The Sutcliffe Gallery

Museum/Heritage/Gallery/Visitor Centre


Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was born in Leeds in 1853 – just 14 years after the birth of photography. He was the son of Thomas Sutcliffe, an artist, lecturer and art critic.

In 1870 the family moved to Whitby, where they had often spent their summer holidays. His father died the following year and Frank, now the head of the family at eighteen, decided to make his living with a camera.

Whitby in Victorian times was a thriving tourist resort and Frank Sutcliffe became very successful taking studio portraits of the wealthy holiday makers.

Taking portraits in a studio paid the bills, but Sutcliffe really wanted to photograph the everyday working people in Whitby and the beautiful surrounding countryside.

He developed an affection and respect for the town and its people which shines through his work, producing photographs which were not only of the highest technical merit, but also displayed great artistry.

Between 1880 and 1894, Sutcliffe was awarded over sixty gold, silver and bronze medals at exhibitions as far a field as New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Chicago and Vienna, as well as at major exhibitions in this country.

The beautiful photographs taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe live on at The Sutcliffe Gallery in Whitby where, for the last 56 years, the Shaw family have been the custodians of the collection, always conscious of being responsible for a great National archive. 

Visitors from all over the world make a pilgrimage to the gallery and are fascinated to see how working people lived in Victorian England. The Sutcliffe photographs portray an immediacy and realism of everyday life that paintings of the period sometimes struggle to emulate. 

All the sepia photographs you see on this website were taken in and around Whitby by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (Hon. F.R.P.S.) between 1875 and 1910.

His large camera was made of mahogany with brass fittings and took 'whole plate' glass negatives (6.5"x8.5").

Photography in Victorian times was not an easy craft to master and people were often content to produce an acceptable image which was sharp and well exposed - but there were a handful of photographers who wanted to lift their pictures into the heady realms of 'Art'.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was one of these artists and he became world famous as one of the greatest exponents of pictorial photography and was made an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society in 1935, the highest award attainable.

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