Library & Archives Blog – Amusing political letters…

Charles Graffius has been busy with the installation of the new flashy and exciting library management system – Axiell Collections! This is a cloud-based system which means the catalogue is easier to pass onto the National Archives for convenient access.

Charles has been adding letters published for public consumption by politicians in Whitby from the early nineteenth century. This was an interesting time in British history – the introduction of the ‘Great Reform Act’ of 1832; new boundaries and rules were being introduced to remove corruption when recalling the acts of ‘rotten boroughs’.  These letters are causing much amusement! Highly recommended reading for any history buffs or budding politicians out there.

“Alas! Alas! How Tories have descended! They have fallen indeed; and –peradventure- like Lucifer, never to rise again.” Robinson (1832)

Included are letters published by Colonel Cholmley in 1843 about making sure obligations and promises were followed through! In one of the cases overseeing the paving of Church Street in 1842.

“I went from here to Whitby towards the end of June 1842, to see how the paving went on in Church-street at that time, when it ought to have been completed, according to promise. It was only done to the new Savings’ Bank, and there was very little material to do further. I remained quiet until the 18th of July, when I wrote the following letter to Mr. Stephenson, for the information of the Commissioners of the Streets.” Cholmley (1843)

In another letter to the Reverend F.W. Treveanion from Thomas Fishburn, who was the Chairmen of the Whitby Board of Guardians, he queries and comments on the figures of destitution in Whitby!

“The enquiry proved that of real destitution there is scarcely anything to be found; and of poor, who are at all likely to be objects for relief, nothing like the number stated by you as being ‘destitute’; -and I am quite ready to bring this matter to the proof, by accompanying you (if you please) from door to door, through the town of Whitby, in order that we may distinctly ascertain how many really ‘destitute persons’ there are unattended to by the proper authorities.” Fishburn (1846)

These and more can be accessed in the Library & Archives. Contact

By Claire Marris

Archive Development Officer



J.W.Robinson (1832), Electioneering in the Maiden Borough of Whitby. Published: E.Kirby, Bridge street.

Col. Cholmley (1843), A Cheap Christmas Treat for the Rate-Payers and Inhabitants of Whitby and Particularly for the Benefit of the Commissioners Under the Improvement Act. Published: H. Southern, Bookseller, Coneystreet; Kirby, Whitby.

Fishburn, Esq.T. (1846) A Letter to the Rev. F. W. Trevanion, A. M., Printed: R. Kirby, Whitby