Whitby: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 54°29′09″N 0°37′14″W / 54.4858°N 0.6206°W / 54.4858; -0.6206

Whitby on the River Esk
Whitby Town Arms
Arms of Whitby Town Council
Whitby is located in North Yorkshire

 Whitby shown within North Yorkshire
Population 13,594 (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference NZ893109
Parish Whitby
District Scarborough
Shire county North Yorkshire
Region Yorkshire and the Humber
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WHITBY
Postcode district YO21, YO22
Dialling code 01947
Police North Yorkshire
Fire North Yorkshire
Ambulance Yorkshire
EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament Scarborough and Whitby
List of places: UK • England • Yorkshire

Whitby is a town and civil parish in the Scarborough district of North Yorkshire on the north Yorkshire coast of England. Nowadays it is a fishing port and tourist destination. It is situated 47 miles (76 km) from York, at the mouth of the River Esk and spreads up the steep sides of the narrow valley carved out by the river's course. At this point the coast curves round, so the town faces more north than east. According to the 2001 UK census, Whitby parish had a population of 13,594.[1]

Whitby was founded under its Old English name of Streonshal in 656, when Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded Whitby Abbey, under its first abbess Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held here in 664. In 867, the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was only refounded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from "white settlement" in Old Norse). In the 18th century Whitby became a centre for shipbuilding and whaling, as well as trade in alum and jet.

Tourism and fishing now form the mainstay of the town's economy. There are rail and bus links to the rest of Yorkshire and the North East of England. Whitby has featured in literary works, television and cinema; most famously in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.



Many interesting fossils have been found in the Whitby area including entire skeletons of pterodactyls. Whitby is known for its well preserved ammonite fossils, which can be found on the seashore or purchased from stalls or shops in the town.

Three green ammonites are featured on the coat of arms of the Whitby Town Council. These ammonites are shown with a head carved on, as "snake stones", which were sold as religious souvenirs in memory of Saint Hilda of Whitby.[2]

Early-medieval Whitby

In about 656, Oswiu or Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, fulfilled a vow by founding a monastery there.

Faced in 655 with the mighty army of Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, which greatly outnumbered his own, Oswiu asked God to grant him victory, promising to consecrate his infant daughter Ælflæda to the service of God and to give land to found monasteries. Penda and most of his nobles were killed in the battle. Oswiu honoured his pledges by granting 12 small estates of 10 hides each in various places for monasteries to be built. One of them was at Streanæshealh, later known as Whitby Abbey. This was the house that Ælflæda herself entered as a pupil and of which she later became abbess.[3]

The first abbess was Hilda, a remarkable figure, later venerated as a saint. Under her influence, Whitby became a centre of learning, and the poetry of Cædmon is amongst the earliest examples of Anglo-Saxon literature. It was the leading royal nunnery of Deira, and the burial-place of its royal family. The Synod of Whitby, in 664, established the Roman date of Easter in Northumbria at the expense of the Celtic one, an important and influential decision.[4]

In 867, Danish Vikings landed 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Whitby at Raven's Hill, and moved on to attack the settlement and to destroy the monastery. It was only after the Norman Conquest of 1066 that William de Percy ordered that the monastery be refounded (1078), dedicating it to St Peter and St Hilda. Later it became Presteby (meaning the habitation of Priests in Old Norse) then Hwytby; next Whiteby, (meaning the "white settlement" in Old Norse, probably from the colour of the houses) and finally Whitby.

Late-medieval and Tudor periods

According to Langdale's Yorkshire Dictionary (1822) and Baine's Directory of the County of York (1823), even up to the reign of Elizabeth I Whitby was little more than a small fishing port. In 1540, it had consisted of only around twenty to thirty houses and had a population of about two hundred inhabitants.[5] In that year Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, including Whitby Abbey.

