Whitehall is a Grade 2 Listed Building built at the turn of the 19th Century on the banks of the River Esk just above Spital Bridge. It is an imposing house which at the time must have had the proportions of a Mansion when compared to the cottages clustered upon the East Cliff of Whitby. Even today it is clearly outstanding when viewed from St.Mary’s Church or the Abbey, or from the West Pier or the old Bridge or Spion Kop on the west side of Whitby.

The owner in the early 1800s was known as Thomas Turnbull of Whitehall who was born in 1784. As the years passed other generations of the family built their own mansions; Thomas Turnbull of The Mount, and Thomas Turnbull of Airy Hill.

The family business to support this wealth and success was ship building. Whitehall Dockyard/ Shipyard was built and developed on the riverside just below Whitehall. Thomas Turnbull of Whitehall had the shipyard offices in front of his house and thus could look from his front windows and see the office, workers arriving and leaving and then see beyond, the curve of the river, the bridge, piers and the open sea.

The house still has some features from these days, notably the wide doorways in the downstairs family rooms to enable ladies to pass trough in crinolines, and the cramped dark attics where their servants slept and the equally low-ceilinged basement where they cooked food and washed laundry.

With the inventions and developments of steam ships Whitehall Shipyard ran into difficulties because the river was neither wide nor deep enough to allow for larger vessels. There were some iron and screw steel steamers built but by 1887 the business offices, now Turnbull Scott and Co. moved to London.

Members of the Turnbull family continued to live in Whitehall and over time gave generously to the town and its people. We know that in 1918 the house was sold with the shipyard.

Between 1918 and 1939 it continued to be used as a family home and then became a state school premises. Many Whitby people came to school here during the war years and remember it well.

Immediately following this period, Fyling Hall School, Robin Hood’s Bay opened their Primary Dept. in the house and kept it until 1985. The house obviously suffered damage through these years, not least from school lino nailed on the floors and drawing pins piercing the walls and woodwork.

In 1987 John and Sheila Hemson and their daughter Elizabeth bought Whitehall. It had been empty for a year or more, during which time thieves had entered and removed the banister rail, all the spindles, a fireplace and all the door-knobs. However many of the original fittings and cornices were safe.

Whitehall was completely renovated and repaired from a new roof of Cumberland slate down to a damp course at basement level. The work took two years and cost £100,000 but the house was transformed into an elegant and comfortable home.