The real reason the Whitby jet industry came into being was due to a chance meeting of three men, who together showed ingenuity, enthusiasm and a tenacity for success. Around the year 1800, a painter named Robert Jefferson and an inn keeper called John Carter whose public house was situated in Haggersgate, spent their spare time carving basic, fairly crude looking crosses and beads using only knives and files. Despite its coarse appearance, this homemade jewellery could still make impressive sums of money, with one neck guard crafted in such a manner selling for £1 and 1 shilling.
Not long afterwards, a naval pensioner named Captain Tremlett came to live in Whitby. He happened to observe the two men fashioning jet in this way and readily suggested they try turning some jet with the use of a lathe, showing Jefferson and Carter some amber beads which he had cut in this way.
The trio found Matthew Hill, a local turner who subsequently succeeded in turning jet on his lathe, although Hill remained unconvinced that the business could be pursued to profit. However, still confident in his idea, Tremlett offered to pay Hill his turners wage for him to continue in the production of Whitby jet beads and ornaments.
To Tremlett’s delight, and Hill’s surprise, a profitable trade began to grow, and within a few short years Jet jewellery was the biggest trade in Whitby.