We passed by Roseberry Topping, which has a very distinctive shape, rather like our own Sharp Haw beyond Skipton, but with steeper sides. Apparently it used to look more like a sugar loaf, but there was a collapse in 1912, partly due to local alum mining. What a coincidence, the hill next to Sharp Haw is called Sugar Loaf.
We were on our way to Whitby, where Capt. Cook served his apprenticeship with the Quaker Walker’s shipping business. This was our first venture out with the Regional Furniture Society, and certainly won’t be our last. What an excellent collection of friendly experts.
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby is very well worth a visit, with high quality exhibits and much original fabric of the building carefully preserved. I was particularly impressed by the pastel portraits of Captain William Bligh (commanding lieutenant, HMAV Bounty) and of his wife with her truss of red currants. We need to return there and take a more detailed look at everything. I was magnetised by the Resolution model with it’s cut-away side and comprehensive and detailed array of the ship’s contents and crew, including the hen coit! We spent quite some time in there enjoying an excellent description of the exhibits by Dr Sophie Forgan.
It is an intimate museum, being housed in a former dwelling plus storerooms. I did notice in the attic where the young Cook slept and studied (along with a hoard of other apprentices), that some one had used a very blunt axe or adze to do some hacking on the roof timbers. It was over the staircase head, so maybe modern.
The highlight of the visit was Saint Mary’s church on the cliff top next to the abbey ruins. It is hard to do justice to this church, the interior and fittings in particular. Nikolaus Pevsner says of it, “It is one of the churches one is fondest of in the whole of England.”
Doesn’t look extraordinary from the outside, except it’s squat, but you wouldn’t build a tall steeple on a cliff top next to the sea now would you?
Inside the church is where the fun really begins. Triple decker pulpit, box pews by the score built over hundreds of years.
Even box pews in the galleries upstairs.
We were lucky to be allowed into the galleries which are normally open only for services. It feels like being below decks in a ship with the shallow support arches and the light filtering through from what seem like skylights from above deck. Little wonder really as the church had extensive building work done by shipwrights, Whitby having been a major ship building centre with up to 20 ship building yards. Little wonder then that the galleries are held up on wooden pillars that look remarkably like ships’ spars. And little wonder that the graffiti in the back-most pews tends to have a nautical flavour.