Considering the age and prominent location of The Black Horse Inn it is awe inspiring consider the list of distinguished people who may well have called in for refreshment while in Whitby, or even stayed here:
Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of the English writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who most famously authored Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (first published in 1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). His first published work however, was a satirical poem called The Lady of the Ladle, published in the Whitby Gazette during a visit here in 1854.
It is acknowledged that while in Whitby, Dodgson was establishing his character as a teller of anecdotes and as a free-lance humorous journalist. The origins of Alice are largely attributed to one particular event, a trip up-river from Oxford with three little girls in 1862, however his earlier writings demonstrate that he had been unconsciously preparing himself for Wonderland and its sequel for some twenty years. Dr Thomas Fowler, a fellow-member of a mathematical reading party on that trip to Whitby in 1854, remembered that he "used to sit on a rock on the beach, telling stories to a circle of eager young listeners of both sexes" and believed that "it was there that Alice was incubated".
Alas there are no Black Horses in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass but who can say whether one Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson might have been in The Black Horse?
At the height of the Victorian era, Collins popularity as a novelist was rivalled only by that of his close friend Charles Dickens, another regular visitor to Whitby. Collins often came here, perhaps most notably in 1861 when he was accompanied by Caroline Graves, the inspiration for The Woman in White (1859) - although he was actually working on his novel No Name (1862) at the time. Collins was a pioneer of the psychological thriller and it is said that in The Moonstone (1868) he practically invented the character of the investigating detective with his character Sergeant Cuff.
Born in Marton, Yorkshire in 1728, Cook came to Whitby in 1746 where he was apprenticed to Captain John Walker. He joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman in 1752, quickly working his way up through the ranks. Most of the ships he sailed on, including were built in Whitby including those used for his Voyages of Discovery namely the Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery
It was upon his first Voyage of Discovery (1768-71) aboard the Endeavour, an expedition sponsored by the Royal Society of London to observe the transit of Venus, that Cook and his crew became the first Caucasians to set foot on Australian soil. His second Voyage of Discovery (1772-75) aboard Resolution and Adventure disproved the theory of a 'Great Southern Continent' and charted some of Antarctica. The third and final Voyage of Discovery (1776-80) aboard Resolution and Discovery charted the north-western coast of North America in search for the 'Northwest Passage'. Cook did not return form this voyage as he was killed by natives in Hawaii in 1779 in a dispute over the theft of a boat.
Charles Dickens is known to have visited Whitby and in a letter of 1861 to his friend Wilkie Collins, who was at the time in Whitby, Dickens says:
"In my time that curious railroad by the Whitby Moor was so much the more curious, that you were balanced against a counter-weight of water, and that you did it like Blondin. But in these remote days the one inn of Whitby was up a back-yard, and oyster-shell grottoes were the only view from the best private room."
Clearly Dickens is responding to comments made in a previous (unseen) letter from Wilkie Collins about the precarious nature (hence doing it like Blondin - the famous tight-rope walker) of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. We have never heard a convincing explanation of what he meant by "oyster-shell grottoes". It is undisputed that The Black Horse was operating as an inn throughout Dickens lifetime and as such is one of the candidates for being the establishment to which he refers. It is also interesting to note that at that time, what had previously been the coaching sheds at The Black Horse were being used by fishermen to store boats and other paraphernalia.
Elizabeth Gaskell, a significant social historian of the nineteenth century who described the lives of working people and the class struggles of Victorian England in her most famous novels Mary Barton and North and South. Gaskell visited and conducted research in Whitby in 1859 and went on to base her historical novel Sylvia's Lovers in the Whitby of the Napoleonic era, although the town assumes the name of Monkshaven in the book.
These is often confusion about Captain William Scoresby because there were in fact two of them: Captain William Scoresby Senior (1760-1829) and his son Captain William Scoresby Junior (1789-1857). Both were scientists, inventors, explorers and successful whaling captains.
Captain William Scoresby Senior was the son of a farmer who left school early to work on the farm before coming to Whitby in 1780 to serve his apprenticeship. He became captain in 1790 and amongst his many achievements are that in 1806 he took his ship the Resolution to within 510 miles of the North Pole, the highest latitude attained by a sailing ship, and that in 1807 he invented of the crows nest; it is believed that the unusual pulpit in St Mary's Parish Church (at the top of the 199 steps) may have been the inspiration for his idea.
Captain William Scoresby Junior studied at the University of Edinburgh before entering the whaling trade with his father and continuing his work in surveying the Arctic regions. He authored numerous scientific works on subjects such as the nature of the polar currents and the temperature of the sea and atmosphere. In 1824 he gave up the sea for the church and attended Cambridge University to become a Doctor of Divinity. His scientific work continued, including a voyage to Australia in 1856 to test the effects of an iron ship on the compass. His work on magnetism and electromagnetism, and his contribution to the development of the modern magnetic compass are particularly noteworthy.
Born in Dublin, Stoker was a frequent visitor to Whitby and used it as one of the major locations in his book Dracula, published in 1897. Stoker is known to have stayed at The Crescent and uses the house that he stayed in as the home of the ill fated Lucy. In his book, Lucy and Mina take regular strolls across the town to the graveyard at St Mary's Church, a route with which he was clearly familiar and which would have taken him past The Black Horse. Although we cannot be certain, it seems unlikely that he would not have called in to take a look at the public serving bar which was at that time, a revolutionary concept.
Born in Leeds, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was the son of a watercolour artist, etcher and lithographer who encouraged his interest in photography, then a relatively new development. He moved to Whitby in 1871 and set up his own professional photographic studio in a disused jet workshop in 1875 producing photographic portraits. His pictorial scenes, especially of the town, proved popular with visitors. During his lifetime he won over sixty gold, silver and bronze medals in international competitions and in 1935 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society the photographic world's highest accolade. You can see and buy reprints of his work, which provides a unique insight into life in Victorian Whitby, at the Sutcliffe Gallery. Alas there are no photographs of our own Black Horse amongst them.