Ship Building in Whitby has, until the last century, been one of the major sources of employment in the town.
Alum mining near to Sandsend saw the Whitby Port develop to accommodate the transportation of coal from Durham needed to process the alum. The ship building trade began in earnest primarily for this coal trade, the Endeavour (formery the Earl of Pembroke) in which Captain Cook sailed was a ‘cat’ used for the transportation of coal. These flat bottomed boats were hugely successful and easily adapted for exploration in uncharted shallow waters and their ability to be ‘beached’ to permit loading and unloading without the need for a docking facilities. By the mid seventeen hundreds the town was the sixth largest port in England and had 11 shipyards along the River Esk.
Whaling, another prosperous industry for Whitby enabled further expansion of ship building and fishing vessels. The last wooden vessel to be built in Whitby was The Monkshaven, launched in 1871. In 1887 the first steel vessel was built in Whitby and from then onwards nearly all the shipping was made from steel.
Sadly over the years, shipbuilding at Whitby declined in so much as there is only one shipbuilding company left. The family run business situated on the west side of the river is called Parkol Marine, formed in 1988 this boatyard has two berths for new builds and a dry dock for repairs. In 2002, a 40% replica of the ‘Endeavour’ was built and launched. Over the years this company has produced many fine fishing vessels. It has been in the news recently as it has become a victim of its own success.
The weight of the new ships, according to the Scarborough Borough Council, has damaged the wharf and it is estimated that it will cost three million pounds to repair and protect the area. It is to be hoped that an agreement can be reached between the company and the council as it would be devastating for the town to lose this last connection with Shipbuilding in Whitby and the loss of thirty high skilled workers’ jobs in the town.