Film ID:
NEFA 20526



Visitor Tabs


A comprehensive look at Whitby's herring fishing and curing industry made by Edward Roberts in the early 1950s.

Title: Durham County Education Committee
Title: Whitby’s Herring Industry
Title: Filmed and produced by E. Roberts County Inspector of Schools

Title: Sunset. Drifters Leave Harbour

The film begins with a high level view over North Promenade on Whitby’s West Cliff.

A fishing boat heads to sea from the harbour mouth, passing the pier extensions. General seascape with fishing vessels out at sea.

Title: Next morning boats in the harbour

Panoramic view from Whitby’s swing bridge of the boats of the herring fleet, moored six or seven deep, beside the Fish Quay. View over the bow of a fishing boat, ropes and pulleys crossing the frame, towards Tate Hill Pier as a small coble passes by.

View of the bow of a fishing boat, registration WY.1. Panning view of the herring fleet, two of the vessels have KY (Kirkcaldy) registration marks. Baskets of fish are being hoisted out on to the Fish Quay. Close-up shots of the bows of four fishing boats: the Venus, the Prosperity, the Foxglove, and the Eastern Horn. View of the bow of the Faith Star fishing vessel; then views of the bows of the Pilot Me II, the Endeavour, the Galilee, and the Golden Arrow.

View along Pier Road, busy with pedestrian traffic, and people watching the herring boats unloading onto the fish quay. Views of swinging baskets of fish being hoisted onto the fish quay by ropes and pulleys; nearby, a truck is laden with crates of fish, some of which are labelled “PERCY HULL”.

Title: A Dutch fishing boat. When the catch is unloaded there are other jobs to do.

View of a trawler boat, its deck busy with fishermen at work. A fisherman hoses a deck down with water. Portrait shot of a fisherman repairing nets while standing on a boat’s deck; he smokes a cigarette and wears a flat cap. Another man hauls a timber mast or pole over the deck, and positions it. View of another fisherman repairing nets, as he sits beside a row of buoys – beside his boat is moored the FR.22. Another fisherman repairs his nets.

Title: Unloading the catch

Overhead shot looking down into the hold of a fishing boat, where a group of young men scoop shovel loads of fish into baskets and send them up onto the deck by crane. A little boy watches the scene while standing on the boat’s deck.

Close-up view of the men shovelling fish into baskets. In the foreground of the shot, a crane or pulley wheel spins. On the Fish Quay, two men stand on top of a pile of crates, and pour the basket loads of fish hoisted out of the fishing boats into empty crates. On the quayside’s edge, a little boy carries a few fish on a ring threaded through their gills.

Close-up view of a crab on the quayside.

View out over the harbour from Fish Quay.

Title: A glut of herring

View of the Fish Quay, where thousands of herring have been unloaded. The area of fish covers several square meters, and is being shovelled by a man. Close-up view of the heap of herring, covered thick with salt, grit, or ice. At the other end of the quayside, in front of Funland amusements, a team of men work to shovel the fish into barrels.

Title: Salting and packing. These herring are to be pickled for export to the continent.

Views of the fish being shovelled into barrels. Every few shovel-loads, another man scratches some salt into the barrel from a bowl; the shot lingers on the scene until a barrel is totally full of fish.

View from the East Side towards Pleasureland amusements arcade and the Fish Quay, with the heap of herring is being packed into barrels. Long-lens view across the harbour towards the Fish Quay, where men (coopers) handle and seal barrels in front of an ice cream parlour; two cobles are moored beside the quay (WY 122).

Title: Kippers are made by ‘curing’ herrings.  Gutting and washing.

Close-up of a man gutting herring. Gutted herring are thrown into wicker baskets. The wicker baskets are placed into stone sinks to wash the fish: view of a man swirling the basking in the sink water, then dumping the load of fish into an adjacent sink.

Title:  The brine bath

Close-up of a blackboard resting above the fish washing sinks. Another load of fish is dumped into the sink.

Title: In the curing sheds. Oak chippings are lighted to smoke the herrings.

A woman fixes herring fish onto spiked nails set on rods. Close-up of beds of woodchip burning. Views of the rows of herring curing inside the kipper house.

Title: Fresh, golden-brown kippers

A man and a woman unload rods of newly smoked kippers from the kipper house. A little boy standing nearby smiles.

Title:  On the cliffs around the hungry gull wait to be fed from fish waste

View of a craggy cliff on the East Side, populated with herring gulls. Close-ups of the birds. One bird tears at another, pulling at its wing with its beak. A woman wearing a headscarf unloads a bucket of fish waste onto the ground, and a swarm of herring gulls swoops in to gorge on the guts. A little boy stands nearby watching the birds feeding; in the background the harbour mouth piers and their extensions.

The film ends with two brief shots: seagulls flying overhead; and over the East Pier ladder.