Whitby and its Professional Photographic History


If ever you mention Whitby photographer from the past you always think of Frank Sutcliffe who is almost certainly the towns most famous photographer, but if you do a little research you will find that there were a number of photographers also associated with the town and its history stemming from the earliest roots of photographs. There is a great book on the subject called Whitby Photographers written by Ruth Wilcock and in that book it takes you through the prominent and earliest photographers who worked in the town.


I personally bought from EBay,  a number of glass black-and-white negatives like the picture below, which showed a family of well-to-do Victorians on holiday in Whitby, but it gives you some idea of the kind of tourists which were visiting the town and these will be the kind of people who the likes of Frank Sutcliffe would photograph.

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You can buy box canvas prints of Whitby, including the Victorian prints mentioned above online from Whitby Art

Whitby black-and-white glass negatives which I reproduce as box canvas prints the sale online at Whitby Art

The picture shows Battery Parade, the building in the background is being demolished and there is now a new building which houses the cafeteria is and restaurant with the sentence on the Khyber Pass. But you can still see the little round house buildings, with the steps going up from the beach.

The above-mentioned booked which is an excellent interesting read with many superb photographs starts by pointing out that the first professional photographer in Whitby was a gentleman called William Stonehouse. He originally moved Whitby and started its own painting and decorating business in Whitby in 1844, has the above book points out even though he was not originally a professional photographer you slowly moved into that business and advertised in the Whitby area is photographic portraits of local and tourist which were coming to town prominently after the opening of the railway line between Whitby and Pickering in 1836.
If you’re interested in Whitby and some of its earliest recessional photographers who is how recommend reading the book, which takes you through the history of many photographers who worked in the town including of course Frank Sutcliffe.


Bill Eglon Shaw bought the Sutcliffe business in 1950 and helped out in the making of the Granada documentary all about the life and times of Sutcliffe called Heaven under the Hill.
Bills son Mike took the business over and now runs it after his father’s death in 2010. The Shaw family celebrated the 50th anniversary of owning be Sutcliffe legacy and were responsible for restoring approximately 200 glass prints to celebrate this milestone. I do believe there are more questions to come which have not been restored and one day I was discussing the subject of Frank Sutcliffe with Mike and he pointed out that at the time when Frank made his living by photographing the rich Victorian tourists he didn’t return the glass print negatives book would give them to the people got their photographs along with the print and so the glass print negatives you see today are the ones I believe he took in his pastime of local townspeople and fisherman.  Frank obviously could retain the glass black-and-white negatives as they were his property, it wasn’t selling the product.These are obviously from and historical point of view of Whitby by far the most interesting subjects to photograph anyway showing local life as it was in these Victorian times.

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