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This Gothic Abbey inspired Dracula!
Whitby Abbey (Whitby)
Member Name: micksheff
Whitby Abbey (Whitby)
Advantages: An unusual attraction, good views
Disadvantages: Admission prices
If you visit the small, picturesque seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire the one thing that you cannot fail to see are the eerie ruins of the Abbey, perched high on the hillside overlooking the town. If you decide to explore this little fishing town further you will find reference to Whitby's most famous hero, Captain Cook at every turn, but almost just as prominent, though less well known nationally, are the references to St Hilda.
During the 7th century AD the Northumbrian tribe ruled these lands and Lady Hilda, was the niece of Edwin, who was the first Christian King of Northumbria, having been converted to Christianity by the Irish Monks that had settled close to here. Hilda was a formidable character, her Saxon name is even derived from the word "hild" meaning battle, and her uncle appointed her the Abbess of this Abbey. In short, Hilda was in charge of the Nuns that lived at the Abbey.
The Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy, founded the Abbey itself in AD657. Archaeological research undertaken by English Heritage, who now own this site, has shown that this would have been a prosperous site and a bustling settlement. It was also the burial site for the most prominent members of the Northumbrian Royalty.
A Viking invasion in AD867 destroyed much of the Abbey but the Abbey was restored back to its former glory by 1070. At this time there was also a Norman Church next to the Abbey and this remained in use until 1220 when it proved to be inadequate. This is when the current Church that occupies this spot was built.
In 1538 King Henry V111 abolished all of the English Abbeys but whilst almost all other Abbeys fell into disrepair this one at Whitby was largely preserved. This was largely due to the fact that its prominent position had turned it into important shipping landmark and even today it is still so. Following the dissolution of the monasteries this Abbey became the family home of the Chlolmey's. This family built a lavish mansion within the grounds of the Abbey from materials that were plundered from the Abbey. Part of this former mansion house is now used as visitor centre.
English Heritage has carried out extensive work on the Abbey and its surrounding area and this work is still ongoing. One of the most important findings was that of a 17th century garden, which was unearthed. This was originally adjacent to the mansion and features a design that was inspired by the Chlomley family's various visits to both Spain and France. This garden has now been fully restored to its former glory and is more or less unique within the UK.
Inside the visitor centre there are many display cabinets that contain artefacts that have been excavated from around here. In addition to the items that are obviously related to the Abbey there are several "foreign" objects too. Some of these refer to the sea and it is thought that the early occupiers of this site probably had trading links with the ships that passed along this important shipping route. There are also artefacts that relate to the Chlomley family.
There is also a detailed account of the way that the landscape around here has changed over the centuries. These include several state of the art computer generated images. This same format has also been used to recreate how the Abbey would have looked during medieval times.
Also within this visitor centre there are displays that relate to some of Whitby's most famous residents. These include St Hilda, whose story is told here as well as Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who used this Gothic Abbey as the inspiration behind his creation. The most notable omission here is virtually no reference to the town's most famous resident, Captain James Cook. This probably has something to do with the fact that he has his own museum dedicated to him in the town. Next to the visitor centre there is the customary gift shop with souvenirs and toys etc.
Most visitors to the Abbey, myself included, reach it from the harbour via 199 steep steps known as Caedmon's Trod. Caedmon was a famous poet that took refuge within the walls of the Abbey. This route is however bot suitable for the disabled or the infirm as it is very steep. There is a slope at the side of the steps and during my visit I did see a young couple trying to push a pushchair up there but it quite a struggle. For those that are unable to climb these steps there is an alternative route from a road at the top which is well sign-posted at if you choose this option it is also possible to park nearby, although this is on a pay and display basis. If you are able to climb the steps then this is certainly the recommended route as the effort is rewarded with the most amazing views.
If you are planning a visit to Whitby Abbey it is open at the following times:
1st April to 1st November - daily from 10am until 6pm (or dusk if earlier in October)
2nd November to 31st March - daily from 10am until 4pm.
Current admission charges are as below:
Adults - £4.20 (6.3 Euros)
Children - £2.10 (4 Euros)
Family ticket - £10.50 (16 Euros)
Concessions - £3.20 (4.5 Euros)
English Nature members - Free
Summary: Whitby Abbey inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula
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