If you have ever been to Whitby you will definitely recognise Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s famous photography. Here we go into detail and discover, just who was Frank Meadow Sutcliffe?
Through Sutcliffe’s photography we catch a real glimpse of the daily lives of the people who lived and worked in Whitby, we see the wide and varied activities of local life in a busy harbour town. The Abbey, the harbour, fisherfolk, children at play, street scenes of Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, Sandsend, Runswick Bay, and Staithes all feature in Sutcliffe’s extensive catalogue. It’s amazing to look back at the place we know and love so well. His work is totally captivating, here you can learn more about Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.
Born in 1853 Francis Meadow (Frank) Sutcliffe was a pioneering photographic artist. His work was a record of what life was truly like in the town of Whitby and the surrounding area. His real, raw and thought provoking images through the late Victorian era and early 20th century led to him being named ‘pictorial Boswell of Whitby’.
Sutcliffe was born in Headingley, Leeds. His father was named Thomas Sutcliffe and he was a painter, his mother was Sarah Lorentia Button. From creative beginnings, Sutcliffe often found himself sleepings in his father’s studio as he was the eldest of eight siblings. He had an elementary education at a dame school and found a love for the new technology of photography there. Sutcliffe moved to Whitby in 1870 with his family although sadly his father died a year later. At this time Sutcliffe was just 18 and had to become the head of the family.
Frank moved to Bloomfield Terrace in Whitby after a short stint as a portrait photographer in Tunbridge Wells. He established a portrait business out of his Skinner Street studio. By photographing the people around him that he knew well just simply going about their daily routine, he built up a body of photographs of the late Victorian town and the people who lived and worked there. At the age of 70, he became the curator of the Whitby Gallery and Museum, he held this post until his death in 1941 at the age of 87.
The lasting legacy of Sutcliffe’s photography is a testament to the ambition of a man that wanted to document the world as it is seen. Over the years he created a compelling and intimate picture of our favourite seaside town during the Victorian era. His photographs reveal a close personal attachment to his subject. He truly loved Whitby and cared about the people he was photographing.
Water Rats, perhaps Sutcliffe’s most famous work, was not without controversy. The image depicts children at play on a boat. Local church leaders censored the picture. However, the Church’s measures proved no barrier to the Prince of Wales, who bought a copy for himself. It’s one of our personal favourites too. Buy Frank Meadow Sutcliffe Whitby prints in our online store.