourning jewellery – gave a homegrown taste of
such thrilling horrors.
Bram Stoker photographed
in about 1906
ABBEY AND CHURCH
High above Whitby, and
dominating the whole town, stands Whitby Abbey, the ruin of a once-great
Benedictine monastery, founded in the 11th century. The medieval abbey stands
on the site of a much earlier monastery, founded in 657 by an Anglian
who became its first abbess. In Dracula, Stoker has Mina Murray – whose
experiences form the thread of the novel – record in her diary:
Right over the town is
the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes … It is a most noble
ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a
legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows.
Below the abbey stands
the ancient parish church of St Mary, perched on East Cliff, which is reached
by a climb of 199 steps. Stoker would have seen how time and the weather had
gnawed at the graves, some of them teetering precariously on the eroding
cliff edge. Some headstones stood over empty graves, marking seafaring
occupants whose bodies had been lost on distant voyages. He noted down
inscriptions and names for later use, including ‘Swales’, the name he used
for Dracula’s first victim in Whitby.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH
On 8 August 1890, Stoker
walked down to what was known as the Coffee House End of the Quay and entered
the public library. It was there that he found a book published in 1820,
recording the experiences of a British consul in Bucharest, William
Wilkinson, in the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (now in Romania).
Wilkinson’s history mentioned a 15th-century prince called Vlad Tepes who was said to have impaled his enemies on wooden
stakes. He was known as Dracula – the ‘son of the dragon’. The author had
added in a footnote:
Dracula in the
Wallachian language means Devil. The Wallachians at that time … used to give
this as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous either by
courage, cruel actions, or cunning.
Stoker made a note of
this name, along with the date.
THE BIRTH OF A LEGEND
While staying in Whitby,
Stoker would have heard of the shipwreck five years earlier of a Russian
vessel called the Dmitry, from Narva. This ran
aground on Tate Hill Sands below East Cliff, carrying a cargo of silver sand.
With a slightly rearranged name, this became the Demeter from Varna that
carries Dracula to Whitby with a cargo of silver sand and boxes of earth.
So, although Stoker was
to spend six more years on his novel before it was published, researching the
landscapes and customs of Transylvania, the name of his villain and some of
the novel’s most dramatic scenes were inspired by his holiday in Whitby. The
innocent tourists, the picturesque harbour, the abbey ruins, the windswept
churchyard and the salty tales he heard from Whitby seafarers all became
ingredients in the novel.
1897 Dracula was published. It had an unpromising start as a play
called The Undead, in which Stoker hoped Henry Irving would take the
lead role. But after a test performance, Irving said he never wanted to see
it again. For the character of Dracula, Stoker retained Irving’s aristocratic
bearing and histrionic acting style, but he redrafted the play as a novel
told in the form of letters, diaries, newspaper cuttings and entries in the
ship’s log of the Demeter.
The log charts the
gradual disappearance of the entire crew during the journey to Whitby, until
only the captain is left, tied to the wheel, as the ship runs aground below
East Cliff on 8 August – the date that marked Stoker’s discovery of the name
‘Dracula’ in Whitby library. A ‘large dog’ bounds from the wreck and runs up
the 199 steps to the church, and from this moment, things begin to go
horribly wrong. Dracula has arrived …