Barely visible, under layers of dust ... but Whitby wartime Roll of Honour was centenary centrepiece

Curator of the Museum of Whitby Jet, Rebecca Tucker.
Curator of the Museum of Whitby Jet, Rebecca Tucker.

Halfway up the cobbles of Whitby’s old Church Street sits a building almost as historic as the street itself.

The imposing arts and crafts style chapel known as Wesley Hall holds many different memories for different people.

The roll of honour.

The roll of honour.

For some, it is the place where they were married, christened or attended Sunday school, while for others it is remembered as a quirky wool and bric-a-brac shop.

Despite slipping into a state of decay over the past few decades, its appreciation by locals as a much-loved and respected building has always prevailed and when the previous owners decided to retire nearly four years ago it was taken over by the oldest Whitby jet shop in town; W Hamond, The Original Whitby Jet Shop Est. 1860.

From day one, the plan was to completely restore and conserve Wesley Hall, reopening it as a Museum of Whitby Jet with an onsite seafood restaurant named Albert’s Eatery.

The restoration was expected to take 18 months, perhaps a little ambitious, however no-one was expecting it to take three-and-a-half years – such was the number of unforeseen repairs which needed addressing to put the building back into good order again.

Armistic Day would be the perfect opportunity to put this amazing memorial back on display.

Rebecca Tucker

At times, the work was arduous and frustrating, but at the same time it was always full of intrigue and fascination as Wesley Hall’s secrets and relics were slowly uncovered, from old newspaper cuttings and hymn books to old sail making tools.

But the find that created the biggest intake of breath was the one found in the buildings cellar.

At first glance it was nothing special; a black wooden picture frame, devoid of its glass, but within it a picture that gave an immediate impression of importance.

Written in fancy calligraphy were the names of men, bordered by highly decorative watercolour paintings, barely visible under the thick layers of dust and dirt accumulated over many years.

The staff at Albert's Eatery, from left: Daisy Pennock, Nicola Hall & Nathan Welham.

The staff at Albert's Eatery, from left: Daisy Pennock, Nicola Hall & Nathan Welham.

It was Wesley Hall’s Roll of Honour.

Curator of the Museum of Jet, Rebecca Tucker, said: “It occurred to us that this year marked the centenary of Armistice Day and it would be the perfect opportunity to put this amazing memorial back on display after being hidden away for so long, but we had to work fast.

“With only weeks to go until the anniversary, we needed to restore the building to a point where we could open it to the public once again.”

It was all hands on deck but on September 6, the doors to Wesley Hall reopened and after a careful and delicate clean-up, the Roll of Honour was ready to go back on display.

“It was decided that for Armistice, a large poppy display would form up the spiral staircase, with the memorial at its centre, a dramatic and impactful arrangement worthy of those men honoured, and for all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms,” added Rebecca.

Perhaps the biggest mystery about the Roll of Honour are the lack of dates written upon it, on one side it states, ‘WAR DECLARED: AUG 4 TH 1914’ and on the other side ‘PEACE CONCLUDED: …...’

One day, this gap may be filled.