Little Yellow Cottage – Update 10 – Spas, Railways and Tourists

I mentioned the Blue Flag Beaches in Yorkshire in a separate post and it reminded me of the first tourists and their expectations of Whitby.

Whilst people from the area would come to Whitby for the market and trade with the ships in the harbour things began to ramp up when I heard my owner and his family talking about the spa water discovered in Town. We had a run of King George’s, I, II, III, IV and royalty liked a bit of Spa water so it caught on. They used to laugh about George III and said he was nuts but who knows? He was also known to pee blue urine which may account for ‘blue bloods’ and royalty but recent thoughts account for this as being due to a blood disorder called porphyria. My walls have heard a lot around the kitchen table!



The spa water was heavy with iron and minerals and was generally considered to be good for health so people would come to ‘take the water’. In the early days, they’d come by water or coach but as the railways became established it opened Whitby up to the whole country and people came for the water and the ‘sea air’.


The first station here was the Eastern Terminus of the Whitby and Pickering Railway which was established in 1836 and engineered by a Mr George Stevenson. It was single track and the rolling stock was horse-drawn. It was taken over in 1845 by the fledgeling York and North Midland Railway, upgraded to double track and converted to steam.



The Esk Valley Line opened in 1865 but only as far as Grosmont, this was followed by the Coast Line from Loftus and the link to Scarborough in 1885. As each of these tracks was added to service the needs of Whitby, two more platforms were added plus other buildings for maintenance and management of the tracks, trains, bridges and machinery. The Scarborough Line was added in 1885 and Whitby became a Mecca for tourists some of whom would spill over the bridge to go up Church Street and the 199 steps towards the Abbey. There was little need or desire to come my way as there were still numerous warehouses, boat building workshops and harbour facilities which made this part of the harbour more industrial and less popular for tourists.



I remember the talk around the kitchen table in 1853. The jaw bones of a particularly large whale had been erected on West Cliff to signify the town’s importance as a whaling centre. There were whale rendering plants in Whitby which would stink and my occupants would shout loudly at anyone who left the doors or windows open when the whalers came in with their catch.

The trains were recognised for bringing in the tourists but their other work would be to shift post, fish, kippers, ships parts, iron ore and various other stuff landed at the harbour not forgetting livestock and other farm products from the area. In fact, Fortunes Kippers went from strength to strength when it became possible to move their product around the country in one or two days rather than a week or more and kippers began to be enjoyed well inland as well as in coastal towns.



The railways became a web around the country and enabled movement of goods and people to the furthest of places in relative comfort but one day in 1963 my owners were discussing a report by someone called Dr Beeching and its conclusion regarding Whitby was that all lines should close. There was much anger around the table and across the town and the rumour was that Whitby would become a ghost town. The people of Whitby rallied together as they always have done and sent petitions to politicians and other powerful people to try to have the plan reversed but were only partially successful so the lines to Rillington and the one to Scarborough were closed (the one to Loftus had already gone) and the beautiful Esk Valley line was retained on the grounds that the villages and hamlets within that wonderful valley would suffer without it and Whitby’s economy would be destroyed.


However, in 1973 the North Yorkshire Moors Railway trust reopened the stretch between Pickering and Grosmont and over the years have taken it to the point where it carried more passengers than any other heritage line. It now has an agreement to run trains on the Esk Valley line into Whitby and is even the subject of a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary being transmitted on National TV.

Each time new track was established I noticed an increase in trade from the harbour and warehouses directly in front of my door. The families that occupied me and the clientele that frequented me when I was a pub would talk about new developments and when spa water, mentioned above, was promoted, the number of visitors began to increase some arriving by ship but the majority by coach and horses then the first passenger trains arrived and tourism began in earnest.



The spa facilities were the initial draw but sea air and bathing in the sea became popular especially in summer and small B&B’s would cater for the visitors then bigger hotels were built especially on West Cliff where the fabulous views of the harbour and the abbey could be enjoyed.



The Station did have some setbacks as the lines were trimmed and a large part was cleared including platforms 3 and 4 together with other buildings to make way for the supermarket and carparks but the demolition process had already been started by a visit from Mr Hitler’s bombers many years earlier so the result was more a tidying-up top job.

I don’t have warehouses and shipyards in front of me anymore so I can see what’s going on the all the way to the West Bank and my occupants have unimpeded views right across the harbour especially from the first and second floor (yes I have three and I’ll let you see them as work progresses).

I’m feeling good about the latest refurbishments as my architect, Neil Duffield from bdh associates and Lee Waring discuss my chimney breast and original sandstone fireplace which needs to be strengthened due to a bit of ageing, you can’t neglect a 250-year-old lady y’know!


Things are looking up.

Enjoy the snaps.


Lots of love, Little Yellow Cottage…xx

Please feel free to share or comment – I love comments…x


PS. The posters that I’ve shown are available on the Internet – you’ll need to google them as this site is not commercial.

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