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Why is Whitby Abbey famous?

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It’s impossible to miss standing proud on the cliff edge with a watchful eye over our seaside town. It sets a gothic atmosphere that has inspired many novels and jewellery - to name a few. Over the years, many artists, writers and religious leaders have been in awe of the vast ruins, so much so that it inspired their work. Whitby Abbey is a beloved part of the North Yorkshire landscape 

 

The Abbey Through the Centuries 

 

It sure does look good at nearly 700 years old. Buried under the impressive shell, are signs of an earlier Anglo-Saxon monastery built by Abbess Hild in around 657. It was an important religious centre in the Anglo-Saxon world. Famously the monastery was the meeting place for the Synod of Whitby where disagreements were settled in 664. In the 7th century there were a few key differences between Roman and Celtic Christianity so the missionaries met to offer their arguments. A formula was agreed upon, including how to determine the dates of Easter, which is still used to this day. 

 

We’ve got to admit that there is something quite special about the high clifftops drawing many communities to the headland above Whitby throughout the centuries despite the hostile environment due to the notorious high winds and lack of water supply. The spectacular views and prime position obviously outweighed the negative. In the 9th century, the monastery was left abandoned due to Danish raids and today there is nothing visibly left of the original church and the adjacent town. 

 

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It wasn’t until the 13th century that the vast Gothic architecture that we admire today was built. As you can imagine it was a massive undertaking both financially and physically so work was not complete until the 15th century. The abbey was suppressed in 1539 by Henry VIII and shortly after bought by Sir Richard Cholmley who converted part of the estate into a home. The Cholmley family abandoned the house towards the end of the 18th century and parts of the church began to gradually collapse during the next 100 years. 

 

During the 19th century, Whitby Abbey became a popular tourist attraction and the ruins were regularly a source of inspiration to creatives. One of the most famous is Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula released in 1897. 

 

The abbey faced more destruction during World War II when the German High Seas Fleet shelled the ruins in 1914 from an attack on Whitby. Luckily the Strickland family (who owned the monastery at the time) repaired the damage to the west front before passing the abbey over to the Ministry of Works. 

 

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Visit the Abbey

 

The abbey is just one of the reasons many visit Whitby with generations drawn to the ruins. If you’re holidaying at the seaside town this summer, you’ll be pleased to know that the grounds and interior are open with precautions in place, you’ll just need to book in advance. Towering high above the town, it takes 199 steps to reach offering wonderful views of the coastline. We may be biased but it is worth the climb for a fantastic day out for all the family. 

 

Whitby Abbey Jewellery Collection

 

Can you blame us?! With the famous monastery so close by we couldn’t help but dedicate a jewellery collection to it. We often find the perfect source of inspiration on our doorstep. I guess that’s what happens when you are based in such an interesting place. We bring the ancient ruins to life on a backdrop of Whitby Jet with pendants and brooches that feature the abbey that dominates the skyline. Honouring the beautiful building, we’ve also focused on its windows to create stunning earrings and pendants that truly capture the monastery. 

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