Picture credit: Stephen McKay geograph creative commons

“We’ve only ever passed through before, and never actually stopped.. so we really enjoyed the opportunity to stop for a while and have a proper look around this lovely seaside town.”

– anon

Withernsea is a small seaside resort with a population of around 6,000 people. The coastal town can be found on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

There are a number of reasons which makes Withernsea famous. These include its tourism, coastal erosion, lifeboats, and its lighthouse.

Withernsea is the unofficial capital of Holderness. It’s an ancient region that consists of very flat land. During the middle ages, the land was drained. This meant the landscape has more in common with Holland than it does with the rest of hilly Yorkshire.

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Withernsea lighthouse dominates the skyline. Picture credit: David Hillas geograph creative commons.
Withernsea lighthouse dominates the skyline. Picture credit: David Hillas geograph creative commons.

Withernsea Lighthouse

Withernsea lighthouse stands at 39 metres high. It was completed in 1894 and shone its last light to sailors on the 1st of July in 1976.

The lighthouse is no longer operational. Instead, it is now the home to the RNLI lifeboat museum.

RNLI Lifeboat Museum

This museum charts the history of shipwrecks in the area. It also celebrates the organisation’s work rescuing those who have been stranded at sea.

The summit of its steps provides magnificent sea views. On a clear day, you can even see the Humber Bridge to the West of the lighthouse.


Kay Kendall Memorial

This attraction also has a memorial. It’s dedicated to the 1950’s film actress Kay Kendall who was born in the town.

Kay Kendall starred in several movies with Petula Clark and Dirk Bogarde. Tragically she died at the age of 32 from leukaemia in 1959.

Withernsea Lifeboat Station

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been present in the town since 1862. This is due to the high amount of traffic in the Humber Estuary.

However, since then, the lifeboat institution was closed. It was decided that it would move to nearby Easington.

A new lifeboat station was re-established in 1974 along with two other boathouses in 1983 and 1998. It’s now one of the busiest lifeboat services on the East Coast.

Withernsea Pier

The main feature on Withernsea’s seafront is the two towers. They once formed a grand entrance to its 365m long pier.

As the pier was so long, it had to be reduced in length. This was because several sea crafts collided with the pier and damaged the end.

In the 1930’s, the pier was taken down altogether. Flood defences were developed but the two entrance towers remained.

Valley Gardens & Amusement Arcades

Opposite the Valley Gardens, there are amusement arcades which are known locally as “muggies”. These were built on the site of the old mere in 1910.

The gardens are home to open air concerts and community events in the summer. Included in this is the annual Withernsea Carnival and the Pirate festival.

In 2013, the latter’s inaugural event drew people in from all over the country. People dressed as pirates and there was also live music and themed stalls.

Greenwich Meridian Line & Fort Paull

Just outside the town lies the Greenwich Meridian Line and also Fort Paull which was built in 1542. During its time, it was used to protect the port of Hull.

One hundred years later it would gain a new purpose. It became the base for King Charles I’s troops during a siege near the city.

As a tourist attraction, it’s now the home of the Beverley Blackburn bomber aircraft. It also has tea rooms, a gift shop, restaurant, and corporate facilities.

Spurn Point by Brian Spence (IFY Facebook Community)

Spurn Point

Down the coastline from Withernsea lies Spurn Point. This is a significant landmark not only in Yorkshire but also for the United Kingdom.

It’s the point where the Humber Estuary flows into the North Sea. The Humber Estuary is the place where most of the water from Yorkshire’s rivers and streams finally end up.

The narrow split of land which makes up the point is over 3 miles long and only 46m wide in places. The end point, Spurn Head, has a lifeboat station and disused lighthouse.

This area has been owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since 1960. Now it’s currently a national nature reserve.

Its strategic point is a haven for rare migratory birds. It provides a home to the ones blown off course by the sea winds as well as wildfowl and waders.

In December, the point of Spurn Head was flooded. This was due to tidal surges on the East Coast of England.

Travelling In & Out of Withernsea

Withernsea is in a remote location. This means there are no motorways in the area of Holderness making the town rather poorly linked to other places.

A1 Roads in Withernsea

Its access to Hull, which is the nearest city, is down the A1033. The A1242 connects Hornsea in the North and Spurn Point to the South which is known as the longest dead end in the county.

Withernsea Railway Station

Most other Yorkshire seaside towns further north have a railway station. However, unlike these, Withernsea failed to keep hold of its train station.

In 1854, Withernsea Railway Station opened along the Hull and Holderness line. 90 years later, it became a victim of the Beeching cuts and delivered its last passengers in 1964.

The site is now used as a well-known discount supermarket. Most of the station buildings have been demolished with only part of an overgrown platform three remaining.

There have been local campaigns to reinstate the lines from Hull to Withernsea in order to increase the town’s tourism. However, no plans have been made so far.

Bus Services in Withernsea

Currently, the only method of public transport available in the town is by bus. There is a service to Hull that arrives every half hour and stops off via other surrounding villages along the way.

Sport in Withernsea

Although very little professional sport is played in the town, Withernsea does boast the well-equipped Pavilion leisure centre. It has a swimming pool, sports hall, gym, and function room.

Withernsea is a quiet and peaceful Yorkshire seaside resort. It’s ideal for those looking to get away from it all and enjoy the coastal scenery.

Withernsea History

Originally, Withernsea never used to be a seaside town. When the first settlers landed on the East Coast of Yorkshire, the town was approximately three miles inland.

The first mention of “Whitethornsea” was during the reign of Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century. However, this only referred to its inland area.

Withernsea lies along the Holderness Coast. This area is heavily susceptible to coastal erosion.

The cliffs stretch from Bridlington in the North to Spurn in the South and are made of boulder clay. When wet from the sea, they turn into a butter-like form which makes the rock break very easily.

Any evidence of early remains are largely washed away. It’s estimated the 32 Yorkshire villages that would have lined the coast centuries ago have been lost.

The sea has shaped the history of Withernsea and surrounding area, Picture credit:
The sea has shaped the history of Withernsea and surrounding area, Picture credit:Andy Beecroft wikipedia creative commons. 

The town’s neighbour, Old Withernsea, submitted to the tide in the 15th Century. Owthorne, another neighbour, hung on until 1891 with its remains now part of the modern day settlement.

In 1854, railways came to the town. It attracted holidaymakers from the dockyard of Hull and other places in the area to visit.

However, in the 1960’s the station closed. This along with the trend for affordable foreign holiday homes led the town to decline significantly.

The lighthouse became a museum in 1976 and it’s now largely known for its lifeboats and Valley Gardens. The latter was built on the part of the mere that did not fall into the sea.

Withernsea Trivia

Withernsea once had a 365m long pier which was removed due to boats crashing into it and damage from the weather.

The Valley Gardens, which are situated near the seafront, are well worth a visit. The landscaped gardens feature a children’s playground and also a stage where open air concerts are performed.

Along the coast is the Spurn National reserve. It’s located on the Spurn Peninsula and is populated by rare plants, seals, migrating birds, and butterflies.

The lighthouse towers about the town at 125 feet.

Withernsea has a nuclear bunker that is almost 100 feet below ground. There are guided tours to see this.

Fort Paull is only a few miles away. Here you will find a Napoleonic fortress but the history of the place goes back 500 years. During the summer there are numerous events including a classic car rally.