Saturday 24 March 2012



  JRR Tolkien made two visit to the town of Whitby in his lifetime, the first was in the summer of 1910 as an 18 year old student of King Edward’s School in Birmingham. 

Always a keen artist it was whilst holidaying in the town that he sketched ‘The Ruins Of The West End Of The Abbey’, a picture that hints at his broadening artistic ability; a skill which would eventually be used to great effect in illustrating his books The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings. 

It is also interesting to note Tolkien’s handwriting even at this early age has taken on the appearance of the unique Elvish style that he incorporated in to all his Middle Earth his works.

His second visit appears to be in the early part of 1955, and judging by a correspondence sent from Oxford to a Mrs Turnbull of Whitby he was on the cusp of a momentous occasion.

In the letter Tolkien thanks Mrs Turnbull for her ‘munificent and magnificent gift’ (apparently champagne), he then apologies for his tardy response - the gift having only arrived two days before, and finally goes on to discuss the cause for his celebrations - clearing his desk of The Return Of The King:-

 'Though sending off the last items (with a marginal comment 'and at last') for Vol III might have seemed a suitable occasion for the withdrawing of at least one cork, I have so far refrained; but when I drink I shall remember with a gratitude at least as warm and deep as Old Rory felt for the bottles of Old Winyards. I can only hope Vol III will be up to it!'

Although only speculation on my part it would be nice to think that the town of Whitby and the ancient landscape that surrounds it may have - to a very small degree - helped to shape two of the greatest works of fiction ever imagined. 

Post by Richard Locker

Wednesday 21 March 2012


21st March 2012

Adders emerging from hibernation on the North Yorkshire Moors near Goathland. This photo was taken by Andy Cook during a morning walk.


The cruisers of the Bremen class consisted of seven ships in all. Apart from one (The L├╝beck, which had a turbine engine) they all relied on triple expansion engines. They were manouverable vessels, but notorious for rolling badly when the seas became stormy. All were named after German towns.

Even at the start of World War I they were not modern ships and several were lost. Nevertheless some survived throughout World War II, although not as combat vessels.

Prior to World War I the small cruiser Danzig was utilised in fleet operations and in artillery training. In 1914 she was once again used in fleet operations. She took part in the battle of Helgoland and was involved in operations at the Baltic Islands.

In 1919 the Danzig was delivered to England to be scrapped. This photograph shows her in Whitby harbour at the end of her final voyage. She was dismantled between 1922-1923.

Tuesday 20 March 2012


 During the 18th century the Quarantine or Plague Bible was commonly used in England as the first measure of defence against the deadly and highly contagious disease The Plague.

 The first Act of Quarantine was not officially established in England until 1710, some forty years after the country had last suffered at the hands of the Plague. The act itself would undergo several further amendments throughout the 1700’s, each one becoming progressively more stringent. Until eventually in 1824 the laws were finally relaxed, making the act of quarantine only at the discretion of the privy council. 

Up to this point a ship suspected of carrying the plague was placed in isolation for forty days at a distance of up to three miles off shore. The problem with this was that the Master of the quarantined vessel had to then present a report to the local port authority within the first 24 hours, which meant that at some point the Customs Official dealing with the case would have to come into physical contact with the ship’s crew, leading to the possibility that he could catch the disease himself.

So to resolve this problem the Plague Bible was introduced and Whitby, like all major sea ports that dealt with imported goods, immediately began using this rather simplistic and very honest method as a means of verifying whether it was necessary to quarantine a ship or not.

A Boarding Officer (tide surveyor) and a tide-waiter plus a crew of six would use a purpose built coble - a small locally built fishing boat - to a approach the quarantined vessel. Making sure that they were to the windward side of the ship, the Boarding Officer would then hail the ship’s Master.

Then, using a boat hook to hold up a metal encased copy of the New Testament, the Customs Official would make the Master swear an oath upon the Bible that neither he nor any member of the crew needed quarantine. On assuming that the ship’s Master was a Christian, and also that he was actually telling the truth, the vessel was then deemed safe enough to board.

It is also worth noting that in some sea ports across England a copper encased Bible would be fixed to a line and passed over to the quarantined vessel. Once the ship’s Master had sworn his oath, the Bible was cast overboard and dragged back through the sea to the official’s boat, a process which was believed to cleanse the book of  any disease and impurities it might be carrying.