Francis Gibson (1753-1805)
The Whitby collector of customs Francis Gibson was a poet, playwright and fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
The North Riding port of Whitby was well known for its Greenland whaling fleet, which, according to the contemporary local historian Lionel Charlton, commenced in 1753 with two ships and in only twenty-five years had grown to fourteen or fifteen. However, it was the transport service beginning in the 1740s that transformed the town. Writing in 1778, Charlton noted that the port’s shipping and population had more than doubled over the past forty years. Improvement had also come through local investment in infrastructure, including the building of a harbour and a turnpike road across the moors “so that passengers now ventured to pass over these moors without fear or danger, where no stranger before that time durst ever presume to come without a guide.” This enabled country-dwellers to supply the town with a weekly market and eased the travel of Samuel Butler‘s company of actors who travelled over the moors to the town after performing at the Richmond theatre in September and October. By 1796 the Union coach started a twice-a-week service between Whitby and Sunderland, which was the first post coach to pass through Stockton.
Image by James Robert Granville Exley, Whitby, 1907