Whitby is a town and
civil parish in the Scarborough district of North
Yorkshire on the north-east coast of England.
Nowadays it is a fishing port
tourist destination. It is situated 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.
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. 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
's novel, Dracula
Many interesting fossils have been found in the Whitby area
including entire skeletons of
. 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
656, Oswiu or Oswy, the
Christian king of Northumbria, fulfilled a vow by founding a monastery
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
This was the house that Ælflæda herself
entered as a pupil and of which she later became abbess.
The first abbess was Hilda
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
was the leading royal nunnery of Deira
, and the burial-place of its royal
family. The Synod of Whitby
, in 664,
established the Roman
in Northumbria at the expense of the
one, an important and
Danish Vikings landed 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
that William de Percy
the monastery be refounded (1078), dedicating it to St Peter and St
Hilda. Later it became Presteby (meaning the habitation of
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
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. 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. 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
, 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
Whitby grew significantly as a port in the following years as a
result of the transport of alum and coal.
Whitby Abbey and St Mary's Church
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 famed 199 steps known as "Caedmon's Trod".
Modern history - since 1605
alum producing centres were established close to Whitby including,
in 1615, one near Sandsend (now Sandsend Ness) from the town.
Whitby, showing St Mary's Church in
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
, using the local
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
the first whaling ship set sail from Whitby
This initiated a new phase in the town's
development, and by 1795 Whitby had become a major centre for the
George Hudson completed his railway network
connecting Whitby and the towns of the East Riding with York in
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
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
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
The modern Port of Whitby, strategically placed for shipping to
, with very good proximity to the
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. of
dock space is currently (2004) allocated for storage of all-weather
cargo and a further of warehouse space is reserved for
weather-critical goods storage.
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.
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
The town was awarded "Best Seaside Resort 2006", by Which? Holiday
The town's college, Whitby Community
was granted specialist school status in September 2002,
specialising in Technology.
Whitby has a fish market
on the quayside
which operates as need and opportunity arise. 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.
There are several schools within Whitby:
Roman Catholic Primary School
West Cliff Primary
Hill Community Primary School
East Whitby Community Primary School
Whitby Community College
Fyling Hall School
Functional English Christian Language School,
(School demolished early 2008 and flats now stand on the
West Cliff has its own landmarks — a statue of Captain James Cook
, who served his apprenticeship in the
town, and a whalebone
the once large whaling industry. There is also a new science museum — Whitby 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
, inventor of the
The black mineraloid
, 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
and the manufacture of
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
One unusual feature of Whitby is the Dracula
Museum. Part of Bram Stoker
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.
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."
The novel Caedmon's Song
Whitby. Whitby also features significantly in the novel
's novel, The Hundred and Ninety Nine Steps
set in Whitby. Whitby is prominently featured in The
, by Kim Wilkins
has written The Whitby
, a trilogy of children's fantasy novels set in Whitby,
that borrow from bits of local folklore. Paul
's series of novels following the neighbouring spinsters
"Brenda and Effie" — Never the Bride
, Conjugal Rites
— are set almost exclusively
in Whitby. The 2008 anthology Fabulous Whitby
and Liz Williams
is a collection of
fantasy stories, all set in Whitby.
The novelist Storm Jameson
came from Whitby but spent most of her life in London.
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.
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
Each year, on the eve of Ascension
, the Penny Hedge
For over four decades the town has hosted the Whitby Folk Week,
which currently includes around 600 different events in various
Whitby also hosts the bi-annual Whitby Gothic Weekend
, a festival for
members of the Goth
"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.
Cities twinned with Whitby
- Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English
People, ed. J. McClure and R. Collins (Oxford University Press
1994), pp. 150-151.
- The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England ed.
Michael Lapidge et al. (Blackwell 1999), pp.155, 472.
- About Whitby Community College (Official website)
- Whitby - Fishing
- Restaurant review, Daily Telegraph, 23
- Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition
by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller (McFarland, 2008),
- 14-15 Nov: Whitby Now, Whitby Pavilion (North
Yorkshire County Council website)
- Malcolm Barker - Essence of Whitby (2006) ISBN
- Rosalin Barker - The Book Of Whitby (1990) ISBN 0
86023 462 2
- Colin Platt - Whitby Abbey (1985) ISBN 1 85074 456
- 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
- Andrew White - A History of Whitby (2004) ISBN