Renewed calls to help ‘Captain Cook church’

Father Phillip James outside St Ninian's Church.
Father Phillip James outside St Ninian's Church.

One of Whitby’s most historic churches is continuing its battle to stay open.

St Ninian’s Church on Baxtergate is struggling to meet day-to-day running costs and is so low on funds that parish priest Father Philip James has warned it could close by the end of the year.

But he says locals are rallying around with money raising events, and is appealing to others to follow suit.

Following a story in the Gazette before Christmas telling of the church’s plight, a local woman donated £2500 to cover annual insurance costs and further fundraising events have been lined up.

Weekly tombolas will start again and on Friday April 10 a 12-hour darts marathon is being held at the Black Swan pub, also on Baxtergate.

There will also be an auction of prizes and sports memorabilia on the night and the Friends of St Ninian’s Church group is also being set up.

Father Philip said: “We had a slow response but you expect that in the run up to Christmas.

“Dealing with charity appeals is not really in people’s minds at that time.

“People have said they will join the group but it is a case of rounding them up. But from that story we had a very generous donation and we have to have that insurance.”

Now the busy summer months are approaching, Father Philip hopes that people might want to hire the church for a variety of uses such as organ recitals and music performances.

He is also open to other suggestions and hopes that even if people aren’t regular church members they will support St Ninian’s because of its historical significance and connections with naval explorer Captain Cook.

Father Philip added: “Building the church did not happen overnight. There was a lot of talk and they had to find the land.

“There is every chance that James Cook knew that the men who built his ships were about to build a church here in Whitby but he never had the chance to worship here.

“Whitby was famous for ship building and it is unique for a church to have been built by James Cook’s ship builders.

“People don’t need to be connected to the church, but it is the historical building we hope people would be passionate about keeping open.”

Contact Father Philip with suggestions on 603013/07944791676 or