At the end of the 16th century, Thomas Chaloner of York travelled to Italy and visited the alum works in the Papal States.[6] He recognised that the rock from which the alum was made was identical to that abundant in several areas in and around his Guisborough estate in North Yorkshire. Alum was a very important product at that time, used internationally, in curing leather, fixing dyed cloths and for medicinal uses. Up to this period the Vatican had maintained a virtual monopoly on the production and sale of the product.

Chaloner secretly brought some of the Pope's workmen to England to develop a thriving alum industry in Yorkshire. (It is said that this significantly lowered the international price of alum, impacting the profitability of a traditional source of revenue for the Vatican, and that Chaloner was excommunicated).[7][8]

Whitby grew significantly as a port in the following years as a result of the transport of alum and coal.[9]

Whitby Abbey and St Mary's Church

Whitby Abbey from pond

Over the centuries, the town spread both inland and onto the West Cliff, whilst the East Cliff (sometimes called the Haggerlythe) remains dominated by the ruins of Whitby Abbey and St Mary's Church. The way into the interesting ruined Abbey is through the historic Banqueting House alongside. The Abbey is owned by English Heritage, which restored the Banqueting House to contain exhibitions and museum displays about the Abbey and Whitby and opened it in 2002.

The East Cliff is at quite a distance by road, the alternative being to climb the 199 steps of the "Church Stairs" [10]or to use a footpath called Caedmon's Trod".[11]

Modern history - since 1605

Whitby, showing St Mary's Church in distance.
Whitby's twin piers

Several alum producing centres were established close to Whitby including, in 1615, one near Sandsend (now Sandsend Ness) 3 miles (5 km) from the town. Two new industries thus arrived in the port of Whitby—the transport of alum and that of the coal used in its production.

Whitby thereby grew in size and wealth, extending its activities to include shipbuilding, using the local oak timber as raw material. Taxes on imports entering via the port raised the necessary finance to improve and extend the town's twin piers, thereby improving the harbour and permitting further increases in trade. (They are working piers, not the variety which caters elsewhere to holidaymakers.)

In 1753 the first whaling ship set sail from Whitby to Greenland. This initiated a new phase in the town's development, and by 1795 Whitby had become a major centre for the whaling industry.

George Hudson completed his railway network connecting Whitby and the towns of the East Riding with York in 1839. It is thought to have played a vital part in the development of Whitby as a tourism destination. George Hudson was also responsible for building or, rather, half-building the Royal Crescent. Plans to complete the project were abandoned due to insufficient funds. The Crescent still remains a popular tourist attraction.[12]

Whitby was the site of the Rohilla disaster of 30 October 1914, when the hospital ship Rohilla was sunk (either by running aground, or hitting a mine; accounts differ) within sight of shore just off Whitby. Eighty-five people lost their lives in the disaster; most of them are buried in the churchyard at Whitby.

Also in 1914, Whitby was shelled by German battlecruisers Von der Tann and Derfflinger, aiming for the signal post on the end of the headland. Scarborough and Hartlepool were also attacked. Whitby Abbey sustained considerable damage during the attack, which lasted only 10 minutes. The attack on Whitby was the final assault on the Yorkshire coast. The German squadron responsible for the strike was able to escape without capture despite an attempt made by the Royal Navy. The Navy reported poor visibility and signalling as a determining factor.

Present-day Whitby

Whitby and the River Esk

The modern Port of Whitby, strategically placed for shipping to Europe, with very good proximity to the Scandinavian countries, is capable of handling a wide range of cargoes, including grain, steel products, timber and potash. Vessels of up to 3,000 tonnes DWT are received on a routine basis at the Wharf, which has the capability of loading/unloading two ships simultaneously. 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of dock space is currently (2004) allocated for storage of all-weather cargo and a further 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of warehouse space is reserved for weather-critical goods storage.

