Whitby has a new heritage trail! If you’re up for a walk why not explore wonderful Whitby and spot Emma Stothard’s sculptures inspired by Whitby’s historic fishing heritage dotted around the town.
The Whitby Heritage Trail features 9 life-size sculptures handmade by the local sculptor, Emma Stothard. Working in partnership with Scarborough Borough Council, Emma has created some of Whitby’s most famous characters, all with a powerful connection to the sea. These works of art are scattered around different places on the east side and in the West Cliff area of the town.
Each figure is carefully woven by hand and made from steel wire wrapped around a steel armature then hot-dip galvanised. You can see the sculptures in any order you choose or follow the trail.
The Herring Girls
You will spot the Herring Girls right next to the bandstand. This captures an image you would have seen in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A fishing fleet followed the shoals of herrings along this coast and the ‘Herring Lasses’ followed by train, they would be there ready and waiting to gut and pack the day’s catch. This sculpture represents the fiercely strong and independent women who would world in small teams of two’s and three’s. Two girls would gut and salt the herrings and the third would pack the fish into barrels.
If you wander up the Khyber Pass, past the famous Whalebone Arch you will meet Skipper Dora Walker (1890-1980) Dora was born in West Yorkshire and became famous for being the first female fishing boat skipper on the North East coast. She moved to Whitby after medical advice during the Second World War. She bought a boat called the Good Faith. Dora began fishing, and once qualified acted as a pilot for boats through the minefields. This incredible woman was the only female skipper to hold her licence in the North Sea throughout the War. She was also an author and wrote memoirs of nursing in WWI and about the history of the fishing communities. Another strong female role model for Whitby!
Crow’s Nest, William Scoresby
Along the West Cliff, you can bump into explorer William Scoresby. Known to many as the inventor of the Crows Nest in 1807, The Crows Nest is a mast-top lookout that offered a little protection from the harsh weather conditions whilst at sea.
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Located on Skinner Street you will find the famous photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe was born in 1853 and is famous worldwide for his incredible pictures portraying everyday life in Whitby. He’s focusing his camera down the road where his studio used to be, why not stop for a photo with him? You can buy some of his most famous Whitby pictures as prints in our online store. – Frank Meadow Sutcliffe Prints.
Perching on a wall at the top of Flowergate you will come across the Gansey Knitter. The gansey was a sweater knitted by Fishermen’s wives in a distinctive pattern. Each town or village had its own pattern therefore if a fisherman became lost at sea, his gansey would be used to identify where he was from when the body was recovered. They were knitted from tightly spun worsted wool which made them extremely hard wearing and even weatherproof to protect their owner from harsh weather.
Stumble down Flowergate and you will discover the Netmender. Fishing gear needed to be constantly checked and repaired to keep it in good working order to ensure a good catch.
Head to the Swing Bridge, on the West side you can spot the Fishwife with a barrel of fish! Don’t underestimate a Fishwife…she worked just as hard as her husband. From family duties to baiting or selling the catch to the public.
Based on a photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe you can find the Brigender on the opposite end of the bridge. The fisherman is leaning against the harbour railings, looking out at the weather
before deciding whether or not to set sail out to sea.
Make your way along the riverside to find Emma’s tribute to a very strange Whitby legend. There are lots of legends surrounding Whitby but this one is rather odd…one Autumn day in 1159, a group of noblemen were out hunting when their dogs attacked a boar that took shelter in a hermitage. The hermit decided to close the door on the dogs. This angered the hunter and they savagely attacked the hermit and left him to die. On his deathbed, he decided that instead of the death penalty for a murder they and their descendants should enact an annual penance, the construction of a woven ‘hedge’ from branches cut using only a knife ‘of a penny price’. The hedge needed to withstand three tides: if it didn’t, the lords would forfeit their lands. The planting of the Penny Hedge has continued every year at 9 am on the eve of Ascension Day, 39 days after Easter. When the hedge is planted a horn is blown three times and “Out on ye, out on ye, out on ye!” is called out.