Whitby’s East Pier Lighthouse – Rotting Away

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Whitby’s East Pier Lighthouse – Rotting Away

Letter To Mr John Riby From Nigel Ward, published with kind permission of Nigel and tagged with the keywords : Letters & Nigel ward

The decay of Whitby’s east pier lighthouse was reported to John Riby in this email. That was [fergcorp_cdt_single date=”11th september 2010″], as far as we are aware, no repairs have been undertaken to date. If you know different then please let us know.

Mr John RIBY – Head of Technical Services – SBC

Hello John,

It is some considerable time since last we corresponded, so let me begin by expressing the hope that this email finds you in good health and spirits, and that your plans for the future are progressing well.

This morning, I had the wonderful experience of going to the top of the West Pier Lighthouse, in company with your colleague Howard Foster, and I was reminded of an incident perhaps a year ago, perhaps longer. One morning, my wife strolled to the end of the East Pier with our late dog, Lulli, and happened to notice that the door of the East Pier Lighthouse was off its hinges, leaving the Lighthouse wide open. She took the opportunity of ascending to have a look round.

I was not in good health that morning, but later in the day, I visited the Lighthouse to confirm for myself that my wife’s report of general disrepair (especially the woodwork) was accurate.

By that time, somebody had been along and affixed a large sheet of ply-wood over the aperture, with screws. I believe it has remained so ever since.

Now I am wondering if the state of neglect of this iconic symbol of Whitby has been shut away and conveniently forgotten.

I hope you can assure me that this is not the case, and that plans are in place to restore the Lighthouse (inside and out). My I see those plans, please?

On another matter:

I am very disappointed to have had sight of a very unsatisfactory letter from your Harbour Master Martin Willis to Ken, of the family Graham. Aside from its high-handed tone (about which, more in a moment), I am sure you will agree that the correct protocol would have been to present an Agenda for the meeting to which he was inviting Ken. Certainly, 24 hours is a completely unsatisfactory notice for a meeting of any nature, even had it been expressed in courteous terms. There should surely also have been a clearly defined statement of the precise issues Ken was being summoned to address, supported by witness statements (of course, with personal details redacted to ensure compliance with the Data Protection laws) as well as photographs, video or sound recordings supporting the Harbour Master’s position. Martin seems to imagine that he may, at his own prerogative, convene a kangaroo court at a day’s notice. He cannot.

Certainly, it should have been pointed out to Ken that he was within his rights to bring along a friend or colleague to act as a witness, and indeed the opportunity to bring along a legal or union representative should have been outlined.

Had this example of high-handedness arisen ‘out of the blue’, as it were. I may have been inclined to pass over it without comment (just as I passed over the unfortunate circumstances of the Swing-Bridge breakdown at the beginning of August – knowing, as I did, that nothing could be gained by adding to your burden of responsibilities).

However, this incident falls swiftly on the heels of a very ill-considered email from Martin Willis to me on 11th August 2010. I find it rude, wittingly offensive, and completely inappropriate conduct in a servant of the public.

I have copied his email here below for your convenience of reference.

About the Author:

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  1. Whitby Warrior September 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    I am a little confused ?? What is Ken Graham alleged to have done ? is there any details of this on the real Whitby site ??

  2. Nigel Ward September 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Hello Nick,

    I am making an enquiry on behalf of a group of Whitby residents who have chanced to see correspondence with the Head of Technical Services in respect of the deteriorating condition of the Lighthouse on Whitby's East Pier. They are contemplating the formation of a 'Friends of Whitby East Pier' community group (by whatever name – of course, of their own choosing).

    Having visited the West Pier Lighthouse last Thursday with one of your colleagues, I can readily recognise their concerns. The East Pier Lighthouse needs all the friends it can get.

    I have been asked to make enquiries regarding the possibility of the group taking a lease on the East Pier Lighthouse.

    Would you please be so good as to direct me to the proper person to help me with these enquiries.

    I thank you in anticipation of your earliest guidance on this matter.

    kind regards,


  3. Nigel Ward December 14, 2010 at 8:37 am - Reply


    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: John Riby
    Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 6:02 PM
    Subject: Re: East Pier Lighthouse,Whitby Harbour

    Hi John,

    It has been a long day and I am only now dealing with my incoming emails. Thank you for your rather tardy response to my earlier reminder.

    I am a little unclear as to your intended meaning on a number of points, so I will adopt the procedure of annotating your remarks (in red bold) where a little elucidation would be greatly appreciated.




    —– Original Message —–

    From: John Riby
    To: Nigel
    Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 4:52 PM
    Subject: East Pier Lighthouse,Whitby Harbour

    Hello Nigel,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you about your recent enquiry about the possibility of a group renting the above.

