Heart-warming new Christmas tradition at Albert’s Eatery, Whitby
Christmas is all about tradition – so it is always heart warming when new ones come along, writes Helen Hutchinson.
The Friends of Wesley Hall met at the building’s restaurant, Albert’s Eatery, in Whitby, for their second annual Christmas dinner.
Laid on by Chris Sellors, the party was joined by the Windmill Girls who sang Christmas carols while black and white photos of Whitby were projected onto a large screen at the front of the hall, and guests shared their memories of the old chapel.
Tales of Whitby’s history, brought to life with anecdotes of the East Side back to a time when the town had a thriving fishing community.
Louis Breckon lives on Henrietta Street and is one of only two local people there, the rest are holiday homes.
His family lived on Tate Hill for four generations, and he remembered going the chapel services as a small boy.
“I was a fisherman for 61 years. There’s been lots of changes, gone are the days when we had twenty trawlers in the harbour.
“My grandad George Peart worked for the coastguard and when the hospital ship the Rohilla went down he went out multiple times to save people and was awarded for his bravery and service.”
Louis remembered how once, when jet was out of fashion, there were only a couple of shops but “now there’s a dozen, and it’s great to see.”
David Verrill started Sunday school at the chapel aged three, and went on to become a Sunday school teacher.
“It brings back lovely memories being here, they come flooding back,” he said.“There was very little social provision in the 1940s for children so it was a religious and social centre. It was like a community hub on upper Church Street.
“We had annual anniversary’s where we recited poetry and sang songs. There were concerts, pantomimes and bazaars all set out with stalls. Then there was the harvest festival, from one side of the hall to the other was piled high with fruit and vegetables.”
On the other side of the room Bill and Mary Breckon sat with their grandson Danny.
All their children were christened in the chapel.
One of their daughters, Diane, used to attend the Sunday school and some of her work is on display in the building’s memories cabinet - she eventually became a teacher there.
Bill used to live on Church Street and go to the Cholmley School, which is now the Friendship Club across the road.
“Miss Herbert and Miss Lacey used to bring us over from school to the chapel.
“I loved going to school, we had two classrooms and underneath a playground.”
Fisherman Bill had the coble Bright Star and after 45 years recently sold it.
His wife Mary described how wives and daughters of fishermen worked.
“The women would look after the lines and collect the mussels from the Scaur.
“Then they’d prepare them by getting them out of the shells. It was cold hard work and you wouldn’t be able to get people to do it now.”
Irene Storr and her three sisters Linda Booth, Susan Green and Jennifer Leadley grew up on Henrietta Street and all came to the Sunday School at the chapel.
Her family were in the jet business and her grandfather was a jet turner.
Her mother’s side of the family ran Fortune’s Kippers.
“I’m the only one born on the street living here now,” said Irene.
“Back in my great grandparents time in 1851 there was a census and at that point there was over 500 people living in Henrietta Street, it was jumping with
children and on the whole they were very poor families.”
After The Windmill Girls had finished their carols, Chris Sellors updated everyone with the continuing restoration and conservation of the building.
Wesley Hall is also home to the Museum of Whitby Jet, which runs in partnership with W Hamond, also owned by Chris.
Next year marks the 160th anniversary of W Hamond and a whole series of events, celebrations and commemorative projects are planned throughout the year.
The Wesley team are now asking for anyone with old pictures of Whitby to bring them in so they can be scanned and shared on the big screen at future events.