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Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Scarborough borough of North Yorkshire; it is situated on the east coast of Yorkshire facing the North Sea in a deep valley at the mouth of the River Esk; it is surrounded on its landward sides by the moorland of the North York Moors National Park and the coastal areas are designated part of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast.

This quaint looking town contains houses that are built of brick or stone, often with red pantiled roofs, built in narrow, steep streets leading down to the busy quayside on both sides of the river Esk, which has been a main bridging point since at least medieval times and several bridges have spanned the river; the current bridge, built in 1908, is a swing bridge with a 75 foot (23 metre) span that separates the upper and lower harbours which have a total area of around 80.1 acres (32.40 ha).

Whitby gained its current name in the 11th century, it meant 'White Settlement' in Old Norse; in the following centuries Whitby functioned as a fishing settlement until in the 18th century, it became a shipping port and then a centre of shipbuilding which developed important herring and whaling fleets; it is also known for its alum and Jet which was mined locally by the Romans and Victorians alike.

At the end of the 16th century Thomas Chaloner visited alum works in the Papal States where he observed that the rock being processed was similar to that under his Guisborough estate; at that time alum was important for medicinal uses, in curing leather and for fixing dyed cloths and the Papal States and Spain maintained monopolies on its production and sale, so Chaloner secretly brought workmen in to develop the industry in Yorkshire and alum was produced near Sandsend Ness about 3 miles (5 kilometres) from Whitby in the reign of James I; once the industry was established, imports were banned and although the methods in its production were laborious, England became self sufficient; Whitby grew significantly as a port as a result of the alum trade and by importing coal from the Durham coalfield to process it.

The black mineraloid Jet, which comes from the fossilised remains of the monkey puzzle tree, is found in the cliffs and on the moors and has been used since the Bronze Age to make beads and jewellery.

In Victorian times jet was brought to Whitby by pack pony to be made into decorative items and was at the peak of its popularity in the mid 19th century when it was favoured as mourning jewellery by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert.

The image is of a stunning Victorian Whitby Jet Mourning Necklace, which is believed to have been made sometime around 1860.

The stretch of coast where Whitby is located, is known as the Jurassic Coast and is around 35 miles long and stretches from Staithes in the north, to Flamborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire; dinosaur footprints are visible on Whitby beach and the rock strata contain fossils and organic remains including jet; fossils that have been found there include the petrified bones of an almost complete crocodile and a specimen of plesiosaurus measuring 15 feet 6 inches (4.72 metres) in length, and 8 feet 5 inches (2.57 metres) in breadth, which was discovered in 1841; smaller fossils include ammonite, from the alum shales and at Whitby Scar and nautilites in the lower beds of the lias strata.

The cliffs on the east side are around 187 feet (57 metres) high and consist of alternating layers of shale, sandstone and clay, but on the west side the cliffs are much lower and have a deep capping of boulder clay over a sandstone base making them less stable and liable to slippage; unfortunately, the cliffs are being rapidly eroded away.

Whitby's skyline is dominated by the ruins of St. Hilda's Abbey, high on Whitby's East Cliff, the town's oldest and most prominent landmark; the monastery was first founded at Streonshal in AD 657 by King Oswiu or Oswy of Northumbria, as an act of thanksgiving, after defeating Penda, the pagan king of Mercia; at its foundation, the abbey was an Anglo-Saxon 'double monastery' for men and women; its first abbess, the royal princess Hilda, was later venerated as a saint.


The abbey became a centre of learning and it is where, Caedmon, the cowherd was "miraculously" transformed into an inspired poet whose poetry is an example of Anglo-Saxon literature; the abbey became the leading royal nunnery of the kingdom of Deira and the burial-place of its royal family; the Synod of Whitby in 664, established the Roman date of Easter in Northumbria at the expense of the Celtic one.

The monastery was destroyed between 867 and 870 in a series of raids by Vikings from Denmark under their leaders Ingwar and Ubba and its site remained desolate for more than 200 years until after the Norman Conquest of 1066; after which the area was granted to William de Percy who, in 1078 donated land to found a Benedictine monastery dedicated to St Peter and St Hilda; in about 1128 Henry I granted the abbey burgage in Whitby and permission to hold a fair at the feast of St Hilda on the 25th August; a second fair was held close to St. Hilda's winter feast at Martinmas; market rights were granted to the abbey and descended with the liberty; Whitby Abbey surrendered in December 1539 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

Whitby grew in size and wealth by extending its activities to include shipbuilding, due to the abundance of local oak timber; in 1790 to 1791 Whitby built 11,754 tons of shipping, making it the third largest shipbuilder in England, after London and Newcastle; taxes on imports entering the port raised money to improve and extend the town's twin piers, improving the harbour and permitting further increases in trade.

