The Wonders of Whitby


Whitby is a place I love to explore. It has a fascinating history, some of which I would like to share with you, from the ruined abbey that dominates the headland, with the unique church of St Mary’s that leads you to the famous 199 steps and the town and harbour below.

The abbey was first settled by St Hilda when she opened the first monastery in 657 AD. Famed for her energy, commitment to learning, and her faith, life could not have been easy in such an exposed place. The original buildings have long since gone but the ruined stone remains of the abbey as it stands has been a symbol of the haven of the port for many a fisherman returning home.

The whaling industry made Whitby an important and lucrative port throughout the eighteenth century until 1830 when it collapsed because of the discovery of the cheaper, cleaner and more accessible paraffin oil. Throughout this successful period other industries flourished: ship building, sailing, fishing, tanning and one which came into popularity during the period of Queen Victoria’s mourning of Prince Albert, Whitby Jet.

James Cook was apprenticed to Captain John Walker in 1746 and served nine years. He went on to be the first European to successfully chart the East Coast of Australia and New Zealand. Walker’s house is now a museum to Cook.

I hope that has given you a flavour of this beautiful and atmospheric port on the northeast coast of England.

Further information

Sharing Places – Part 4

Whilst researching social history for my stories I visit some fascinating places. Here are some of the places that have triggered plots, created characters or inspired a mood or a desire to return to the keyboard and write.

4. Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

 

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey, an iconic image on the headland.

One of my favourite places to explore on the North Yorkshire coast is the unique, atmospheric town of Whitby. This ancient port situated on the northeast coast of England is famous for many reasons.

St Hilda founded a double monastery (for monks and nuns) here in 657 AD, making it a valued seat of learning. The famous Synod of Whitby was held here in 664 AD.

Whitby became a famous whaling port with such famous seafaring names associated to it as the Scoresby‘s.

Whitby's 99 steps
The famous 99 steps, better going down than up!

The James Cook Museum is housed in the C17 house where he lived as an apprentice. It is an atmospheric place overlooking the River Esk. There is a large car park nearby so exploring this side of the harbour is not a problem if arriving by car. If you walk into the East side of the harbour from here you can wander through the old cobblestoned streets and explore the many yards and snickets.

Passing the old inns and market square you will reach the bottom of the famous 99 steps which lead up to the unique church of St Mary and then to the abbey beyond. The views across the harbour from here are magnificent.

St Mary's Church
The unique St Mary’s church in front of Whitby Abbey has pride of place on the horizon.

To experience staying in one of the original inns, The Whitehorse and Griffin has been lovingly restored and offers excellent food.

Whitby sporadically comes into my stories, either in passing as in Abigail Moor, or as a setting in itself, such as Amelia’s Knight, which is still to be released as an eBook.

Whatever your reason for visiting this fascinating location, being prepared to walk and explore its narrow alleyways, historic places, or the more usual shops and eateries on the west side of the harbour, then there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Whitby houses
A glimpse of the red pantile rooves that characterise bay town houses.

For excellent seafood and a great place to eat it, looking back across the harbour to the abbey is The Magpie.

Other places of interest in the area can be found on these helpful websites: