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The idea of a park on this site was first promoted in 1837 when powers to buy land for it and for a new road linking the lower and upper parts of the town were included in a Local Act of Parliament. However, other projects took precedence and the land continued in use as market gardens, orchards and meadow. To mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the road (now Chubb Hill Road) was built but the rest of the land remained in private ownership. In 1902 Alderman R E Pannett, a generous benefactor to Whitby, bought it intending to donate it to the Council for a park. Having failed to gain their co-operation, the Alderman, by now in his eighties, determined that it should nevertheless be done. Under his will he set up a Trust to use the land and other resources which he bequeathed to make the park and build an art gallery for his treasures, all of which he which he left to the people of Whitby. He died in 1920. A former garden next to the park, known as Little Park, was given by one of the trustees. In the difficult financial climate of the 1920s progress was slow but in 1932 the park, the art gallery and a museum, which had been built on to it, were handed over to the Council and the Trust was wound up. The museum houses the collections of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society (WLPS). It has since been extended.

Mr Walter Brydon was appointed to design and supervise the building of the park. Much of his work survives. He made use of the orchard trees; two pears still flourish today. Rockeries were an important feature on the steeper slopes. The park lacks a natural water supply but with the help of a generous donation from a local family, a lily pool with a shelter beside it, was made the focus of a more formal seating area. Others gave plants and benches. Herbaceous beds and a profusion of roses were noted features. The last (north-west) corner of the park was completed with the opening of a new, gated entrance in 1935. The park keeper lived in an old cottage in the park (since demolished) and had a team working with him. As constraints on staffing began to tell after World War 2 it became more difficult to maintain the floral content of the park.

In 1974 Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) took over most of the duties of the Urban District Council but Whitby Town Council (WTC) retained ownership of the park and the buildings. During the closing decades of the 20th century the park suffered badly from cuts in funding and staffing. In 2005 the newly-established Friends of Pannett Park set about restoration with the co-operation of SBC and WTC. Working parties tackled the borders and a defunct floral clock was restored.

An application to the Heritage Lottery fund was successful and in 2009 work started on the refurbishment of the park and the introduction of new features including a state of the art children's play area, a Jurassic Garden reflecting the important geological collections in the Museum, and a Commemorative Garden.

Site timeline

1902: Alderman R E Pannett bought the site.

1920: Alderman Pannett died. Under his will a Trust was formed to use the land and other assets to build a park and art gallery

1928: The park and art gallery were opened, though the park was unfinished. A museum to house the collections of the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society (WLPS) was added to the art gallery.

1932 to 2012: The Trust was wound up and park and buildings handed over to the Urban District Council (WUDC). The joint management of the buildings by the WTC & WLPS was established by agreement in the High Court in 1948.

1953 to 2004: Three extensions to the museum were built.

1953: A floral clock was installed to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

After 1974: Whitby Town Council (WTC) retained the park and the buildings when Scarborough BC took over from the WUDC. SBC managed the park on a 10 yr lease. Due to cuts in budgets several features, were lost e.g. the floral clock, the lily pool shelter, park keeper's cottage.

01/07/2005: Friends of Pannett Park were formed.

2009 to 2011: Award and implementation of a Heritage Lottery Grant to restore and refurbish the park. Negotiated and carried out by Friends of Pannett park, SBC & WTC working with consultants. SBC manage the park now on a 30 yr lease continuing to work with Friends of Pannett park & WTC.


garden feature

A river of 15,000 crocus bulbs 130m in length was planted in the autumn of 2011 running down St. Hilda's Terrace to The South Seas Garden (Little Park). Over three days 40 children from local schools worked with the Friends of Pannett Park and council staff to complete this exciting project.

specimen tree

A stand of overgrown leylandii and holly was removed from a corner of the museum. This let light into a formerly dark, unattractive area allowing future planting to thrive. The tree stumps were ground out and the soil dug over and enriched with organic matter. A Cedrus Atlantica Glauca ( Blue Atlas Cedar) has been planted.

rose garden

This area has been completely renovated. Failing roses were removed and replanted elsewhere in the park in enriched soil. Soil was removed from the existing beds and 200 tonnes of fresh loam enriched with organic matter dug in. Mycorrhizal fungi were applied to the roots of the new plants to help develop sound root systems. The roses, sourced locally comprise Hybrid Musks, Floribundas and Hybrid Teas, all chosen for their vigour, reliability, disease resistance and scent.


The twin rockeries have been designed and replanted by the Friends of Pannett Park working in partnership with council staff. The plants were chosen to suit challenging conditions and provide seasonal interest.

herbaceous border

Funded by the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery as part of the restoration of the park these twin herbaceous borders have been replanted in a style that reflects the Gertrude Jekyll border on the main drive. Existing plants were reused elsewhere in the park. Matching obelisks have been installed.


A dark, damp, uninspiring corner near a main entrance has been transformed by the planting of ferns including Dicksonia antarctica, and hostas 'Sum and Substance' and 'Big Daddy' whose leathery leaves are less attractive to slugs.

garden feature

The Jurassic Garden: Forms links with Whitby's Jurassic coast and the world famous fossil collection in the museum. The primitive style planting has been boosted by the addition of more ferns, phyllostachys, pinus, Trachycarpus fortuneii and Rhus typhina (Stag's horn sumach).


Upper lawns.

floral clock

Feature created: 1953

Originally installed on June 2nd 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the clock was reinstated by the Friends of Pannett Park in 2006 thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the support of local townspeople and businesses. It was redesigned in 2012 in the shape of a crown to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.


Feature created: 1928

Originally a gift from the family of a retired sea captain Thomas Kirby, the lily pool was completed around the time of the park's opening in 1928. It was carefully restored in 2010 and the lilies you see growing there today were donated by the descendants of Captain Kirby.

garden feature

The Commemorative Garden. A quiet, reflective corner of the park with views through oak arches to Whitby Abbey. Sunderland glass bricks set in the arches represent the stained glass windows of the Abbey. 'We will remember them' is inscribed on sandstone walling.

garden feature

The South Seas Garden: a themed garden inspired by Whitby's early explorers. There is Maori imagery and art, and southern hemisphere planting.

garden feature

The Community Garden: an area where outside groups or schools can develop small plots.


The rose arbour was restored in 2010.


Feature created: 2012

The statue of the mythological Maori warrior Kupe was designed by local chain saw sculptor Steve Iredale.


Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Dawn'
Prunus serrula
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii 'Doorenbos' (Himalayan birch 'Snow Queen')
Pinus nigra Austriaca (Austrian pine).

Planted: 2012