Feature: Spotlight on Grape Lane

Old picture of the Whitby Gazette office from Horne's Guide to Whitby. The former Gazette office was on the corner of Grape Lane and Bridge Street.
Old picture of the Whitby Gazette office from Horne's Guide to Whitby. The former Gazette office was on the corner of Grape Lane and Bridge Street.
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What do you remember about Grape lane? That was the question the Captain Cook Memorial Museum put to residents and businesses along one of Whitby’s most famous streets.

A collection of the history and memories from the narrow passage has now been transformed into an exhibit, documenting its transformation over time.

The exhibit takes the form of boards along the lane. Picture: Scott Wicking.

The exhibit takes the form of boards along the lane. Picture: Scott Wicking.

The exhibit is presented in the shops, windows and includes recordings of people talking about their memories.

Walking down the narrow passageway can feel like a trip through history. The lane used to be known as Tin Ghaut. “Ghaut” is a Viking word which stands for a narrow street leading to a river. As an inn was located at the end of the street, it became know as “T’inn Ghaut”.

The lane also used to be known by another name, attributed to the lack of lighting along the dark passageway. “Grope Lane” was so called due to the way people had to grope their way along due to the darkness caused by the fact that the lane was often unlit.

The exhibit was unveiled on Saturday night where a number of local people gathered to share their stories. The way the history is presented is unique in the sense that the entire exhibit is in the windows of the lane itself.

The exhibit on Grape Lane. Picture: Scott Wicking.

The exhibit on Grape Lane. Picture: Scott Wicking.

Ideas for an exhibition began with the purchase of the ‘shop’ at number 17-18, facing out onto Grape Lane, which is now used as a community and education space by the museum. “It seemed an excellent idea to talk to people who have had connections with the lane, before this information is lost” said Miriam Shone, community liaison officer and organiser of the exhibition.

“We put out appeals for people to share their memories and had a tremendous response from the local community, with people coming forward with all sorts of stories and memories, documents, photographs and other information”.

A small team of people from Grape Lane, The Captain Cook Museum and Whitby Museum came together to help work on the project, with researchers Alan Appleton and Mike Yates providing all the historical information on the buildings.

Contributors included Sarah and Debbie of the Horne family who owned the Whitby Gazette from 1854 until 1978 who came with a tremendous archive which the museum was able to use, as well as their stories of their father Lionel and memories of the Gazette offices. Brian Hodgson, from Hodgson’s Decorators, brought in many photographs and other information telling the story of his family’s business on the lane for well over 100 years.

The exhibit on Grape Lane.

The exhibit on Grape Lane.

Mike Willison gave the museum lots of information about his Aunt Annie Willison, a well-remembered local character. Former Whitby town mayor and lifeboat fund-raiser, who worked at the old Burberry factory, Ada Myers grew up in Cockpit Yard, now the car park.

She shared entertaining stories and kindly opened the exhibition at the museum.

People came to the museum to tell their stories in recorded interviews, as well as over the phone, by letter and email. “There was a great deal of fantastic information which we have tried to represent in the exhibition boards we have produced” said Miriam. The stories are informative, interesting, funny and poignant and we aimed to have a good cross-section in the exhibition.

The businesses and residents have given a fantastic response to the exhibition, hosting boards and displays in their windows and on boards outside too. Other shops such as ‘Green Dragon Ales’ at number 4-5 and ‘Natural Wonders fossils’ at number 20 helped to generate extra information too. ‘The Coffee Shop’ at number 8 has its own exhibition on food through the ages as part of the show and the Coffee Shop team has devised a special ‘Grape Lane Menu’ with food of different eras from Victoria Sponge to spam toasties!

The museum commissioned local signwriters, Pete and Jo Witney to paint an eight-foot-high scene of Tin Ghaut for visitors to enjoy. Miriam added: “It’s such a shame that Tin Ghaut is now a car park. So many people remember life on Tin Ghaut before it was demolished in 1959.” If you want to hear some of the interviews, there is a sound box outside the museum with a selection of the recordings made by the museum which really brings the history of the lane to life.

There is also a Kids’ Quiz and competition which can be collected from the museum, library or Tourist Information Centre for a chance to win a prize. The exhibition runs until Sunday, June 4 and the Captain Cook Museum would welcome any feedback. Email: cookmuseumwhitbyclo@hotmail.co.uk or call: (01947) 601900.