The town is served by Whitby railway station which forms the terminus of the Esk Valley Line from Middlesbrough, formerly the northern terminus of the Whitby, Pickering and York line. Whitby is also served by the Yorkshire Coastliner bus line (which can take travellers to and from Leeds, Tadcaster, York, Scarborough, Bridlington, Pickering, Malton and many more towns in Yorkshire) and the Arriva bus company, which runs services connecting Whitby to Scarborough and Middlesbrough.

The town was awarded "Best Seaside Resort 2006", by Which? Holiday magazine.

The town's college, Whitby Community College was granted specialist school status in September 2002, specialising in Technology.[13]

Whitby has a fish market on the quayside which operates as need and opportunity arise.[14] The ready supply of fresh fish has resulted in an abundance of "chippies" in the town, including the Magpie Cafe which Rick Stein has described as the best fish and chip shop in Britain.[15]

Local schools

There are several schools within Whitby:

Primary schools:
St Hilda's Roman Catholic Primary School
Stakesby Community Primary School
West Cliff Primary School
Whitby, Airy Hill Community Primary School
Whitby, East Whitby Community Primary School

Secondary schools:
Eskdale School
Caedmon School

Community colleges:
Whitby Community College[1]

Independent Schools:
Fyling Hall School[2]
Functional English Christian Language School, (School demolished early 2008 and flats now stand on the land.)

West Cliff

Jet Mourning Jewelry

West Cliff has its own landmarks — a statue of Captain James Cook, who served his apprenticeship in the town, and a whalebone arch, commemorating the once large whaling industry. There is also a new science museumWhitby Wizard. The whalebone arch is the second to stand on this spot; the original (a larger version) is now preserved in Whitby Archives Heritage Centre. By the inner harbour, next to the tourist information office, there is also a statue commemorating William Scoresby, inventor of the crow's nest.

Whitby jet

The black mineraloid, jet, the fossilized remains of decaying wood,specifically that of the Monkey Puzzle Tree, is found in the cliffs around Whitby, and has been used since the Bronze Age to make beads and other jewellery. The Romans mined jet extensively, and Whitby jet was at the peak of its popularity in the mid-19th century, especially after it was favoured as mourning jewellery by Queen Victoria and the manufacture of jewellery from locally mined jet was one of Whitby's main industries.

Whitby Museum holds a large collection on the archaeological and social history of jet. It also displays a "Hand of Glory".

Whitby and literature

Whitby from St. Mary's Churchyard

One unusual feature of Whitby is the Dracula Museum. Part of Bram Stoker's famous novel was set in Whitby, describing Dracula's arrival in Britain on a ship washed ashore in the harbour, and how Lucy watched from the churchyard as the sun set over the nearby headland of Kettleness, but did not know how many steps she climbed to get there. Stoker's story incorporated various pieces of Whitby folklore, including the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri, which became the basis of Demeter in the book. Furthermore, it was at the public library in Whitby that Stoker discovered the name "Dracula."[16]

Elizabeth Gaskell sets her novel Sylvia's Lovers partly in Whitby.

Lewis Carroll stayed at 5 East Terrace in Whitby between July and September 1954, and his first publications seem to have been published in the Whitby Gazette.

In 1861 Wilkie Collins was in Whitby, accompanied by Caroline Graves, the inspiration for The Woman in White. He was actually working on his novel No Name, but was driven away by the noise of children and brass bands outside his hotel.

The setting for his famous mystery The Moonstone (1868) is 'high up on the Yorkshire coast', referring to the map rather than the altitude. Whether the genesis of the novel, with its fabulous diamond, mysterious Indians and Holmes-like detective Sergeant Cuff can be linked to the presence in the area of the Maharajah Duleepsingh is a matter of conjecture.

Duleep Singh, the last Sikh maharajah of the Punjab, had 'presented' the great Koh-i-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria after being deposed by the British in India., and became a favourite of the queen. He spent time in Scotland and then took a lease on Mulgrave Castle near Whitby in 1858. He was a keen hunter (and cormorant-fisher) on the North York Moors, and was often to be seen there with his native retinue between 1858 and 1863.