    On the face of it there would appear to be no reason why the Council could not let the lighthouse providing that it is deemed by those interested parties to be fit for purpose and to be a safe structure.

    Would you please identify who it is that you mean by ‘those interested parties’? (It would seem to me that the only ‘parties’ involved here would be SBC, of the first part, and the community group, of the second).

    So far as I am aware ,although it is not in a perilous condition in terms of public access around the structure ,it would likely need an awful lot of work before it could be ‘occupied’.

    It is unclear to me what you mean by ‘occupied’. Please explain. (As far as I am aware, there has been no suggestion of ‘occupancy’ beyond the obvious requirement of access in order to proceed with restoration).

    This work would ,no doubt ,be expensive given the character of the structure.The Council does not currently have the financial resources available at this time to carry out a full assessment or to implement ,other than modest, safety works therefore the onus to take this idea forward would have to be with interested parties and not the Council.

    [Again, I felt I had made it clear that the very purpose of the community group taking on the Lighthouse was to perform any necessary restoration work. I am, of course, at this stage unable to define a timescale over which this could be accomplished. That would require a survey of the present state of the structure. If you have such to hand I would be very happy to go over that with the community group.]

    If anyone was seriously interested in pursuing this we would therefore need to agree a fully costed schedule of restoration works,specification and funding needed from the interested parties,with indemnities in place etc upon its occupation/use.

    [Again, this can be addressed only in light of the matters I have outlined above. It would seem to me from your earlier statements that SBC has no plans whatsoever to conduct any maintenance work of any kind on the Lighthouse in the foreseeable future. What kind of ‘indemnities’ can you have in mind regarding work that can only, by definition, be a greater contribution to the longevity of the structure than no plan at all?]

    I assume that a charitable entity would be established and a number of trustees would need to sign the lease.My colleague Mike Close would be the best person to provide you with the exact requirements.

    [Would you be kind enough to have Mike Close provide me with a (of course non-binding) template of the kind of lease the community group may be called upon to embrace? Thank you.]

    Not very encouraging I know ,but it is a pragmatic response and I hope this helps in any further considerations.

    [There is but one consideration – namely, to ensure that the present policy of allowing the Lighthouse to continue to deteriorate is improved upon. If SBC is unwilling or unable to mainain its assets, surely it is better that such work as is necessary pass into other hands than to simply allow the Lighthouse to fall into ruin? That would be lamentable. The Lighthouses form an (forgive a somewhat over-used – indeed, hackneyed – adjective) iconic part of Whitby’s maritime heritage. The community group, however poor its future performance, can scarcely do worse than SBC’s present performance. It is, of course, possible that Whitby Town (Parish) Council may wish to take a hand in preserving the Lighthouse, though their record suggests otherwise. That is beyond discussion. Let us try to get this show on the road, as they say.]


    John Riby

    I will write to John again today, Tuesday 14th Decemeber 2010.

  4. Nigel Ward December 14, 2010 at 11:47 am - Reply

    From: Nigel
    To: John Riby
    Cc: John.Woodhead@scarborough.gov.uk; Cllr.Mike Ward ; Cllr.Joseph Plant ; Cllr.Jane.Mortimer@scarborough.gov.uk ; Cllr.Jane.Kenyon@northyorks.gov.uk ; Cllr.guy.smith@scarborough.gov.uk ; Cllr.Dilys Cluer ; Cllr.Brian.Simpson@scarborough.gov.uk ; amanda.artefacts@btinternet.com ; Chris Firth ; Cllr.Dorothy Clegg ; jonathan.stokoe@yrnltd.co.uk ; GLENN KILPATRICK ; Cllr.Peter.Popple@scarborough.gov.uk
    Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 10:36 AM
    Subject: Re: East Pier Lighthouse,Whitby Harbour

    Mr John RIBY – Head of Technical Services – SBC


    I regret to note that I have received nothing from you, or from Mike Close, since my email to you of 26th October 2010, on the subject of the restoration of the East Pier Lighthouse. I had hoped to do so because I specifically informed Councillor Peter Popple that I was awaiting developments at your end.

    In the interim, circumstances have changed.

    The community group on whose behalf I have been attempting to progress the matter of the continuing deterioration of the East Pier Lighthouse are now having misgivings.

    As you will readily observe from the attached photo, the once imperceptible (to the naked eye) inclination of the East Pier Lighthouse toward the east has apparently increased – perhaps as a result of the pile-driving around the landward end of the East Pier Extension, immediately adjacent to where the Lighthouse is situated. The attached photograph has a rectangle superimposed upon it to highlight the visible deviation from the perpendicular.

    The community group retains its interest in restoring the interior of the Lighthouse, but feels, in the light of these fresh concerns about its structural integrity, that it would need compelling assurances that the building itself would remain the responsibility of SBC or the new Harbour Board – if that body ever actually performs its intended functions.

