Today’s Object of the Week is a colourful painting of a place we all know – you may be able to recognise some of the features, but others are long gone.

THIS quaint painting, which hangs in the main hall of Whitby Museum, is our Object of the Week.

On first glance you may not realise that the painting is of Whitby – but look closer and it is surprisingly accurate.

A former curator of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich once commented how historically accurate the ships were.

The identity of the artist is unknown, but the painting is inscribed ‘The Town of Whitby – October 28th 1717’.


On the rear of the painting is a cutting describing the detail of the painting.

It is thought the clipping came from either the Whitby Gazette or Whitby News around the mid 19th century as it makes reference to the drawbridge, which was demolished in 1834/35, being “in living memory”.

The clipping describes the “chief feature” at the top of the sheet, the Abbey tower “amid sundry tall spiky pinnacles”.

A wall which separates the ruins from ‘the plane’ bends round to the Scarborough Road.

Opposite the north transept of the abbey, there are two conspicuous houses, one being an inn, or alehouse, with a projecting sign of somebody’s head, and the capitals EC1717 – now long gone.

The Northern Echo:

The Hall of the Cholmleys, with a line of stables, extends along the Almshouse Close with three small outbuildings – one a gatehouse, beneath which stands a henchman with pole-axe in hand.

The cutting adds: “The circumstances of this armed official in his long green coat, ample sleeves, and expansive hat, coupled with the ensign displayed on a conspicuous part of the grounds, speaks if the state and retinue formally maintained by the Cholmleys in this quarter.”

The Church steps follow, at the foot of which the houses are described as “much more picturesque” than those which replaced them. One of the largest has a projecting sign of “The Cock” public house, near to what used to be an establishment named ‘The Blue Monkey’.

The next feature is a drawbridge – “a very slight affair of wood” for foot passengers only, thought to have been taken down in 1766.

Next comes the shipping “where the artist exhibits an old fashioned fleet in full sail across the sheet”.

The Northern Echo:

The west side of the water, the cutting adds, is “thickly inhabited, by the lie of pointed roofs innumerable with which the bottom of his (the artist’s) view is bordered, in the place of our two stately lighthouses at the main pier heads”.

The cutting ends: “Thus far has the endeavour been made to afford some idea of the view of Whitby in 1717 – uncouth as before said, yet curious for what it reveals of the past, when the top stories of opposite houses in the narrow streets almost met over the heads of the passengers, and the unglazed shops with their wooden-hatched windows opened as the front of a stall.

The Northern Echo:

“The colours are chiefly red, blue, and yellow; and the whole scene of houses is pervaded with diamond lights or the ‘penny pane’, thus bringing us to the statement, that a sash window was not know in Whitby until 1725; at the insertion of which , both town and country gazed at it as a prodigy.”

* Whitby Mesum, in Pannet Park, is presently closed during lockdown. For more information visit