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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 10:44 GMT
Jet industry dwindles in resort
By Jayne Elliott
BBC News in North Yorkshire

Hal Redvers-Jones
Just a handful of jet carvers remain in the resort
The number of professional Whitby jet carvers is falling in North Yorkshire, leading to concerns that the once thriving industry could die out.

In the 19th Century, carving the black gemstone, found along just seven miles of Yorkshire's coastline, was Whitby's main industry.

More than 200 craftsmen worked in the industry, generating a turnover of 110,000 - or 3.25m in today's money.

The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre has opened to try to entice people back.

The project has been funded by the Sustainable Tourism Project through the National Park Authority, and regional development agency Yorkshire Forward.

Hal Redvers-Jones, a Whitby jet carver, said there are now just a "handful" of professional carvers working in the resort.

An 1867 jet carving workshop
The discovery of the workshop gave an insight into the industry

"It is so important to Whitby's history that people are more aware of jet and the industry.

"We also hope this could be the launch pad to a Whitby Jet Carvers Guild which all bona fide Whitby carvers would be invited to join.

"This would ensure skills are protected and passed-on."

An original workshop dating back to 1867 was unearthed in a derelict building in Burns Yard.

Mr Redvers-Jones has relocated it to the heritage centre , on Church Street, to show people how the elaborate carvings were produced nearly 200 years ago.

He said the find was exciting and gave him a good insight into how jet was once carved.

"It was just as if the workers had got up and left at the end of the day, but as well as being interesting, it gave us a lot of information into how jet was worked in 1867."

Mr Redvers-Jones said the find showed how affluent the industry was as workers worked under gas lit stations which were considered an expensive commodity at the time.

The foreman would also wear a coat of velvet, which was again considered a luxury.

He added: "For more than 70 years the industry kept Whitby going. Hopefully the centre will help that continue."

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