Monday 9 May 2011


By Richard Locker

The story of The Old Mulgrave Castle Inn, like numerous other public houses in Whitby, can now only be found amongst the pages of local history books. But right up until the year 1887 - when it eventually fell into the sea - this public house was perched atop the cliffs at Upgang on the outskirts of the town, where it commanded a domineering view of a large swathe of the coastline, from the town’s harbour mouth right up to the village of Sandsend and beyond, in fact it was the perfect position for an Inn who’s major concerns were largely disreputable.

Little is known of the origins of the pub, but it is thought to been serving ales as long ago as the 1700s, and of course it was also a well known hub for the local smuggling gangs, as was proved by an incident that occurred in 1817.

It was in this years that a particularly daring 'run' took place. Included in the cargo run were five hundred 'tubs' of gin. The 'Preventative Men' - who happened at the time to be in strong force in Whitby, having come over from Hull - heard of a 'landing' which had taken place somewhere to the north of the town. They duly searched the neighbourhood of Upgang.

After searching for a long time without finding anything, they were just about to give up in disgust when a stonemason noticed that a certain stone in a retaining wall appeared to have recently been disturbed. He called the attention of the Preventative Men to this and, upon removal of the stone the searchers found a huge store of two hundred tubs, which were removed to Whitby in carts and wagons. The men in charge of the wagons were, as usual, in sympathy with the smugglers and ’lost’ more than a few of their tubs on their way into town.

A mounting blocking found in the vicinity of Upgang, possibly all that
remains of the Inn

When in Sandgate, a linchpin of one of the wagons was conveniently removed and the cumbersome vehicle upset, bursting a good number of the tubs of gin. The liquor ran into the gutters of the street, and was eagerly scooped up by the large crowd which had been drawn out of doors at the news of the capture. Those who found themselves at a loss for a scoop took off their boots and used these. Altogether a sad day for the local ’Pussyfoots.’

The following day, the Preventative Men renewed their search at Upgang, but without results, as the rest, and far the larger part of the cargo, had been removed during the night, with an audacity which deserved success. Nearly two hundred tubs were placed aboard a fishing boat, one of the Staithes 'yacker' type, and the vessel was actually brought into Whitby harbour and laid up on Bell Island 'for repairs', during the progress of which the incriminating cargo was quietly removed.
Account taken from Shaw Jeffrey’s ‘Whitby Lore and Legend’.

It seems that the Inn carried on with it’s risky business regardless of the probable close scrutiny the 1817 event would have incurred. The only other mention of a brush with the law was in 1860, when the then licensee a Mr Cornforth was charged with opening his house for the sale of drink before half past twelve on Sunday. After been cautioned he was ordered to pay costs, along with a Mr Thomas Pattison of the White House, who was also summoned on the same charge.

Mr Cornforth was in fact the last tenant of the Old Mulgrave Castle Inn as in the August of 1885 the justice refused to renew the Inn’s licence, because of the building‘s situation, which was by then was dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.

The area where the inn was situated, now part of Whitby golf course

Monday 2 May 2011


Text and pictures: Rachel Cockett

Born and bought up in Whitby. I live in Worcestershire and work in a museum in Birmingham. I recently went back up home to see my parents and to visit the places of my childhood. I met old friends, new friends, mysterious characters and at least one invisible little man.

Might it be the home of Elphi the hob? For the price of some daily bread, creamy milk and cheese Elphi keeps the museum clean and tidy. This video tells the story of what happened at Ryedale when the bad curator (who didn’t believe in Elphi) took charge.

Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre. A member of the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), NEVER has the word *independent* been more appropriately applied.

AND FINALLY...No visit back up home is complete without popping in to Whitby Museum. Home to the Hand of Glory and the Tempest Prognosticator (a Leech Barometer , but you knew that). My new favourite object is Sea Bishop, “made by fisherman for sale to gullible visitors”, a tiny preaching bishop formed from dried fishy bits, complete with mitre and…tail.