House Story

William Chapman Master Mariner




​The house was built in 1762 and lived in by ship owners, a master mariner and gentry for 117 years until 1879. It was then owned by the church for the next 90 plus years and was the home of the Whitby Rector, sometime in the 1920’s to 1960’s was also a children’s nursery. In the 1970’s it was taken back into private ownership and has been a restaurant, an antique shop, a language school, a weekend home and now a luxury B&B.

The first 117 years,
(1762 to 1879)

The Skinner family originally came from Whitby but became connected to Stockton through marriage into the family of the late Richard Walker. They were shipowners in Whitby for some years, later going on to open a bank in Stockton. In 1762 John and William Skinner purchased the land around Skinner Street and St Hilda’s Terrace, known as Farndale Fields from Thomas Hayes, owner of Union Mill. Soon they began building Highgate House, on the street which at that time was called ‘New Buildings’, then later King Street and in 1855 it became St Hilda’s Terrace. “It was the custom for the ship apprentices to live in the house of the owners, and Mr. Skinner had them as guests when the ships were laid up for the winter. When not engaged on board they did housework, including the nursing of the children, of whom there were fourteen…..”

Sometime between when William Skinner owned and lived in number 25 St Hilda’s and around the early 1800’s the Rev Frederick Sherlock Pope took residence as a result of his marriage to William’s daughter, Elizabeth. We don’t know if Rev Pope owned the house, or just lived here but we do know that William Chapman, Master Mariner then bought the house in 1823 and as can be seen from the picture. The Chapman family continued the ownership of 25 St Hilda’s through to John Chapman, son of William via Martha his wife. It appears that the house was then, unused for a period (the occupants were listed as 60-year-old Carline Matthews (Housekeeper) and 28-year-old Edward Lambard (Footman). Mary, John’s wife was listed as living at number 24 with her teenage children Adeline and Edith.


​The Church 1879 to the 1970’s

Sometime between 1861 and 1879 George Cholmley bought the house from John Chapman or his widow and the house was then sold to the church in 1879 who would own it for about a hundred years or so until it was sold back into private ownership in the 1970’s. The house was home to Canon George Austen for nearly forty years from 1881 through to 1920 as can be seen from his picture, he was an austere man and did not suffer fools. He was a man on a mission and after moving up from his home in Kent he set about building up the church’s influence and was responsible for the construction of St Hilda’s church (on the West Cliff). He later moved to York and died at the age of 97, as per his wishes was buried at the top of the 199 steps in 1933 where you can see his memorial at the top of the steps.

​Apparently, he was also the last person to be carried up the steps in his coffin. ​As was the thing in those times, anyone of note visiting the town would call on the rector and it is believed that George Austen was good friends with Bram Stoker, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and George Du Maurier. George published this Punch cartoon, which features George’s wife Alice and their housekeeper in the kitchen of Highgate House.

​Little is known about the period from the late 1920’s through the War and into the 1970’s when the house was taken back into private hands as it is to the present day. We believe that it was used as a children’s nursery at some point but can’t find the details.


Rev Canon George Austen
​From 1920 to 1927 the Rt Rev Campbell Richard Hone lived in the house. Little is known about him and his time in Whitby.
Highgate House as a Georgian Restaurant



1970’s to the present day

Michael and Jean Frith owned the house in the 1970’s/1980’s and ran it as a Georgian Restaurant. We believe they added the door on Skinner Street and the big bay window. Mr & Mrs askew then bought the house naming it Lyndengate and ran an antiques shop. In 2002 Peter Bartle bought the house. As he worked in London, he was only able to visit the house on occasional weekends and so the house was mostly unused. In March 2015 Andy and Polly Brown bought the house from Peter Bartle and moved in whilst transforming the house to become what it is today; they opened the doors at Highgate House to guests in October 2015 and went on to welcome thousands of guests until December 2022. In April 2023 Jonathan, Louise, Mabel and Margot reopened the doors of Highgate House for guests to experience the grandeur of this Georgian house here in the heart of Whitby.