James Russell Lowell, the American writer, often visited Whitby while ambassador in London 1880-85, staying at 3 Wellington Terrace, West Cliff. On his last visit, in 1889, he wrote: 'This is my ninth year at Whitby and the place loses none of its charm for me.'

Margaret Storm Jameson was born in Whitby, the daughter of a sea captain. She was the first woman BA in English at Leeds University (first class, in 1912). She wrote two trilogies dealing with family ship-building history. In the second trilogy Mary Hervey Russell, an ironmaster, reflects something of herself.

Early aware that human beings are 'wilfully, coldly, matter-of-factly cruel to one another', Storm Jameson later worked (as president of English PEN during World War II) on behalf of European refugee writers and intellectuals. Her fine autobiography Journey from the North is distinguished by a fierce northern pride, emotional intensity and intellectual integrity

The novel Caedmon's Song by Peter Robinson is set in Whitby. The town also features significantly in the prize-winning novel Possession, by A. S. Byatt.

Michel Faber's novel, The Hundred and Ninety Nine Steps is set in Whitby, which is prominently featured in The Resurrectionists, by Kim Wilkins. Robin Jarvis has written The Whitby Witches, a trilogy of children's fantasy novels set in Whitby, that borrow from bits of local folklore. Paul Magrs's series of novels following the neighbouring spinsters "Brenda and Effie" — Never the Bride, Something Borrowed, Conjugal Rites — are set almost exclusively in Whitby. The 2008 anthology Fabulous Whitby edited by S. Thomason and Liz Williams is a collection of fantasy stories, all set in Whitby.


Whitby Regatta occurs once a year for three days in August. Originally a local rowing competition, over the years it has expanded to include events such as a large fair stretching along the pier, police demonstrations, fireworks and military displays - including the spectacle of the Red Arrows, provided that the weather is good.

Rowing still forms a major part of the weekend and races take place over three days between three old rival clubs - Whitby Friendship ARC, Whitby Fishermen's ARC and Scarborough ARC.

Each year, on the eve of Ascension Day, the Penny Hedge ceremony is performed.

For over four decades the town has hosted the Whitby Folk Week, which currently includes around 600 different events in various venues.

Whitby also hosts the bi-annual Whitby Gothic Weekend, a festival for members of the Goth subculture.

"Whitby Now" has been, since 1991, an annual spectacular presentation of live music in the Whitby Pavilion. Originally planned by local musician Mark Liddell, the event has continued to grow in size and popularity.[17]

Cities twinned with Whitby

See also


  1. ^ a b "2001 Census: Key Statistics: Parish Headcounts: Area: Whitby CP (Parish)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do?a=3&b=798227&c=whitby&d=16&e=15&g=476832&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&r=1&s=1215427208070&enc=1&dsFamilyId=779. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  2. ^ "Genuki: Whitby History". www.genuki.org.uk. http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Whitby/WhitbyHistory.html. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  3. ^ Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. J. McClure and R. Collins (Oxford University Press 1994), pp. 150-151.
  4. ^ The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England ed. Michael Lapidge et al. (Blackwell 1999), pp.155, 472.
  5. ^ "A Brief History - Whitby Sights". Whitbysights.co.uk. http://www.whitbysights.co.uk/whitby-history/abriefhistory.html. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  6. ^ "The history of alum in England". Wovepaper.co.uk. http://www.wovepaper.co.uk/alumessay2.html. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  7. ^ "North Yorkshire - Coast - Point 7 - Alum". BBC. 2005-07-21. http://www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/content/articles/2005/07/21/coast05walks_stageseven.shtml. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  8. ^ "Taking the waters (From The Northern Echo)". Thenorthernecho.co.uk. 2008-07-26. http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/features/columnists/chrislloyd/3549153.Taking_the_waters/. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  9. ^ "Alum Quarrying". Fortunecity.com. http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfield/ecolodge/25/alum.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  10. ^ CABE website
  11. ^ "Background Information: Whitby Abbey". English Heritage. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.17365. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  12. ^ "bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire". http://www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/content/articles/2005/07/21/coast05walks_stagenine.shtml. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  13. ^ About Whitby Community College (Official website)
  14. ^ Whitby - Fishing
  15. ^ Restaurant review, Daily Telegraph, 23 September 2006
  16. ^ Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller (McFarland, 2008), p. 244-46.
  17. ^ 14-15 Nov: Whitby Now, Whitby Pavilion (North Yorkshire County Council website)

