Whitby’s backbone – the harbour at the estuary of The River Esk – was for a long time the best way of transport for the coastal town. A place for trade with textiles, wool and flax etc. as well as an area to dry laundry. A large collection of photographs taken c. 1880s to 1910s are preserved from Whitby, where especially Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s pictures have been an important contribution to my work related to textile observations of laundry, sailmaking, trade, local workers’ dress and the well-to-do’s clothes. The image shows one of his depictions from the upper harbour, where the town’s women often hung their washing-lines. A common place for laundry which is also clearly shown in J.W Whiteley’s oil on canvas dated from 1886. Courtesy of: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society, Whitby Museum, Photographic Collection.

Whitby’s backbone – the harbour at the estuary of The River Esk – was for a long time the best way of transport for the coastal town. A place for trade with textiles, wool and flax etc. as well as an area to dry laundry. A large collection of photographs taken c. 1880s to 1910s are preserved from Whitby, where especially Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s pictures have been an important contribution to my work related to textile observations of laundry, sail-making, trade, local workers’ dress and the well-to-do’s clothes. The image shows one of his depictions from the upper harbour, where the town’s women often hung their washing-lines. A common place for laundry which is also clearly shown in J.W Whiteley’s oil on canvas dated from 1886.
Courtesy of: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society, Whitby Museum, Photographic Collection.

INTRODUCTION Whitby situated on the North Sea coast is foremost associated with its rich history during the period 1700 to 1914; the early alum industry, James Cook, whaling fleets, fishing, tourism and Victorian jet manufacturing. The town was relatively isolated by land until the coming of the railway, though accessible both locally and internationally by sea, and its geographical situation had substantial implications for transport both at home and abroad. Its population ensured a constant local need for textiles, in earlier years with the manufacture of sailcloth and sails as well as trade in expensive fabrics with other British ports and foreign destinations. Then in the later part of the research period, many hundreds of textile workers were needed for tailoring, dressmaking, drapery and other closely related activities, including laundry. These developments reflected the increasing demand nationwide from the growing middle classes to own more clothes, while Whitby’s steady development as a holiday resort during the Victorian period strongly influenced the local drapery trade. So Whitby came to have special social and historical textile needs of its own, as well as obvious similarities to many other towns of similar size. However, up to now the town’s rich and complex textile history has been rather unknown, therefore this monograph’s collated in depth studies presents a valuable insight into the detailed account of the various trades through numerous archival and visual sources.

THE STUDIES AND ITS SOURCES My studies of the material in combination with the writing of the main text and three appendixes includes a large number of primary sources in the form of; clothing, accessories, textile tools, letters, deeds, early photographs, censuses, parish church registers, maps, paintings etc. These sources are today to the greatest extent kept at Whitby Museum (Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society); library, archive and museum collections in Pannett Park, Whitby. The research for the monograph has secondarily taken place at other museums and institutions; in Whitby, North Yorkshire, Leeds, London, Oxford and, Lund, Sweden etc. The Whitby Museum’s Costume Collection consist of an unusually rich variety of garments from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Primarily circa 200 dresses, but also hundreds of; shawls, hats, gloves, underwear, blouses, nightwear, babies’ gowns, children’s clothes, parasols, umbrellas, walking sticks, fans, shoes, laces etc. This collection has been the key to understanding the local as well as national and international influences of clothing. The same part of the museum also includes a very rich and unique sampler collection, which together with the remaining embroideries have formed a significant resource. The Social History Collection has been studied as well in great detail; foremost concerning all sorts of textile tools for embroidery, dressmaking, laundry, knitting, crochet, lace making and rag rugs, added with a large amount of smaller garments and textile interior decorations in varying techniques. Other collections at the museum which have been of importance for the historical primary source material are; the collections of Archaeology, Jet & Jewellery, Maps, Photographs, Picture and Shipping. The Library and Archive is the principal part of Whitby Museum, where the most comprehensive amounts of source material related to a new collected knowledge about textile workers in town have been located. Foremost in parish church registers, advertising from the local paper the Whitby Gazette, directories, muster rolls, indentures, conveyances, deeds, prints, port books, maps, wills and many other paper related to historical and economical matters.

TEXTILE HISTORY in the subjects of: Alum & Natural dyeing, Archive studies, Art history, Decorative arts, Economic history, Embroidery, Fashion history, Interior design, Laundry, Knitting, Local history – Whitby and Yorkshire, Material Culture, Manufacturing & Trading, Port History, Printing History (prints, advertisements etc), Sail-making & weaving, Social History, Textile recycling.

WHERE TO ORDER, please visit the publisher’s THE IK SHOP – a not-for-profit learned Publisher. You are welcome to read extracts of texts from the forthcoming monograph [PUBLISHED JUNE 15TH, 2015.]:

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A Lively Coastal Town between the North Sea and North York Moors’, TEXTILIS (Updated October 8, 2014); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)

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