New owners for Whitby’s old whalebones

Impression of what the whalebones could look like at Raithwaite Halll
Impression of what the whalebones could look like at Raithwaite Halll

WHITBY’s original whalebones which had been sensationally put up for auction on eBay will be staying in the town after all.

The new and permanent owners of the bones, gifted to Whitby back in 1963, are the team behind the recently opened luxury Raithwaite Hall hotel between Whitby and Sandsend.

When the whalebones were spotted for sale on the internet auction site at the beginning of January for just £100 it prompted widespread interest from people all over the country.

It was decided that the then owners, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), would invite offers of interest and last week, in conjunction with the Whitby Gazette, it was felt Raithwaite Hall had the best overall bid.

The Skelwith Group, which is behind the development, pledged to make a £1,000 donation to a local charity which will be chosen by readers of the Whitby Gazette.

Paul Ellis, managing director of Skelwith Leisure, said: “Whitby’s old whalebones are an extremely important historical artifact.

“We are delighted to be able to give them a new home and put them back on public display so local residents and visitors to the town can see them once again.

“Raithwaite Hall is historically important to the town and by bringing the bones to the hotel we are able to continue to protect and safeguard the town’s history, and play a further important role in the town.”

The exact location where they will be sited within the grounds hasn’t been decided but it is thought they will be used within a feature that is visible from the road.

The Skelwith Group will pay any costs for transporting the bones to Raithwaite from Wilf Noble’s in Ruswarp where they have been stored on behalf of SBC, as well as any storage costs.

The whalebones were taken down from West Cliff in 2003 because their condition had deteriorated so much after being exposed to the elements but were still considered to be

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important to the town.

John Woodhead, SBC’s northern area officer, said: “Interest in acquiring the whalebones gathered momentum after recent renewed publicity and we were delighted to receive a total of 17 requests from individuals and groups who wanted to take ownership of the bones.

“The offers were carefully considered by a panel comprising myself and ward councillors Alf Abbott and Joe Plant, with reporter Emma Spencer from the Whitby Gazette and we all felt the Raithwaite offer stood out from the other ideas on the table.”

The whalebones came from a 113-ton Fin Whale, killed in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic by the Norwegian whaling ship “Thorshovdi”.

They were given as a gift to Whitby Rural District Council by the Norwegian Shipping Company, “Thor Dahl”, to put up in the town as a monument to the town’s whaling past.

It was 19ft and 3 inches high and stood in the same location for almost four decades before it was decided it needed to be replaced due to its condition.

It was replaced by new whalebones from a Bowhead Whale, killed legally by native inuits in 1996 and donated by the people of Whitby-twinned Barrow in Alaska.

*Tell us where you think the £1000 donation from Raithwaite should go by simply filling in the coupon and returning to the Gazette offices on Bridge Street by Friday 2 March where the six charities or causes with the most votes will be featured in the paper and the final decision will be made by readers via a phone vote.