Further reading

  • Malcolm Barker - Essence of Whitby (2006) ISBN 1-90508-011-5
  • Rosalin Barker - The Book Of Whitby (1990) ISBN 0 86023 462 2
  • Colin Platt - Whitby Abbey (1985) ISBN 1 85074 456 4
  • Cordelia Stamp - Whitby Pictorial Memories (2006) ISBN 1 85937 491 3
  • Colin Waters - A History of Whitby's Pubs, Inns and Taverns (1992) ISBN 0 95192 380 3
  • Colin Waters - Whitby, A Pictorial History (1992) ISBN 0 85033 848 4
  • Colin Waters - Whitby Then and Now (2004) ISBN 0 75243 301 6
  • Andrew White - A History of Whitby (2004) ISBN 1-86077-306-0

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Whitby [1] is a picturesque town on the north coast of Yorkshire, England. Famous as the home town of Captain James Cook (world explorer) and the place where according to Bram Stoker's novel,Dracula landed in England, Whitby attracts millions of visitors each year for its heady mix of scenery, seaside historical heritage and fish and chips. Whitby is also home to "Whitby Lucky Ducks" [2] glass ducks believed to bring luck to the owner.

A lovely and lively town. Cheap accommodation at the YHA hostel near the abbey's ruins. Beautiful beaches.

Get in

By car

The main routes into Whitby are all very scenic, but can be treacherous (or closed!) in bad weather, as they pass over high moorland and are susceptible to snow. Becasue of the nature of the relief around Whitby, there are many one in three gradients in and out of the town, and drivers should remain vigilant.

From Scarborough and East Yorkshire, you'll approach on the A171 coast road from the south-east.

From Teesside and the North East, you have a choice between the main A171, or the slower coastal A174.

From York and most other areas, take the A64 to Malton then the A169 through Pickering and over the Moors. This is undoubtedly the prettiest route and is a really good road to drive on - just a couple of sharp bends to beware of, and then a dizzying plummet down a 25% (1 in 4) hill into the village of Sleights.

Like all tourist destinations, the roads into Whitby can be very busy during the summer season, and parking - while plentiful (main car parks by the marina and on West Cliff) can be difficult to find. Unless you arrive early, you may find it best to park well out of the town centre and walk; it isn't far!

By train

Just one railway mainline into Whitby remains, compared with four in its heyday. Northern Rail [3] run four trains daily from Middlesbrough, taking a leisurely hour and a half for the journey along the pretty Esk Valley [4]. North York Moors railway operate picturesque services to and from Whitby and the North York Moors, serving Grosmont, Goathland, Newtondale, Levisham, and Pickering.

If you're coming from York or anywhere further south, it may be quicker to either use the Coastliner bus (see below) from York - through tickets are available from any station in the country, ask for "Whitby Bus Station". Or to get the train from York to Scarborough and use the hourly bus from the front of the station to Whitby.

By bus

Despite its isolated location, Whitby is well connected by interurban buses. Arriva [5] run services along the coast, with the X56 running every hour to Middlesbrough and Scarborough, and the 93 running every hour to Scarborough during the summer season, and less frequently to Middlesbrough throughout the year, as well as several local bus services. Coastliner [6] run their renowned luxury spec buses four times a day from Leeds and York on the 840. Through tickets from any railway station are available on the Coastliner service from York, ask for "Whitby Bus Station" when buying your ticket. Additional services run on many routes during the summer. The bus station is located West of the River Esk in the Town Centre, next to the train station.

