WHEREVER you go in Whitby, history oozes out of your surroundings – and Sanders Yard, just off Church Street, is a fine example of the intriguing stories that can be discovered if you step off the beaten track.
In this one-off feature, Joy Peach delves back into the deep history of the courtyard and encounters Quakers, ghosts, and Tog 24.
MY old house in Clark’s Yard is said to have been built in the 1750s for the first of the Whitby Sanders.
Jonathan Sanders, then in his fifties, was a prominent Quaker who had come from Guisborough to marry an affluent widow, the owner of a thriving sail cloth factory along Church Street, in what is now known as Sanders Yard.
Before long Old Quaker Jonathan, as he came to be called, was running a very successful business with 16 or more looms, storage facilities in the cellars, sales outlets, and cottages for the workers.
Most touchingly and with typical Quaker philanthropy, he had the cliffside behind the yard terraced with benches where the workforce could sit out among the flowers and shrubs to eat their bate of bread and cheese at midday.
In 1779 the old man died and the business was passed on to his son and grandson who expanded it and also opened a private bank named Sanders Bank.
A Sanders bank note was auctioned at Spinks in London not so long ago and is now on display in a Whitby hotel.
Sanders Bank was in the premises now known as Tog 24 and if you stand back across by the Town Hall and look up at the shop’s elegant double doors you can see engraved in the glass ‘JS’, Jonathan Sanders.
Obviously over the past 200 or so years the glass must have been replaced a time or two, but the initials and date have always been re-engraved, which is wonderful.
For virtually 75 years, the Sanders lived here in this house, while owning three other more modest properties in the yard.
In 1829 they were ready to move on to something grander and from the deeds we discovered that the house they moved to was 6 Foresters Court.
In the sales contract there is a clause that allows the purchasers to knock a window through the back wall to give some much-needed light on the steep spiral stairs.
It added the stipulation “as long as the window is of frosted glass and will not open”.
In other words, the Sanders did not want the riff-raff peering out at them in their smart new home.
So much for their Quaker philanthropy.
I’ve lived here for over 20 years, looking out on what has become a pretty scruffy mansion which, with the external stairway up to the first-floor door and its elegant Georgian windows, had obviously fallen on sad times.
But now it is to be done up, renovated, modernised and restored, which is excellent news and not before time.
I am not a Quaker, but I do feel that some of the Sanders family are still around me here, and last December I actually found one of them sitting quietly in a chair by the fire, still perfectly at home even after 200 years.