World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Whitby Abbey

Article Id: WHEBN0000381586
Reproduction Date:

Title: Whitby Abbey  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of monastic houses in North Yorkshire, List of monastic houses in England, Oswiu, Cædmon, November 17 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
Collection: 1540 Disestablishments in England, 657 Establishments, 7Th-Century Establishments in England, 860S Disestablishments, Benedictine Monasteries in England, Burial Sites of the House of Kent, Burial Sites of the Royal House of Northumbria, Christian Monasteries Established in the 11Th Century, Christian Monasteries Established in the 7Th Century, Churches in North Yorkshire, Double Monasteries, Dracula in Written Fiction, English Heritage Sites in North Yorkshire, Grade I Listed Churches in North Yorkshire, Grade I Listed Monasteries, Grade I Listed Ruins, History of North Yorkshire, Monasteries in North Yorkshire, Ruined Abbeys and Monasteries, Ruins in North Yorkshire, Whitby
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey
Monastery information
Order Benedictine
Established 657AD
Disestablished 1538
Mother house Fountains Abbey
Diocese Diocese of York
Founder(s) 1.Oswy, 2.Prior Reinfrid
Location Whitby, North Yorkshire, England
Coordinates 54.4883 -0.6075
Visible remains substantial
Public access yes

Whitby Abbey is a ruined Benedictine abbey overlooking the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire, England. It was disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of Henry VIII. It is a Grade I Listed building in the care of English Heritage and its site museum is housed in Cholmley House.


  • Streoneshalh 1
  • Whitby 2
  • Abbey possessions 3
  • Priors and abbots 4
  • Notable burials 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon era King of Northumbria, Oswy (Oswiu) as Streoneshalh (the older name for Whitby).[1] He appointed Lady Hilda, abbess of Hartlepool Abbey and grand-niece of Edwin the first Christian king of Northumbria, as founding abbess. The name Streoneshalh is thought to signify Fort Bay or Tower Bay in reference to a supposed Roman settlement that previously existed on the site. This contention has never been proven though and alternative theories have been proposed, such as the name meaning Streona's settlement. Some believe that the name referred to Eadric Streona, but this is highly unlikely for chronological reasons: Streona died in 1017 so the naming of Streoneshalh would have preceded his birth by several hundred years.[2]

The double monastery of Celtic monks and nuns was home to the great Northumbrian poet Cædmon. In 664 the Synod of Whitby - at which King Oswiu ruled that the Northumbrian church would adopt the Roman calculation of Easter and monastic tonsure - took place at the abbey.

Streoneshalch was laid waste by Danes in successive raids between 867 and 870 under Ingwar and Ubba and remained desolate for more than 200 years. The existence of 'Prestebi', meaning the habitation of priests in Old Norse, at the Domesday Survey may point to the revival of religious life since Danish times.[3] The old monastery given to Reinfrid comprised about 40 ruined monasteria vel oratoria similar to Irish monastic ruins with numerous chapels and cells.[4]


Illustration of the ruins of Whitby Abbey

Reinfrid, a soldier of William the Conqueror, became a monk and travelled to Streoneshalh, which was then known as Prestebi or Hwitebi (the "white settlement" in Old Norse). He approached William de Percy who gave him the ruined monastery of St. Peter with two carucates of land, to found a new monastery. Serlo de Percy, the founder's brother, joined Reinfrid at the new monastery which followed the Benedictine rule.[4]

The second monastery lasted until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Though the abbey fell into ruin, it remained a prominent landmark for sailors and helped inspire Bram Stoker's Dracula.[5] The ruins are now owned and maintained by English Heritage.

In December 1914, Whitby Abbey was shelled by German battlecruisers Von der Tann and Derfflinger who were aiming for the signal post on the end of the headland. Scarborough and Hartlepool were also attacked. The Abbey sustained considerable damage during the ten minute attack. The BBC included before and after photographs as part of the First World War centenary.[6]

Whitby Abbey at sunset

Whitby Abbey was rendered famous in fiction by Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, as Dracula there came ashore as a creature resembling a large dog and proceeded to climb the 199 steps which lead up to the ruins.

Abbey possessions

The original gift of William de Percy not only included the monastery of St. Peter at Streoneshalch, but the town and port of Whitby with its parish church of St. Mary and six dependent chapels at Fyling, Hawsker, Sneaton, Ugglebarnby, Dunsley, and Aislaby, five mills including Ruswarp, the town of Hackness with two mills and the parish church of St. Mary, and the church of St. Peter at Hackness 'where our monks served God, died, and were buried,' and various other gifts enumerated in the ' Memorial' in the abbot's book.[4]

Priors and abbots

The first prior, Reinfrid, ruled for many years before being killed in an accident. He was buried at St Peter at Hackness. He was succeeded as prior by Serlo de Percy.[4]

Notable burials


  1. ^
  2. ^ History of Whitby Abbey
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^
  6. ^


  • Information About Whitby Abbey
  • History of Whitby Abbey
  • Whitby History

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Whitby Abbey - official site at English Heritage

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.