In many towns whose antiquity and picturesqueness are more popular than the attractions of Whitby, the railway deposits one in some distressingly ugly modern excrescence, from which it may even be necessary for a stranger to ask his way to the old-world features he has come to see. But at Whitby the railway, without doing any harm to the appearance of the town, at once gives a visitor as typical a scene of fishing-life as he will ever find. When the tide is up and the wharves are crowded with boats, this upper portion of Whitby Harbour is at its best, and to step from the railway compartment entered at King’s Cross into this busy scene is an experience to be remembered.
In the deepening twilight of a clear evening the harbour gathers to itself the additional charm of mysterious indefiniteness, and among the long-drawn-out reflections appear sinuous lines of yellow light beneath the lamps by the bridge. Looking towards the ocean from the outer harbour, one sees the massive arms which Whitby has thrust into the waves, holding aloft the steady lights that
’Safely guide the mighty ships
Into the harbour bay.’
If we keep to the waterside, modern Whitby has no terrors for us. It is out of sight, and might therefore have never existed. But when we have crossed the bridge, and passed along the narrow thoroughfare known as Church Street to the steps leading up the face of the cliff, we must prepare ourselves for a new aspect of the town. There, upon the top of the West Cliff, stand rows of sad-looking and dun-coloured lodging-houses, relieved by the aggressive bulk of a huge hotel, with corner turrets, that frowns savagely at the unfinished crescent, where there are many apartments with ‘rooms facing the sea.’ The only redeeming feature of this modern side of Whitby is the circumscribed area it occupies, so that the view from the top of the 199 steps we have climbed is not altogether vitiated. A distinctive feature of the west side of the river has been lost in the sails of the Union Mill, which were taken down some years ago, and the solid brick building where many of the Whitby people, by the excellent method of cooperation, obtained their flour at reduced prices is now the headquarters of some volunteers.