02 Mar 2015
Whitby - History
Historic photo of fishermen in Whitby Harbour

The History of the Harbour

Whitby Harbour is situated at the mouth of the River Esk, with a total area of around 32.40 hectares. The port has been owned and managed by Scarborough Borough Council since the earlier Harbour Commissioners relinquished their responsibilities in 1905.

There is no evidence that the port was used by the Romans but there are mentions of Whitby fishermen in the 12th Century.

The arms of the entrance piers extend out to sea in a northerly direction leaving the entrance exposed in strong winds from the north west through north to north east and sheltered from other directions.


The Fish Quay measures 214m x 18.3m and was built in 1957 in the lower harbour
The Swing Bridge, built in 1908, separates the upper and lower harbours
Endeavour Wharf was completed in 1964

The Lighthouses

There are two lighthouses and two beacons at the entrance to the harbour, all with fixed lights, with the east beacon showing red and the west beacon green.

The West Lighthouse was built in 1835 and is the taller of the two at 25.3m.
The East lighthouse was built in 1855 and is 16.5m high.

There is a foghorn situated on the end of the west extension which sounds a blast every 30 seconds during fog.


1979 saw the completion of dredging in the upper harbour and the laying of 251.5m of floating pontoon with 122m of drying pontoon and 2.4 hectares of reclaimed land adjacent for car parking and marine-orientated industries.

The Church Street Pontoon was completed in 1991 and the Party Pontoon in 1995.

The History of Whitby

Whitby has a wonderful history, a ruined abbey, a working harbour, a delightful collection of red-roofed pantile cottages, narrow cobbled streets, and claims to have the country's best fish and chip shops. The town is also close to the scenic North York Moors National Park and the unspoilt fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood's Bay.

Whitby is divided in two by the River Esk. St Mary's Church and Whitby Abbey are on the eastern headland. The Abbey is accessible by road, and also via 199 steps from the town to the summit. These steps have associations with Bram Stoker, as he based much of his Dracula novel here whilst staying in Whitby in 1890.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better know as Lewis Carroll) also set some of his work and poems in Whitby, as he was a regular visitor. The Abbey's history dates back to 675 A.D. when St. Hilda founded a monastery. The present structure is from 1078 and is now in the care of English Heritage.

Further Historical Information

For further historical information we recommend you contact:

Whitby Museum
Pannett Park
North Yorkshire
YO21 1RE
Tel: 01947 602908
Website: whitbymuseum.org.uk

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Port Services, Endeavour Wharf, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England. YO21 1DN  |  t: 01947 602354  |  e: port.services@Scarborough.gov.uk