    Therefore, I believe it may be time for you to approach other bodies. Perhaps Whitby Civic Society would like to take an interest? Or even Whitby Town (Parish) Council?

    The community group remains committed to the restoration of the interior of the Lighthouse. The structural integrity remains your responsibility.

    Please get back to me on this before the Christmas break. Thank you.

    Kind regards,


  5. dammit janet December 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    zoinks! that’s good!

  6. Nigel Ward January 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    2nd January 2011 – still trying to get some sense out of SBC:

    Mr John RIBY – Head of Technical Services – SBC


    Happy New Year to you.

    You will note that I have taken the liberty of copying Mike Dawson into this email. Mike is, I believe, the Secretary of the Whitby Civic Society – a body which may well wish to take an interest in the subject matter.

    I am sorry to hear about Councillor Popple’s health misfortune. Would you please be able to tell me who will assume responsibility for Peter’s duties during his convalescence, in relation to the Harbour Board? Thank you.

    Moving on:

    You will recall that I made an approach to the Council back on 12th September 2010 in regard to the possibility of arresting the disintegration of the Whitby East Pier Lighthouse through the means of leasing it to a community group with a will to restore and preserve it.

    You have not been helpful in the matter. Residents are approaching me almost daily expressing grave concern about the state (and future) of the Lighthouse. You are aware that I have also raised the matter with Councillor Popple – without response.

    It becomes increasingly the popular perception that Richard Ineson’s assessment, in his email of 27th October 2010 is, in fact, a true reflection of the Council’s position:

    “We don’t want it, but we would rather it fell into the sea before we let anyone else have it, same with the old town hall.”

    I hope you will agree that this must not be allowed to happen.

    Following the news of the gaping 10′ square hole in the upper surface of Scarborough’s Lighthouse Pier:


    concerns about the angle of inclination of Whitby’s East Pier Lighthouse are far from allayed.

    The advent of the new Harbour Board and the concomitant reduction in the remit of Technical Services may well be imposing a burden on you and your colleagues. Notwithstanding, I have no intention of letting this matter drop and thereby allowing the deterioration of the Lighthouse to go beyond recall.

    Therefore, let us move ahead to find a practicable solution to the vital, for Whitby, task of preserving one of its most celebrated and iconic landmarks. My most recent email (of many) on this subject dates from 14th December 2010. A response is now well overdue.

    Kind regards,


  7. admin January 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    This article is also open for discussion in our online forums :


  8. Nigel Ward January 3, 2011 at 9:07 am - Reply

    . . . and on FaceBook.

  9. admin January 3, 2011 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Have you a link for the facebook discussion Nigel

  10. The Man In The White Suit January 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I don’t blame them for not letting you lot have a free run of the lighthouse, it would end up with 3-4 people dossing in it, maybe it’s time the council looked into what goes off in those ” huts” at the side of the railway / esk!!!!! ,

    • admin January 3, 2011 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Which is what exactly, and who is it your talking about ?

  11. The Man In The White Suit January 3, 2011 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Sorry , I’m drunk, I shouldn’t mention the council tax free huts

  12. Nigel Ward January 3, 2011 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    Looks like SBC could be responsible for forcing themselves to restore it . . .


    Grade: II
    Date Listed: 4 December 1972

    Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990

    42 Execution of works required by listed building enforcement notice.

    (1) If any of the steps specified in the listed building enforcement notice have not been taken within the [F11period for compliance with the notice], the authority may—

    (a) enter the land and take those steps, and

    (b) recover from the person who is then the owner of the land any expenses reasonably incurred by them in doing so.

    (2) Where a listed building enforcement notice has been served in respect of a building—

    (a) any expenses incurred by the owner or occupier of the building for the purpose of complying with it, and

    (b) any sums paid by the owner of the building under subsection (1) in respect of expenses incurred by the local planning authority in taking steps required by it, shall be deemed to be incurred or paid for the use and at the request of the person who carried out the works to which the notice relates.

    Perhaps our learned friend can make a useful contribution?

  13. Nigel Ward January 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm - Reply


    —– Original Message —–
    From: GREEN, Diane
    To: ‘Nigel’
    Cc: REDFERN, Neil
    Sent: Monday, January 17, 2011 11:24 AM
    Subject: RE: WHITBY East Pier Lighthouse

    Dear Nigel,

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    We are concerned to hear that the lighthouse on the East Pier is in poor repair and also that it is leaning and indeed that its angle of inclination appears to have increased. If the lean was an historic one and if it was now stable we would not be unduly concerned but if for some reason it has begun to move then action will be necessary. I am making enquiries with Scarborough District Council and will come back to you when I hear from them.

    With best wishes,

    Diane Green

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