In 1753 the first whaling ship set sail to Greenland and by 1795 Whitby had become a major whaling port; the most successful year was in 1814 when eight ships caught 172 whales, the Resolution's catch alone produced 230 tons of oil and the carcases yielded 42 tons of whale bone, used for stays, which were used in the corsetry trade until changes in fashion made them redundant; blubber was boiled to produce oil for use in lamps in four oil houses on the harbourside; oil was used for street lighting until the spread of gas lighting reduced demand and the Whitby Whale Oil and Gas Company changed into the Whitby Coal and Gas Company; as the market for whale products fell, catches became too small to be economic and by 1831 the Phoenix was the only whaling ship remaining.

Whitby benefited from the trade between the Newcastle coalfields and London, due to its shipbuilding and the supply of transport; however, the advent of iron ships in the late 19th century and the development of port facilities on the River Tees led to the decline of smaller Yorkshire harbours; the Monks-haven launched in 1871 was the last wooden ship built in Whitby and a year later the harbour was silted up; the HMS Endeavour, the ship commanded by Cook on his voyage to Australia and New Zealand, was built in Whitby in 1764 by Tomas Fishburn; it was originally built as a coal carrier and named the Earl of Pembroke; the ship was later bought by the Royal Navy in 1768, refitted and renamed the HMS Endeavour.

This was where Captain Cook learned seamanship; in his youth he learned his trade on colliers, shipping coal from Whitby

Tourism first started in Whitby in Georgian times; it developed as a spa town when three chalybeate springs were in demand for their medicinal and tonic qualities and helped by the coming of the Whitby and Pickering Railway in 1839; the railway connected Whitby to Pickering and eventually to York; George Hudson, who promoted the link to York, was responsible for the development of the Royal Crescent; as more visitors were attracted to the town, the building of "lodging-houses" and hotels began, particularly on the West Cliff.

The following statue of James Cook; a memorial for William Scoresby - the inventor of the first Crow's Nest, which was originally not much more than a barrel lashed to a mast - and the famous Whalebone Arch on the West Cliff, all point to Whitby having a maritime heritage.

The original Whalebone Arch was erected some time after 1853 and is now displayed in the Whitby Archives & Heritage Centre; the old bones where much larger than the replacements, but time, sea winds and salt took their toll on the old bone and they had started to become split and worn; the first replacement was made from two 20ft jaw bones of a Fin whale and presented to the town by Norway in 1963 and the current Whalebone Arch is made of two 15ft jaw bones from a Bowhead whale, killed under license by Alaskan Inuits, and unveiled by Miss Alaska in 2003.

Count Dracula:

From the old town of Whitby, 199 steps lead up to the parish church of St. Mary, whose churchyard on Whitby's East Cliff gave Bram Stoker the inspiration to write his world famous book, Dracula; if you look across the harbour toward the East Cliff, you can see the view that apparently inspired his fertile imagination; he stayed in the Royal Hotel on the western side of Whitby while writing his famous novel; the novel includes several bits of Whitby folklore such as the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri, which became the basis of Demeter in the book; Stoker wrote seventeen novels, but Dracula remains his most celebrated and enduring work, even today this Gothic masterpiece has lost none of its spine tingling impact that makes it a classic of the genre; today there is a Dracula Museum in the town which celibrates the association.

It is one of the most popular stories ever told and has been re-created for the stage and screen hundreds of times in the last century; but it is essentially a Victorian saga, an awesome tale of a thrillingly bloodthirsty vampire whose nocturnal atrocities reflect the dark underside of a supremely moralistic age; above all, Dracula is a quintessential story of suspense and horror, boasting one of the most terrifying characters in literature, the centuries old Count Dracula, whose diabolical passions prey upon the innocent, the helpless and the beautiful.

Famous People: Captain James Cook, William Scoresby and Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.



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