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The Yards of Whitby

As you wander through Whitby’s streets you may have seen gaps between buildings where you will find an alleyway or a passage. These are the Yards of Whitby. You’ll also notice that there will be a sign, marking the name of the yards.

These ‘Yards’ or ‘Ghaults’, as the locals call them, hide away a host of back-to-back cottages, often built into the steep cliffside. These cottages, with their central ‘yard’ or passageway, were built to home the many fishing families of the town.

The small cottages often housed up to 20 or so people, extended families sharing the cramped space. The residents lived in poor conditions and more often than not, in poverty. The yard itself was the centre of that particular small community, where the children would play and the women would do their laundry, chat to their neighbours and help each other out if and when they could.

Originally there were more than 100 yards but over the years some have fallen into disrepair and been demolished, but there still remains around 80 of them. Nowadays the yards are much brighter and pleasant places to live, today’s residents take care of the yards and decorate them with hanging baskets and pots of flowers. There are also a small number of gardens which were created in the spaces where some of the older cottages had to be pulled down.

The next time you’re in Whitby, keep an eye out for some of the yards and take a look at their names. You’ll find that some of them are rather intriguing and amusing, such as Arguments Yard and Loggerheads Yard. There are also others which are self-explanatory, like Bakehouse Yard and Kiln Yard.

To find out a little more about Whitby’s Yards, watch this short BBC video by clicking here


This image of one of the yards was taken by Francis Meadow Sutcliffe in the Victorian period.

Read more about Francis Meadow Sutcliffe Here