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 Whitby and Scarborough Index

2a. Introduction and Views of Whitby Abbey

From Church Street up into the Abbey ruins picture sequence, click on a picture to view the next one

The great historical date of Whitby is the Synod of Whitby in 664 due to the fame and prestige of its abbey. The original abbey was founded by St Hilda, Abbess of Hartlepool in AD 657. The monastery was destroyed by the Danes in 867. However by ~1078 the abbey was flourishing again but most of what you see today dates from the 13th century (rebuilding started ~1220) i.e. all that remains of the great architectural heritage of this monastic building that the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530's, 'stone pillaging' and the wild North Sea Coast weather destroyed.


Some of the medieval heads, on display in the visitor centre, found by archaeologist excavating the ruins of Whitby Abbey


View of Whitby Abbey , St Marys Church, typical red tiled houses and the 199 steps up to them as seen from Westcliff

View of Whitby Abbey , St Mary's Church, typical red tiled houses and the 199 steps up to them as seen from Westcliff. For more on St Mary's Church see page 13


The great medieval ruins of Whitby Abbey in the early morning sunlight (above) and evening light (3 below).


Also in the visitor centre is this beautifully crafted strap end from a belt dating from the 9th century and no doubt the work of an expert silversmith.



More of the carvings found by archaeological excavations at Whitby Abbey. On the left is part of a stone commemorating an important woman, possibly Abbess Aeilred, who died here ~AD714. On the right is part of a late 8th to early 9th century stone with a fine carving of an animal inscribed on it, it may have been part of a gravestone.


Details of the east end in the early morning light.


Some of the fine work of the medieval stonemasons can still be found, albeit somewhat eroded by weather of 700-800 years.


Some details of the weathered stonework and the old medieval cross by the Abbey.

Its remarkable how these structures have survived the elements on such an exposed cliff top.


A profile of the upper parts of this great monastic ruin - viewed en route to the hostel or cafe!


The view from near the Abbey Cross.

Some winter views of Whitby Abbey

The snowman is as eroded as the stonework!



The medieval fishpond is frozen over!



Other buildings in the Abbey Grounds

Near the Abbey visitor centre and museum is a statue has been erected to replace one lost from 300 years ago.

It is based on the Cardinal Borghese marble gladiator statue that was found in excavations in Italy in 1611. The original marble statue was signed by the sculptor Agasias of Ephesus and dated to 101 BC but probably based on an earlier model. This life-sized sword toting warrior is made of bronze.


The Youth Hostel - Whitby YHA is a very splendid building.


Inside Whitby Youth Hostel, near the reception, is an ancient medieval beam on which many figures of animals, plants and people are carved. It is a very fine piece of work and details of the figures are shown below - impossible to get on one decent photograph!


This timber beam was discovered in the north wall of the central block constructed by Francis Cholmley around 1570, during thee recent renovations to Whitby Abbey. The carved wooden beam is believed to date from the v13th century predating the house it was found in by 200 years or more. Its origin is unknown and it was just used as a lintel with the carved face set into a wall. The Cholmleys acquired the abbey buildings in 1541 after the dissolution of the monasteries.


The carvings seem to depict a hunting scene with a man in the centre with his arms outstretched holding a pair of long tailed dogs. Behind the dogs are palm trees and other vegetation (grass?). On the left is a four legged male animal with short ears and a short tail (dog or horse?). To the right another four legged animal with a short tail but longer ears and then another larger animal which maybe a horse? The scene ends with a splendid serpent-like dragon? in a similar position to the dogs and its head turned back over its scaled body and curled tail. It has ears, prominent teeth and a protruding pointed tongue. At the base of the beam is a rope running along its length. The carvings may also be symbolic in design, the pose of the dogs representing fidelity or faithfulness. The hunting scene was used to demonstrate the prowess and skills of the owner and displayed for guests to admire? Who knows what it all means!





From Church Street up into the Abbey ruins picture sequence, click on a picture to view the next one



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