1931: The museum moved from the Pier to Pannett Park
On August 5th 1931, the Earl of Harewood opened the new museum building in Pannett Park.
The Museum moved from Baxtergate into the new Baths Building in 1827, but again they were only leasing the premises. In 1856 the Society purchased the freehold from the Whitby Bath Company. Although the purchase ensured its continued existence, possibilities for further collecting were limited.
With astonishing vision the museum was to move to the very site that its long-serving curator, Martin Simpson (1800-1892), planned. He drew up plans for a new museum in great detail, together with layouts over three floors, estimates of cost. But nothing was to come of it.
By the end of the century the situation was grave. The building had been quickly constructed and had constant issues, not least a very leaky roof, and the baths not only needed regular maintenance but also seem to have dwindled as a source of income.
Additional property was purchased on Pier Road, but again nothing came of it. At one point land was offered on Spring Hill; this was turned down and later became the site of the town’s War Memorial Hospital. So, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the combined influence of a generous benefactor and a local aristocrat fell on the Society, and the move became reality.
In 1920 Robert Elliott Pannett, a local solicitor, died leaving the land that now forms Pannett Park in trust for the people of Whitby. He had purchased the land to save it from development, and he willed that a park be built, and a museum for his art collection – this is now known as the Pannett Art gallery. The park and gallery opened in 1928.
In 1924 the 3rd Marquis of Normanby, the Society’s patron, suggested to its Committee that they should erect a purpose-built museum behind Pannett’s gallery. They agreed, and soon sold the old building. This failed to raise enough of the £6577 eventually needed, so they decided to sell some of the collection: among other items, a number of gold coins, and two mummies, one Egyptian and one Peruvian to Hull and Halifax Museums for £10 and £7 respectively. It is rumoured that the Egyptian mummy left in the passenger seat of an open top car. On another occasion a ‘White Elephant Sale’ was held at Mulgrave Castle.
The old building is still standing. It is on Pier Road, just next to the Pier Hotel, and is now known as Quayside Restaurant.