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Old Whitby whalebones get new home

Beautiful Whitby AbbeyNew custodians have been found for Whitby’s old whalebones, two years after an appeal was first launched to find them a new home.


The iconic jawbone arch, which was replaced on the town’s West Cliff by a new set of whalebones in 2003, is set to become a major feature of Whitby’s newest hotel, the luxury Country Retreat, Raithwaite Hall, though details of how it will be displayed are still to be finalised.


The hotel owners, the Skelwith Group, secured the whalebones after pledging to make a “sizeable donation” to a local charity, with the beneficiary to be decided by readers of the Whitby Gazette in a newspaper vote. The leisure group also says it will pick up the tab for any associated storage and transport costs.


Scarborough Borough Council northern area officer, John Woodhead, 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.”


Paul Ellis, Managing Director of Skelwith Leisure, added: “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 old whalebones – which came from a 113-ton Fin Whale, killed in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic by the Norwegian whaling ship “Thorshovdi” – were given as a gift to Whitby Rural District Council in 1963 by the Norwegian Shipping Company, “Thor Dahl”, to put up in the town as a monument to the town’s whaling past.


The West Cliff was chosen as an appropriate place to display the jawbones given its close proximity to the Captain Cook monument. The whalebone arch measured 19ft and 3 inches in height and stood in the same location for almost four decades before it was decided it needed to be replaced due to it deteriorating condition.


The arch was replaced by new whalebones from a Bowhead Whale, killed legally by native Inuits in 1996 and donated by the people of Barrow in Alaska which is twinned with Whitby.
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