Seafarer's Gate

From the archive, Tribute to Whitby Seafarers Past and Present

Whitby Civic Society's AGM, Monday 21 February [2005] formally approved the erection of a tribute to Whitby seafarers past and present. For almost two years the Society, via a sub-committee of Maureen Eves, Elizabeth Cheyne, the late Mr Ben Dean, chaired by Mrs.D.Wort, had been planning a monument to commemorate the development of Whitby by its maritime connections. After much discussion, it was decided that a tribute to Whitby seafarers, both past and present, would be the most appropriate. This was in no way in conflict to the RNLI's proposed memorial to those who had lost their lives at sea.

Consent to research the possible design of such a monument having been given by the Society's AGM of 2004, advertisements were placed for artists to submit their ideas. From about one hundred requests for details of the project , some thirty or so suggested designs were received. These ranged from bronze statues, granite plaques, mosaic paving, woodcarvings, stainless steel signposts, decorative ironwork etc. Prices varied between £3,000 and £50,000. An open meeting of the Society was held July 2004 at which examples of the various designs were displayed and discussed. Members present were requested to vote for their preferred design. This narrowed the submissions down to five. Subsequently the sub-committee decided that decorative ironwork would be the most practical and cost effective. James Godbold of Egton was requested to design a decorative gate to replace the existing safety gate which would close the West Pier extension in stormy weather. After several meetings and site visits with the sub-committee, James Godbold produced the design shown below.

Original drawing

Original drawing of the Storm Gate

The idea behind this design was a commemoration of Whitby's respect for the explorers, merchant seamen, whalers, fishermen, life boatmen, and all other seafarers of the town and surrounding district, both past and present. This design achieved the original aims which were that the monument should be of use to the public; to restore to use some local neglected maritime object which is readily seen, accessible and within sight of the sea; the work to be carried out by local workers and artists if possible; and the cost to be modest and achievable. 

The drawing shows the gate in its open position, i.e. swung back against the pier wall. When closed in storm conditions the warning regarding the danger of high seas will be shown on the reverse of the central anchor. The gate would be constructed of steel and galvanized to be of low maintenance. It was also intended that a plaque describing the purpose of this tribute would be mounted on the pier wall adjacent to the gate. As this gate was to be a replacement for the existing rather dilapidated one, planning approval had already been granted with the help of the Harbour Master, Captain Estil, David Green of the planning department (and now of Whitby Civic Society) and Mr. Woodhead, Borough Engineer.

Scarborough Borough Council were willing to take responsibility for maintenance. The total cost of the project would be about £4,000, at that point approximately one third of that had been promised in grants; £500 from the Normanby Trust, and £1000 from the Northern Area Development Committee of Scarborough Borough Council. It was hoped that
the balance would be raised by further grants of public funds and by private subscription. Anyone wishing to make a donation, whether private individual or local firm was requested to send a cheque payable to Whitby Civic Society to Mr. R.Barron of Stainsacre.

Any surplus money after the gate was erected would be divided equally between The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, and the local Seamen's Hospital in Church Street. The monument was unveiled on Friday 21 October 2005 to coincide with the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, .

Seafarer's GateSea Farer's Gate

Maureen told a funny story about the plaque turning  green within a few months which despite three chemistry degrees between her and Dr Shorter (then Chair) they hadn't realised would happen, "We had it cleaned once but of course it just turned green again! It makes me smile now!"

Unveiling of Seafarer's Gate

 Unveiling of Seafarer's Gate 21 October 2005


Tribute to Whitby Seafarers Safety Gate Accounts November 2005

Income Collected £s

NYCC Coast and Moors Committee 1000

SBC Northern Area Committee 1000
Yorventure on behalf of the Yorwaste Landfill Tax Credit Scheme 1000
The Normanby Charitable Trust 500
NE Co-op Teesside &North Yorks Area Community Dividend Fund 500
Whitby Fishermens Society Football Club 250
Donations from individuals and groups 651.50
Fund raising by Civic Society 208.48
TOTAL £5109.98

Expenditure Paid £s

Design manufacture and erection of Tribute to Seafarers Safety Gate 3470.95
Manufacture and transport of Commemorative Plaque 1386.50
Erection of Plaque (carried out by SBC) Nil
Third Party Re-imbursement to Yorwaste Ltd 100.00

Postage, printing, stationery expenses 144.44

TOTAL £5101.89

Balance £8.09

Source: From the Archive with special thanks to Janet Kukk. Photos courtesy of Maureen Eves.