The port of Whitby has been a safe haven for passing ships since the 1600s offering shelter on a rather rugged coastline. The estuary of the River Esk,as it leads to Ruswarp, was the perfect location for shipping and shipbuilding. Shipbuilding in earnest started in the 17th century mainly through the coal trade and later by the allum trade. By the latter half of the 18th century there were 11 shipyards along the estuary.
Captain James Cook (1728 -1779) was apprenticed in Whitby, and sailed on the Endeavour, the Resolution and the Adventure, which all began life in Thomas Fishburns shipyard as ‘Whitby cats’. After 1750 there was a growth in the whale fishing industry and the port expanded further. Captain William Scoresby (1760 - 1829) who invented the crow’s nest aboard ship, sailed from the town to the arctic. In the mid 18th to 19th century Whitby was the third largest shipbuilder after London and Newcastle.
The Swing Bridge, as we know it was opened in July 1909 and has just celebrated its 100th anniversary. There has been a crossing between the east and west sides of the town at this point since 1351, when Edward III granted his bailiffs authority to collect tolls to maintain it. In 1629, the wooden bridge was replaced by a structure which as well as a crossing, allowed ships to pass under by means of moving various ropes and pulleys, in order to reach the upper harbour. This again was replaced in 1766, by a drawbridge system.
Whitby Harbour and the Fish Pier
By 1830, the expansion of shipbuilding and larger sailing ships required a more reliable access. In 1834 a new bridge was the first to move horizontally as does the present day steel structure. The bridge regularly opens, to allow fishing boats and yachts to sail to and from the upper harbour, and is a magnificent feat of engineering providing a remarkable sight for visitors.
Parkol Marine and Whitby Marina
The only shipbuilding remaining today, is a family run business situated on the east side of the river called Parkol Marine. Formed in 1988, this boatyard has two berths for new build and a dry dock for repairs. As well as numerous fishing fleet vessels the company built a 40% sized replica of Captain James Cooks’ Endeavour, which was launched in 2002.
Tate Hill Pier
On the east side of the town there are two piers, within the harbour. Tate Hill Pier (formerly Burgess Pier) and the Fish Pier, which is the home of the RNLI lifeboat. The first lifeboat station established in 1802, was on the west side, one of only a handful around the country. In 1915 a replacement boathouse was built on the east side to house the motor lifeboat, and in 2007 the present boathouse was completed. Across the harbour on the west side, the first lifeboat station closed in 1934, and is now the Old Lifeboat Museum.
Whitby has two amateur rowing clubs, the Whitby Fishermans Amateur Rowing Club, situated near the Fish Pier and Whitby Friendship Amateur Rowing Club at New Way Ghaut.
Replica of the Endeavor
Many fishing boats and pleasure fishing boats are docked in the inner harbour. As well as full-time fishing vessels, there are numerous party fishing craft taking both 2-3 day trips, as well as a day, and half day fishing trips. Higher upriver is Whitby Marina, where many visiting yachts, locally owned yachts and motor vessels are berthed.
A new building in the shape of an upturned boat has just been completed which houses the marina offices, public toilets and facilities for the marina members. Visitors wishing to have a short trip to sea can choose from a wide variety of boats, from the replica Endeavour, the old lifeboat,The Mary Ann Hepworth, the larger Esk Belle II to the small speedboat Velocity.
Mary Ann Hepworth
By the side of the Swing Bridge is ‘Kiddie's Corner’, a popular place for children to fish using handlines for either fish or small crabs etc.
Whitby Harbour Kiddie's Corner
Pier Road on the Westside, has an abundance of cafes, restaurants, public houses, amusements and shops selling anything from clothes to souvenirs. There are ice-cream kiosks, shellfish kiosks, a fortune teller, and the traditional bucket and spade kiosks.
Whitby Harbour and Pier Road
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