Charles Dickens Whitby
Charles Dickens is known to have visited Whitby and in a letter of 1861 to his friend Wilkie Collins who was staying in Whitby at the time.
Dickens states “In my time that curious railroad by the Whitby Moor was so much the more curious, that you were balanced against a counter-weight of water, and that you did it like Blondin. But in these remote days the one inn of Whitby was up a back-yard, and oyster-shell grottoes were the only view from the best private room.”
Clearly Dickens is responding to comments made in a previous (unseen) letter from Wilkie Collins about the precarious nature (hence doing it like Blondin – the famous tight-rope walker) of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. We have never heard a convincing explanation of what he meant by “oyster-shell grottoes”. It is undisputed that The Black Horse was operating as an inn throughout Dickens lifetime and as such is one of the candidates for being the establishment to which he refers. It is also interesting to note that at that time, what had previously been the coaching sheds at The Black Horse were being used by fishermen to store boats and other paraphernalia.