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Withernsea is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire and forms the focal point for a wider community of small villages in Holderness; it is an area of rich agricultural land, which was marshland until it was drained in the Middle Ages; it's main towns also include Beverley, Hornsea and Hedon and to the north and west are the Yorkshire Wolds; the Prime Meridian, which is the meridian line of longitude at 0°, forms a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres crosses the coast to the northwest of Withernsea, to the east of Patrington.

The Holderness coastline, which is comprised of low sedimentary cliffs and thin narrow beaches, stretches for 61½ km from the high chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head in the north to the sand spit of Spurn Point in the south, is renowned for having the highest erosion rates in Europe; the average annual rate of erosion is around 2 metres per year, which is around 2 million tonnes of material every year; underlying the Holderness Coast is bedrock made up of Cretaceous Chalk; however, in most places this is covered by glacial till deposited over 18,000 years ago; it is this soft boulder clay that is being rapidly eroded.

Like many seaside resorts, Withernsea has a wide promenade which reaches north and south from the Pier Towers, which was the historic entrance, and the last surviving part, to a once proud 19th century pier, which was almost a 400 yard (nearly 365 metre) long pier, built in 1877 at a cost of £12,000; the pier was gradually reduced in length through consecutive impacts by local seacraft and was finally removed in the 1930s during the construction of coastal defences; Withernsea also has a European Blue Flag beach, awarded for exceptionally clean waters.

The Pier Towers - 31/01/2012 - David Williamson

During the mid 19th century the Hull and Holderness Railway was constructed, connecting the nearby city of Hull with Withernsea and providing a cheap and convenient holiday for Victorian workers and their families, as well as boosting Withernsea's economy; unfortunately, it closed in 1964 and all that remains of it is an overgrown footpath where the track used to be.

Withernsea, like many British resorts, has suffered from a decline in the number of visiting holidaymakers, known by the locals as diggers, over the last few decades, most likely due to the reduced cost of travel to Mediterranean resorts; however, the town still sees a significant increase in tourists between the months of June and August; Withernsea's economy is now focused around the retail of goods and supplies to local residents, but is boosted during summer months by tourism and sales of souvenirs and beach items; amusement arcades see the most profits during this time.

The town has a variety of pubs and restaurants, a 9 hole golf course and a leisure centre complex, with a gym and indoor pool; it also has tourist attractions which include the lighthouse museum, the parish church of St Nicholas, which is a Grade II listed building, the Pier Towers leading onto a Blue Flag beach, a RNLI lifeboat museum, the Valley Gardens with a large square and outside stage for local events and celebrations and of course various seaside amusement arcades locally known as 'muggies'.

Withernsea Lighthouse:

Withernsea's octagonal brick and concrete Lighthouse, is one of only a handful of lighthouses ever built inland; it stands at 127 feet (38 metres) high in the middle of the town; it was not designed to be lived in and the tower has no dividing floors only a spiral staircase leading to the Service and Lamp Rooms at the top; attached to it are two cottages, these were the lighthouse keepers’ homes.

The Lighthouse, designed by Trinity House and built by Strattens of Edinburgh, was built over a period of 18 months back in 1892 because of the high number of shipwrecks that were occurring at Withernsea when vessels couldn't see the lights at either Spurn or Flamborough’s; rather unusually it was built a quarter of a mile back from the coast with much of the town closer to the sea than the lighthouse; when the lighthouse was built there were only sand dunes and a mere in front of it; the houses you see today were all built after the promenade was extended along the sea front.

The original light was an 8 wick paraffin lamp, housed within an octaganol revolving lens; the lens itself weighed an incredible 2 tons and floated in a trough of 3 gallons of mercury; the controlling mechanism that turned the lens required winding daily by hand, but in 1936 the light was electrified and the paraffin lamp was replaced by a 100 volt, 1500 watt bulb; equivalent to 800,000 candle power; in the event that the first bulb failed, a second was on standby which was also backed up by a third which would be lit by a bank of 26 rechargeable batteries; there was also a standby generator and the old paraffin lamp was kept as a reserve; the electric light had a range of 17 miles; the lighthouse continued to shine it's beam until the 1st of July 1976 when, after 82 years of invaluable service, the light was no longer needed.

The former lighthouse keepers’ homes now contain a museum with displays about the lighthouse and town; it is also a memorial to Kay Kendall who was born only a few houses away; the base of the lighthouse is used to display RNLI and HM Coastguard displays, exhibits, and old photographs and the local history room displays historical photo's documents and models from the town's past, which include the Queens Hotel and the train station; due to being inactive visitors are able to climb the 144 steps to the top for breath taking views over Withernsea and East Yorkshire; on a clear day you can even see the towers of the Humber Bridge.

The Pier Towers - 31/01/2012
David Williamson

Fossil Hunting:

Withernsea is located on part the Jurassic Coast and the rapid coastal erosion rate makes Withernsea an excellent place to regularly collect fossils, knowing that almost every time you visit, fresh material will be available to search through; the fossils are erratic's, in other words, they do not come from the actual deposits that they are found in; the fossils were brought down during the last ice age, dragged from the North trapped in giant ice sheets and dumped along the Holderness Coastline.

By searching the scree, slipped material and foreshore, you can find almost anything from the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks of Yorkshire, to a mix of Carboniferous rocks; the types of fossils found there include ammonites, belemnites, echinoids, corals and molluscs, which are the most common, and for the lucky ones, reptile remains can also be found.

The sea does most of the work for you, by acting like a giant sieve and dropping all the fossils along the foreshore; the fossils can be well hidden however, by being trapped in the clay and inside the rocks, so it's an idea to take a hammer with you to break open some of the rocks; you need to look for the signs of fossil evidence; for example, like worn ammonites on the outside of the rock, if you split these rocks open you may find a complete ammonite on the inside!

Famous people: Kay Kendall & Kenny Baker.

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