There is one National Express [7] coach daily from London and York.

Get around

Whitby is a very compact town, and despite the hilly terrain is easy and rewarding to walk around.

Because of the lack of convenient parking in many areas, driving is not recommended, especially in the summer season.

There is an extensive network of local bus services across the town and to nearby villages.

  • Pannett Art Gallery & Whitby Museum [8]
  • Whitby Abbey
  • Captain Cook Museum [9]
  • Whitby Lifeboat Museum
  • The 199 Steps up to Whitby Abbey
  • St. Mary's Church & Churchyard near the Steps & Abbey
  • 1/3rd Scale HM Bark Endeavour Replica [10]
  • The Mary Anne Hepworth [11] (old lifeboat)
  • Thomas Paylor (Whitby), [12]. The Whitby Guide is Whitby's definitive guide to Whitby Accommodation, Whitby Restaurants, Whitby Events. The complete guide to Whitby, North Yorkshire  edit


Ghost walks- Whitby abbey and the town itself has a long history. There are many haunted sites so be sure to go on one of the guided ghost walks. Warning: the old town is a creepy place after dark and not for the faint hearted.

Dracula experience - walk through a tunnel modified like Dracula's Castle. 'look out for vampires'

199 steps - if you have the energy climb the 199 steps from town up to St Marys church and the Abbey. The view is good.

  • 'Quayside' fishshop is the place to eat in Whitby. Great views, great decor in the cafe and take-away and wonderful food
  • Whitby is also famous for it's kippers. You can see the smokery at Fortune's, along past the Abbey steps on Henrietta Street.
  • Duke of York at the bottom of the Abbey steps... Good food and accommodation.
  • The Magpie Cafe [13] - well worth braving the queues that often snake out of the front door, the fish and chips are delicious.
  • Berry Banks Cottage Whitby, [14]. Luxury Self-Catering Accommodation Riverside View, Whitby. Berry Banks Cottage is in an outstanding and tranquil location in an elevated position above the valley of the River Esk and by the side of a Grade II listed railway viaduct.
  • Marmadukes Whitby Holiday Cottages, tel 0870 243 0766, [15]. Marmadukes maintains a stunning portfolio of private holiday cottages in Whitby, on the beautiful Yorkshire coast. From luxury marina apartments to charming cottages, they offer quality, comfort and style for both short breaks and proper holidays.
  • Rowan Cottage - Holiday Cottage, tel 01947 811853, [16]. Rowan Cottage is nestled in the delightful village of Sleights and is an excellent base for exploring Whitby, Pickering and the North Yorkshire Moors. Sleeping up to six people and fully equipped. Bookings include linen, fuel and parking, no smoking, or pets.
  • Raven Hall Whitby Hotel, tel 01723 870353 [17]. Raven Hall County House hotel offers Whitby accommodation in a stunning location along the beautiful North Yorkshire coastline. The hotel offers a number of facilitates including an indoor pool, tennis courts, fitness suit and 9-hole golf course.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WHITBY, a seaport, watering-place and market town in the Whitby parliamentary division of the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, 245 m. N. from London, on the North-Eastern railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 11,755. There are a terminal station in the town and a station at West Cliff on the Saltburn branch. Whitby is beautifully situated at the mouth and on both banks of the River Esk; the old town of narrow streets and picturesque houses standing on the steep slopes above the river, while the modern residential quarter is mainly on the summit of West Cliff. A long flight of steps leads up the eastern height to the abbey, the ruins of which gain a wonderful dignity from their commanding position. This was a foundation of Oswy, king of Northumbria, in 658, in fulfilment of a vow for a victory over Penda, king of Mercia. It embraced an establishment for monks and (until the Conquest) for nuns of the Benedictine order, and under Hilda, a grand-niece of Edwin, a former king of Northumbria, acquired high celebrity. The existing ruins comprise parts of the Early English choir, the north transept, also Early English but of later date, and the rich Decorated nave. The west side of the nave fell in 1763 and the tower in 1830. On the south side are foundations of cloisters and domestic buildings. Adjoining the abbey is Whitby Hall, built by Sir Francis Cholmley about 1580 from the materials of the monastic buildings, and enlarged and fortified by Sir Hugh Cholmley about 1635. A little below the abbey is the parish church of St Mary, originally Norman, and retaining traces of the first building; owing to a variety of alterations at different periods, and the erection of high wooden pews and galleries, its appearance is more remarkable than beautiful. A modern cross in the churchyard commemorates St Caedmon, the Northumbrian poet (c. 670), who was a monk at the abbey and there died. Other features of the town are the pleasant promenades and gardens on West Cliff, the antiquarian and geological museum, and an excellent golf course. The coast is cliff-bound and very beautiful both to the north and to the south, while inland the Esk traverses a lovely wooded vale, surrounded by open, high-lying moors. Whitby is a quiet resort, possessing none of the brilliance of Scarborough on the same coast. A large fishing industry is carried on from the harbour, which is formed by the mouth of the river and protected by two piers. The manufacture of ornaments from the jet found in the vicinity forms a considerable industry. The jet is a species of petrified wood found towards the bottom of the Upper Lias, and its use for the purpose of ornament dates from very early times. A former activity in shipbuilding is of interest through the recollection that here were constructed the ships for Captain Cook's voyages. Wooden ships and boats are still built, and rope-making and sail-making are carried on.

