Whitby Abbey

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After the walk with my son along to Sandsend and back, during the afternoon all four of us headed through Whitby, over to the East Cliff and then up the 199 steps to visit the ruins of the Abbey. Perched on top of the cliffs above the town and next to the old Parish Church, even on a fine day it has rather a “spooky” atmosphere, especially when viewed across the graveyard as in the picture above! No wonder Bram Stoker used this as a location for the early part of Dracula.

We’d all been into the abbey during our previous visit to Whitby, but it was certainly worth another visit – although you can much of the structure from outside the walls without paying the entry fee, we’re all either members of English Heritage or Cadw (the Welsh equivalent) so we got free entry and were able to get a closer view.

The current Abbey wasn’t the first one on the site. The original Anglo Saxon builing was founded St Hild when Whitby was part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, way back in the 7th Century when the the town was known as Streaneshalch and is the liklely location of an important gathering of the clergy, known as the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition in the kingdom of Northumbria. The Anglo Saxon building was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was then deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Romanesque Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This wasreplaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries. The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin – no doubt used as a “quarry” by the locals.

Here’s a few shots I took during our visit.

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Eyam Cross

The plaque sitting besides this old stone cross in Eyam churchyard states that it is Celtic. That’s unlikely to be true. It’s an old preaching cross from the 8th/9th century and is really Anglo-Saxon. Before the Norman invasion Anglo-Saxon art and decorative designs were similar to what these days we consider to be “Celtic” style.

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It’s an impressive example which is almost complete – although the top of the shaft is missing.

This website provides a good description of it’s decoration

It has some very rich decoration on the west face with fabulous interlacing scroll-work running up the shaft that is typically Mercian in origins. On the west-face, especially the upper section, there are human figures probably St Mary the Virgin with the baby Jesus, angels and Christ in glory, each in their own sections or panels. The cross is grade 1 listed.