The history of Whitby and surrounding area would not be complete without reference to its industrial past. The landscape of the North York Moors around Whitby are often thought to be essentially pastoral and rural. Whilst one would expect the presence of remains such as limekilns, watermills and windmills it may come as a surprise to find that the extractive mineral industries have featured very considerably in the past and that therefore the region is 'rich' in industrial archaeology terms. The biggest of these industries was undoubtedly iron making due to the presence of ironstone which during the late 1860s made Cleveland one of, if not the, biggest iron producers in the world. Furthermore the Liassic alum shales formed the basis of the United Kingdom's earliest chemical industry with a history reaching back to the beginning of the 17th century and the occurrence of 'Whitby' jet created a considerable mining and jewellery manufacturing business in the 19th century. These three industries, which are to a large extent peculiar to the area, along with other more traditional industries such as building stone and roadstone quarrying; railway networks; pottery, brick & tile making; and the localised and specialised glass-making industry in Rosedale make this region of great interest to the Industrial Historian.
Whitby is famous for its jet. In the 19th century jet was found and mined throughout the North York Moors and brought into Whitby by pack pony to be made into a wide range of decorative items ranging from jewellery, busts, dolls house furniture, models of Whitby Abbey, chess tables to many other small objects. Jet jewellery, in particular, was made popular by Queen Victoria when she went into mourning after the death of Prince Albert. Whitby museum has a Hand of Glory. The Hand of Glory is the dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged, often specified as being the left (Latin: sinister) hand, or, if the man were hanged for murder, the hand that "did the deed." Old European beliefs attribute great powers to a Hand of Glory combined with a candle made from fat from the corpse of the same malefactor who died on the gallows (NOT available from a store near you). The candle so made, lighted, and placed (as if in a candlestick) in the Hand of Glory, would have rendered motionless all persons to whom it was presented. The process for preparing the hand and the candle are described in 18th century documents, with certain steps disputed due to difficulty in properly translating phrases from that era. The term itself derives from the French main de gloire, a corruption of mandragore, the genus of plants commonly called mandrake.
The museum contains a wide range of material relating to the history of Whitby, and has specialist collections relating to: local history, Whitby jet, Captain James Cook and HM Bark Endeavour and Whitby's whaling industry. There are 4 disabled (extra wide) parking spaces at rear of Museum. Access at the rear of Museum is level and suited for wheelchair access. Please use the entryphone at the rear door to alert the custodian to your presence and allow him/her to automatically release the rear door. There are 3 toilets accessible to the disabled. (1 on lower ground floor in the new wing, 1 on the ground floor by the rear entrance and 1 on the upper floor in the new wing). A (free) wheelchair is available. The old part of the Museum and the Pannett Art Gallery is all on one level. The new extension is on 3 levels and is served both by stairs and a wheelchair accessible lift. Support dogs are very welcome. There are objects to be handled. Both the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and the terminus for the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors Railway are nearby, as, of course, is Whitby Abbey.
Location : Pannett Park, Whitby YO21 1RE
Transport: Whitby (National Rail) 15 minutes. Bus routes : 1, 4, Sapphire X4, 91, 95, 98 and 99 stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 09:00 to 17:00; Sunday until 16:30
Tickets : Adults £5.00; Concesssions £4.00; Children Free.
Tel: 01947 602908