Whitby (Streanaeshalch c. 657-857; Prestebi c. 857-1080; Witeby, &c. c. 857 onwards) is first mentioned by Bede, who states that a religious house was established here about A.D. 657. In the 9th century it was destroyed by the Danes, but being refounded became the centre of a Danish colony, and until laid waste by the Conqueror was the most prosperous town in the district. Henry I. made a grant to the abbot and convent of Whitby of a burgage in the vill of Whitby, and Richard de Waterville, abbot 1175-1190, granted the town in free burgage to the burgesses. In 1200 King John, bribed by the burgesses, confirmed this charter, but in 1201, bribed by the successor of Richard de Waterville, quashed it as injurious to the dignity of the church of Whitby. A bitter struggle went on, however, till the 14th century, when a trial resulted in a judgment against the burgesses. In 1629 Whitby petitioned for incorporation on the ground that the town was in decay through want of good government and received letters patent giving them self-government.. However, in1674-1675the crown, probably in gratitude for the part played by the Cholmleys in the Civil War, restored to the lords of the manor all the liberties ever enjoyed by the abbots of Whitby in Whitby and Whitby Strand. Whitby became a parliamentary borough under the Reform Act of 1832, returning one member until it was disfranchised under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. At the beginning of the 14th century Sir Alexander Percy claimed the hereditary right of buying and selling in Whitby without payment of toll. The market was held time out of mind on Sunday until the reign of Henry VI., who changed the day to Saturday, still the market day. A fortnightly cattle market was granted by Charles I. Henry I. granted to the abbot of Whitby a fair at the feast of St Hilda and the king's firm peace to all coming to the fair. A second fair was used later, but neither of them is any longer held. There was a port at Whitby in the 12th century and probably before, and though never important there have always since been traces of Whitby shipping and merchandise. In medieval times the salting and sale of herrings and the sale of cod, fish and other products of the North Sea fishery were the only industries. Whale-fishing began in 1753.

See J. C. Atkinson, Memorials of Old Whitby (London, 18 94); Lionel Charlton, History of Whitby (York, 1779); George Young, History of Whitby (Whitby, 1817); Victoria County History, Yorkshire, North Riding.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun




  1. A town and seaport in North Yorkshire, England.
  2. A habitational surname.
  3. Any of a number of other places.

See also

Whitby Tourist Information

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