Today’s Object of the Week is a fine example of the jet carving, for which Whitby is famous - amongst many other things.

ONE of the most interesting artifacts in the Whitby Museum collection is a replica of the jet workshop model made by George Wood, a jet worker, in 1889.

This model stood for many years in the doorway of Elisha Walker’s jet shop at 97 Church Street in Whitby.

The heads of the six jet workers were carved from the bowls of clay pipes and were caricatures of George Wood’s fellow jet workers.

It was driven by clockwork and the men treadle their machines such as polishers, turners, finishers, grinders, working the jet, whilst the foreman’s head turns periodically to see that everyone is working hard.

The model was donated to the museum and was on display for many years but it became too frail and fragile to be left on display.

So the museum commissioned a replica which was made by Alan Dickinson and Gary Thwaites and was generously funded by the Thomas William Varley Roe deceased fund.

This replica is a very popular object in the museum, where the original model is still kept in storage.

Whitby Museum has one of the best collections of jet artifacts in the world with over 500 very varied examples which include jewellery, chess tables, busts, models of Whitby Abbey and bible covers.

Some of the finest work manifests itself in jet chess tables on display at the museum.

Three jet chess boards are known to have been made in Whitby and the museum owns two – the third has been lost sight of – including one designed and carved by John Sherwood.

The Northern Echo: The chessboard designed and made by John Sherwood was intended for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen VictoriaThe chessboard designed and made by John Sherwood was intended for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria

It was started in 1895 being intended for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, but took four years to complete.

was described at the time as “the crowning triumph of the jet age – the most beautiful object of its kind ever made”.

This particular board was acquired in 1996 from Robert Murfield in memory of his late wife Martha Cox whose father William Cox was one of the last Whitby jet carvers.

Jet is a black mineral, formed from the wood of a type of ‘monkey puzzle’ tree over 135 million years ago.

It is very light and can be very highly polished and is highly prized for making jewellery and ornaments and is found throughout the North York Moors.

Whitby is famous for the manufacture of jet jewellery, particularly in the last part of the 19th century when Queen Victoria popularised it.

l Whitby Museum, in Pannett Park, has now reopened, with reduced hours and social distancing measures. Visit for details.