Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s indelible images of Victorian Whitby

He was a David Bailey among the buckets and spades, and more than a century after his pictures first saw light, they retain their power to enthral.

An albumen print of a man tending his cottage garden in an idyllic wooded glade. Original Artwork: From  a series 'Views Around Whitby And Eskdale, North Yorkshire'.   (Photo by Frank  Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)
An albumen print of a man tending his cottage garden in an idyllic wooded glade. Original Artwork: From a series 'Views Around Whitby And Eskdale, North Yorkshire'. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was born in Leeds soon after the birth of photography, but it was his time spent in Whitby that placed him among the greats. Capturing a way of coastal life as it had been lived for generations but would soon be no more, his pictures are among the most vivid records of late Victorian and Edwardian Yorkshire.

Exposed on to glass plates in a large mahogany camera, they were sometimes posed yet somehow entirely natural, and stand as early examples of the “documentary” school of picture taking. They were considered remarkable even in their day, and Sutcliffe was hailed as one of the first true artists of the medium.

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circa 1880: A group sitting on an upturned boat, with a girl knitting. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)

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Thank you

James Mitchinson

circa 1880: A girl waits next to a stile, as a young child lies asleep in the grass next to her. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)
circa 1880: Fisherfolk stand with their lobster pots, in one of the cobbled streets in Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Getty Images)
Fishermen mending their nets in Whitby, North Yorkshire, circa 1890. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A sailing ship moored near the lighthouse in Whitby harbour, North Yorkshire, circa 1890. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Three men in Whitby harbour, North Yorkshire, circa 1890. (Photo by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)