[No: LXXVII | May 9, 2017 | By Viveka Hansen]

Transport with coaches and omnibuses was an important way of movement for many people living at relatively short distances from a town or city as well as for holiday-makers aiming to reach coastal destinations. Reasons for travelling were varied – renewing one’s clothes or interior textiles, visiting friends, leisure trips, trading professionally or other personal needs. This study will give a brief introduction into land travel in the surrounding area of Whitby not covered by trains or coastal boats during this period. The text is based on my research for The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914, and will additionally give some examples of this long-lasting method of transport studied via photographs and advertisements in Whitby Gazette from 1855 to 1914.

Advert from the Whitby Gazette, 28th December in 1867, ‘Whitby and Saltburn Omnibus’. The omnibus/coach was the most important method of land transport before the railway reached several parts of the district. A “convenient” way of travelling for shopping, visiting relatives, trading etc with one or more nights to stay over in Whitby and Saltburn respectively. (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

Opportunities to travel to and from Whitby increased considerably during the late 18th century. A stage-coach service had begun in 1788 with a diligence which left for York twice a week. This was increased to a mail-coach three times a week in 1795, and a daily service in 1823. Other places that also came to benefit from regular connections with Whitby were Scarborough, Sunderland, Guisborough, Stockton and Hull and it became possible to travel at least once a week to the smaller towns and major villages in the vicinity as well. One could also travel in trading ships once a week to Newcastle, Shields and Sunderland, and to London and Hull once a fortnight. In addition to the fact that the inhabitants of Whitby benefited from these considerably increased travel opportunities during 1780-1840 there were also new prospects for living a more varied life in Whitby itself than earlier, since the town now contained an uncommonly large number of charitable institutions and churches, a religious and literary institute, an increased number of shops and other amusements and recreations. In addition, horse-drawn trains ran between Pickering and Whitby from 1836, anticipating the town’s next new period as a tourist and holiday centre.

This 1880s photograph of Flowergate and the everyday activity gives a rare opportunity in studying local land transport in Whitby – with coaches parked to the right beside the stone steps used for climbing onto the carriages. It is also worth noticing that the coach was drawn by four horses, so the equipage on the other side of the road was not one of the coaches or omnibuses which could transport people to and from Whitby for shopping or other reasons. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

Even if the development of the railways was decisive for the rapid development in the Victorian period, it was still possible to travel by coach to villages unconnected with the railway network while coastal traffic with steamers was extensively used to transport both passengers and goods. One advertisement from the 1870s may stand as an example of what was for sale of clothes and other necessary textile items for the cold season connected to this matter. It was the Linen & Woollen drapers Wellburn Brothers in Whitby, who on the 18th November in 1876 listed the popular black silk and woollen textiles, necessary bedclothes and ‘Ready-Made Clothing’ in warm material for boys and men. It is interesting also to note ‘Travelling Rugs’, which must have been a valuable accessory for every kind of excursion by coach, omnibus, boat or train during cold winter days.

Informative advert of some available coaches – in Whitby Gazette, 21st May in 1864. It may be noted that more than one coach firm operated to the same destinations; price, speed, comfort, refreshments, handling of luggage and direct routes were important qualities to pinpoint in this evidently competitive market. Unsurprisingly, the fare was cheaper for outside travel and it is also worth mentioning that timetables were coordinated with trains for ‘Middlesbrough, Stockton, West Hartlepool, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle. &c’. (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

 Previous post in this series:
‘Reduced Prices on Textile Goods – Advertising 1855-1914’.

– Hansen, Viveka, The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A lively coastal town between the North Sea and North York Moors, London & Whitby 2015. For full list of Notes & Bibliography, pp 404-423. (Additionally: Research material from the period 2006-2014, including surplus photographs and various facts not possible to fit into the book).
Whitby Gazette, 1855-1900 (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive).

(The monograph The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 is available here: The IK Foundation).

– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Coaches & Omnibuses – Shopping etc in the Long 19th Century’, TEXTILIS (May 9, 2017); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)