Prince Rupert Bone ship
The Prince Rupert Bone ship made by
French Prisoners of War

Shipping in Whitby began to expand in the seventeenth century, under the stimulus of the coal trade. Whitby became an important harbour of refuge on the East coast and began to construct ships. By the second half of the eighteenth century it was the sixth largest port in England and, on occasions, the second biggest shipbuilding area, with 11 shipyards along the estuary of the Esk. Local fishing was put in the shade after 1750 by the growth of the Whale fishery in which Whitby played a major part. It is therefore natural that one of the Museum’s largest collections should relate to shipping and visitors will be struck, particularly, by the large number of ship models. There is a comprehensive collection of models of various types of sailing vessels, many recently restored ranging from the small models in the Turnbull collection to large models of such famous ships as the “Cutty Sark”. As would be expected from a town involved in shipbuilding there are also several builder’s 1/2 hull models as well as models of 20th century steam ships. Models are not limited to just sailing, passenger and cargo ships but also the fishing industry, particularly Yorkshire cobles, and of course of RNLI lifeboats and artefacts. Of special note are 5 ships made of bone by Napoleonic prisoners-of-war and also one of a whaling crew including a small exquisite ivory ship acquired for two cases of beer from a drunken frenchman.

Quadrants & Astronomical Globe

Sundial made from barshot. The barshot
entered the Bridle Port of HMS Revenge
captained by Sir Robert Moorsom at the
Battle of Trafalgar killing a midshipman

The collection also contains navigational aids such as quadrants, sextants, telescopes, Walkers Log as well as some small types of fishing gear. There are items of particular local significance in the remains recovered from the first world war hospital ship the “Rohilla” which sunk off Saltwick Nab in 1914. Of particular note also is the barshot fired at “H.M.S. Revenge” during the Battle of Trafalgar.

The collection of objects is augmented by a significant collection of over 100 Pierhead paintings (paintings of individual boats), marine paintings generally including some Weatherills. Not on show, but available on request, there is a large collection of drawings and plans of various vessels, mainly built / owned in Whitby.

The shipbuilding industry is presented in the ground floor hall of the 2005 extension. The locations of the many different shipyards in Whitby (now nearly all gone) are shown along with the history of shipbuilding in Whitby. This display is liberally illustrated with typical shipwright’s and sailmaker’s tools.

Whitby Lifeboat