Historic sign recreated for Foresters' Court in Whitby

Whitby Civic Society unveiled a brand new handcrafted sign for the entrance to Foresters’ Court in Whitby last Thursday, November 7.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 11:06 am
Pete Witney (holding information board) and members of Whitby Civic Society - Pic: Alan Wastell.
Pete Witney (holding information board) and members of Whitby Civic Society - Pic: Alan Wastell.

The glass sign is significant as it is the only one in Whitby at an entrance to a 'yard'. The previous sign had deteriorated significantly in recent years, and unfortunately it was not possible to restore it.

Highly skilled local craftsmen Pete and Jo Witney carefully created the replacement using traditional methods, including the use of 23.5 carat gold leaf in the design.

When asked how long recreating the sign had taken, Pete fell silent, then said: “I had to stop counting in the end, I realised I’d gone well over budget, but this was never meant to be a commercial endeavour, and I did a little bit at a time, maybe 20 or 30 hours in total.

The sign in its tattered state.

“My wife spent two days preparing the drawing, she ironed the old bits of pain flat and stuck them to the glass and then was able to recreate the picture. Because of this the drawing we prepared is as accurate as we could get.”

The original sign was painted in oils and the letters have the appearance of tree bark.

There are shields containing bows and arrows, there is a stag's head and crown and there is detailed gold leaf edging.

“Over time the paint had faded, but I managed to find some bit in the corners that had been protected and I think that the colour we have produced is true,” said Pete.

The new sign is a testament tot the skill of Peter Witney who worked on it.

“I’m very pleased, I enjoyed doing it, it was great fun and on the whole I’m more than happy”

Whitby Civic Society members Val Appleton and Jenny Burns oversaw the project and raised funds from generous local businesses and residents.

Val said: “I’m just delighted with it, it’s fabulous.” She told how the society had been trying to find an exact date for the sign: “We know from census data that it was called Breckon’s Yard in 1881 and Foresters’ Court in 1891.

“We also know that by 1931/2 the Foresters occupied most of the properties in the yard. The only way we might find out more would be to trawl through boxes of old stuff the Foresters’ secretary has, but for now we have gone as far as we can go with it.”

The new sign is a testament to the skill of Peter Witney who worked on it.

The Ancient Order of Foresters began in Yorkshire in the 1790’s and is one of the countries oldest friendly societies. They owned many properties in the yard and it is where their meetings (Courts) were held.

Because the history of the sign is so important, a framed information board including pieces of paint from the original will be placed inside the yard. The frame has been made from wood of the original frame.

John Field, the Civic Society Chairman, thanked all those who had been involved and who had contributed financially, including Whitby Civic Society, Foresters Friendly Society, Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB Foresters' Court), John Freeman Studio, Arnie Dixon, Chris Sellors (W Hamond), Michael W Kilpatrick, Jenny Burns, Val Appleton, Helen Watkins (Foresters' Court), Pete and Jo Witney (Pete Witney Signs)

He also praised the excellent work carried out by Pete and Jo Witney of Pete Witney Signs and thanked them for “creating a superb sign that looks exactly like the original would have looked over 100 years ago.”

Whitby Civic Society meet once a month, with their next lecture being at 2.00pm on November 18 at Whitby Coliseum by freelance archaeologist, David Dance. It is titled: 'Death and Discovery' - Using Archaeology in Forensic Investigation.