The Textile History of Whitby - Whitby Online

The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914

Whitby's geographical position with its relative isolation for land transports 'until the introduction of the railway' in combination with its extensive possibilities for far reaching voyages by sea, had substantial impact on the town in terms of both national and international influences. This mix of prospects made unique choices for the town's population; primarily related to trades in shipping, commerce, fishing industry, later jet manufacturing and tourism. All these factors also gave important input to the 'textile activity' in Whitby, which mainly in the first part of the period can be seen in the long lasting sailcloth manufacturing and sail making tradition as well as in the trading with expensive fabrics from other English ports and far reaching foreign destinations. The second half of the researched period predominately includes many hundreds of textile workers in tailoring, dressmaking, drapery and other close linked businesses, together with a large group occupied with laundry. These circumstances can both be related to the nation wide improving prospects for the growing middle classes to own more clothes, but also to Whitby's increasing popularity as a coastal resort during the Victorian time which made the drapery trade prosperous. These are some of the historical consequences that are discussed related to the textile development in Whitby. Both the town's unique qualities contradicted to the many obvious similarities in comparison to similar sized towns, are questions related upon from many angles of the textile history.

The research related to the textile traditions of the Whitby area is the foundation for the book project 'The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914' by Viveka Hansen; scholar and regular visitor to Whitby.

Viveka's study of the material in combination with the writing of the main text and three appendices, was carried out between the years 2006 and 2012. A large number of primary sources have made the base for the research; in form of costumes, accessories, textile tools, letters, deeds, photographs, census, parish church registers, maps, paintings etc. These primary sources are today to the greatest extent kept at Whitby Museum (Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society); library, archive and museum collections in Pannett Park Whitby. The research for Viveka's publication has secondarily taken place at other museums and institutions; in Whitby, North Yorkshire, Leeds, London, Oxford and in Lund, Sweden.
The aim of this textile investigation has been to catch the 'textile spirit' of Whitby for the duration of more than 200 years. Primarily as a valuable documentation of a unique area's textile traditions, but also as a local history research project put into a wider context.

'Already after a year of study '2007' I realised that my area of interest included a large volume of fascinating historical sources when brought together could shed new light on this part of the history. The extensive collections have contributed to that this publication has been more comprehensive than first planned. The written text includes c. 160.000 words; which cover the textile development of Whitby, textile occupations and trades, advertising of clothes and textile materials in the local paper Whitby Gazette, sailcloth manufacturing and sail making, clothes and collections, local knitting and the ganseys, dyeing and washing, samplers and other embroideries, textile recycling, introduction to the period before 1700 and three appendixes.'

A short excerpt from the book is on Whitby Online here...

For full details and ordering information click on the image below...

And for Viveka's textile blog...


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