Tag Archives: whitby


Lifeboat 2

Another Whitby-related post (if you couldn’t tell, it’s one of my favourite places!), this time about a local man, Henry Freeman, and a famous rescue.

Henry Freeman was born in Bridlington in 1835, the son of a brickmaker. In his teens he worked as a farm labourer in Flamborough before moving to Whitby when he was 20. By 1861, Henry was working as a fisherman. During a huge storm on 9th February 1861, Henry joined the Whitby lifeboat crew as they carried out 5 launches to save the crews from stricken ships, despite having no previous experience. On the final launch, in heavy seas, the lifeboat overturned and Henry was the sole survivor.


[Attribution: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe and The Sutcliffe Gallery]

Undeterred by his brush with death, Henry continued to work as a fisherman throughout the 1860s as well as participating in the occasional lifeboat rescue. In 1877 he was appointed Coxswain of the Whitby lifeboat, the Robert Whitworth.

On 28th October October 1880 the Robert Whitworth launched 4 times to rescue the crews of ships caught in another severe storm off the North Yorkshire coast. Henry Freeman was awarded a silver clasp to add to the RNLI medal he had received for the 1861 rescues.

But Henry’s most famous rescue came in January 1881, when the brig Visitor was wrecked off Robin Hood’s Bay during a severe storm. Jermyn Cooper, vicar of Fylingdales, sent an urgent telegram to the Whitby Harbourmaster asking for assistance, but the lifeboat could not leave Whitby harbour because of the appalling weather conditions. Onlookers at Robin Hood’s Bay could only watch helplessly as Visitor slowly broke up and her crew took to its single, small boat.

With a launch from Whitby impossible, the decision was made to take the Robert Whitworth to Robin Hood’s Bay overland instead – dragged by horses six miles across country while hundreds of men, women, and children dug through snowdrifts with shovels and cleared walls and hedgerows to create a path for the lifeboat.

Appeal for memorabilia of historic Whitby lifeboat rescue

Their heroic efforts paid off: the Robert Whitworth was carried from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay in 3 hours, and successfully launched to save the crew of the Visitor.

Henry Freeman retired as coxswain in 1899, after 22 years service, and died in 1904. His memorial can be seen on the seaward wall of Whitby Lifeboat Station, where you can also see the current Whitby lifeboat, George and Mary Webb – very different from the open rowing boats used in Henry’s day!

Lifeboat 3

The RNLI do an amazing job – the volunteers who risk their own lives to save others are the sort of people who really restore my faith in human nature.

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Whitby Abbey and Dracula too

Whitby Abbey 5

Following on from yesterday’s post about Lindisfarne, another great place to visit is Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire.

In 1897 Bram Stoker was inspired by Whitby and the Abbey in particular to write Dracula – and it’s easy to see why! The town is incredibly atmospheric (although if you climb the 199 steps up to the Abbey from the town you may need to sit down for a while in order to appreciate it!) and the winding little streets and quaint shops below the Abbey are a world away from shopping malls and bleak urban planning.

Whitby Abbey 1

The first monastery at Whitby (then call Streoneshalh) was founded by Oswiu, King of Northumbria, in 657AD, on the possible site of a previous Roman settlement. In 664AD it hosted the Synod of Whitby.

The Abbey was destroyed by the Vikings in 867AD but later re-founded in the 11th century after the Norman Conquest. This second Abbey was destroyed in 1539 under Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the land acquired by the Cholmley family, who used stone from the Abbey to build a house on the site.

Whitby Abbey 2

By the early 19th century much of the remaining structure of the Abbey had collapsed and in 1914 the Abbey was shelled by the German Navy. The site is now looked after by English Heritage, and the much-improved visitor centre does a reasonable job of explaining the history of the site.

Getting there:
Whitby is easily accessible by car – park either in the Abbey car park or in the town (Pay and display).

Whitby is also accessible by train – on selected days you can even travel via steam train on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Also see:
The Dracula Experience – speaks for itself
The Magpie Cafe – fresh seafood on the seafront is a must
Whitby Jet – unique jewellery made from jet
Robin Hood’s Bay – former smuggler’s den and picturesque seaside village

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