THE LIFE of a Whitby fisherman in the 1800s must have been a tough one. But you wouldn’t know it from the relaxed poses being struck in our main photograph.
It is actually a postcard showing a group of fishermen standing by the Whitby harbour rail in about 1880. It was taken by the great Victorian photographer Francis Meadow Sutcliffe, who was based for much of his life in Whitby and at Sleights.
Sutcliffe was famed for his portraits of the Whitby fisherfolk - weatherbeaten fishermen with great, bushy beards; harbour girls untangling heaps of fishing nets; barefooted children in cloth caps and serge jackets sitting on the gunwales of a boat, an apple clutched in a grubby hand. And the one we have today (top) is a good example of Sutcliffe’s “mastery of the technique of grouping his subjects into a natural and balanced composition”, according to the legend on the back of the card.
The card is another in the collection brought into The Press by reader Tom Langan. As we reported last week Mr Langan, now 75, bought them about 30 years ago, and they had been lying in a drawer in his house in Scarcroft Road until he came across them while doing some research on family history for his grandchildren.
We used several of the postcards last week, and carry another selection on these pages today. Some you may have seen before. Others you almost certainly will not have...
The Windmill Inn, St George’s Field, 1855
This photograph has been in circulation before, but there’s some interesting information on the back of Mr Langan’s postcard. “St George’s Chapel and lucrative Castle Mills were built by the medieval Knights Templar and eventually granted to St Leonard’s Hospital,” the legend on the back of the card reads. “After the dissolution, the stone footings of the chapel were used as the foundations of the Windmill Inn, which was demolished to create the Foss Basin very soon after this picture was taken in 1855. For centuries, St George’s Field was used for ‘hiring fairs’ and, in more recent times, for circuses.”
Low Petergate, 1890
This photo, according to the legend on the back of the postcard, clearly shows the ‘timber-framed, jettied medieval merchants’ houses of Low Petergate on the left, with the Minster beyond’. Some of the businesses survived for many years - including Merriman the pawnbroker, Augustus Mahalaski the photographer, Kirkby’s gentleman’s outfitter and furniture shop, Peckitt’s boot shop and George Scott the pork butcher.
The Fox Junction, Holgate, 1910s
The photo, taken outside the Fox Inn, shows a tram going up Acomb Road. Three men are walking towards the camera. According to the legend on the back of the postcard, the one on the left is Charles Roe, a foreman at the nearby carriage- and wagon-works, which had opened in 1881 and grew to cover 16 acres, employing nearly 3,000 workers.
River Foss near Yearsley Bridge, 1920s
York’s first free swimming place was opened in 1859 in the River Foss near Yearsley Bridge and was known as Yearsley baths, the postcard relates. “It was about 100 yards long with a brick bottom, with wire netting stretched across each end. Stone steps led into the water from the river bank. There were two changing huts and an attendant.” This photo, taken in the 1920s, shows that more than 60 years after the swimming place had opened it was still hugely popular.
St Sampson’s Square and Church Street, 1940s
St Sampson’s Square, the site of the old medieval Thursday Market, is shown here during the Second World War. Abraham Altham’s grocery store is on the corner of Church Street, with Melia’s grocer’s and the Talbot Hotel further along. The Three Cranes is to the left.
Gillygate in the 1940s
Another wartime photo turned into a postcard. The eighteenth century buildings on the east side of the street shown in this photo thankfully survived the threat of demolition in the 1960s, the postcard says.