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Historic England Research Records

Whitby Abbey

Hob Uid: 29830
Location :
North Yorkshire
Scarborough
Whitby
Grid Ref : NZ9030011220
Summary : Whitby Abbey is a Medieval abbey built on the site of previous Early Medieval ecclesiastical communites. It was originally founded as a double house priory in 657 and destroyed by the Danes circa 867. For details of these earlier ecclesiastical communities see record 1311426. It was refounded as a Benedictine Priory by 1077, but lapsed, ad then again as a Benedictine Abbey by 1109. It was dissolved in during the Reformation in 1539. The abbey church was left intact at the Dissolution and was almost complete as late as 1711 but is now in ruins. The older course of the presbytery of the smaller Romanesque abbey dated from the early 12th century, however much of the earliest standing fabric now remaining is from two early 13th century phases, there are also 14th century and 15th century additions. Whitby's dependent religious houses were: Hackness, Middlesborough, Fishergate (York) and St Michael's Hospital, Whitby. Later the Gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey were to inspire Bram Stoker in writing the prototype horror story "Dracula". Whitby Abbey is an English Heritage Property.
More information : (NZ 90301122) Remains of Whitby Abbey (NR).
(Benedictine. Founded AD 1074). (1)

Benedictine monastery refounded in 1077 on the site of the monastery destroyed by the Danes circa 867. It became an abbey in 1109 and a mitred abbey by the 14th century. Dissolved in 1539.

The church was left intact at the Dissolution and was almost complete as late as 1711. The fabric however disintegrated thereafter and direct hits by a German cruiser in 1914 caused complete ruin. The east end of the church dates from 1220 and the western part of the nave from the 14th cent. No attempt has been made to excavate the conventual buildings south of the church.Recent excavations on the North side of the church revealed considerable traces of the Saxon monastery. (2-3)

The remains are in the care of the M.O.W. and are open to
the public. There are no associated earthworks. Some finds from recent excavations are displayed on the site, and include an A.S. cross-base (now situated at NZ 90271129) and some stone coffins and head crosses at NZ 90281124. [Record users please note: this paragraph dates from 1967 and some details are superseded: the site is now in the care of English Heritage]. (4)

(NZ 90301122) Whitby Abbey (NR)
(Benedictine. Founded 1109)
(NZ 90271130) Cross (NR) (Remains of) (5)

Whitby Abbey (Ruins) Extensive ruins of the church from early C12 to C14. See 'Whitby Abbey' by Department of the Environment, AM. NMR. (6)

NZ 9030 1120. Whitby Abbey: Saxon double-house, post-Conquest Benedictine monastery, C17 manor house & C14 cross. Scheduled RSM No 13284. (7)

The Abbey was re-founded as a Benedictine Priory by Reinfrid in 1077, but lapsed. It was re-founded as a Benedictine Abbey by 1109. The choir and presbytery were built in the 13th century, the nave in the 14th/15th century. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and passed to the Cholmley family. The church was left intact at the Dissolution and was almost complete into the 18th century, but large parts collapsed c 1736 and 1762. There was shell damage to the W front from German naval bombardment in 1914. Dependencies: Hackness, Middlesbrough, Fishergate (York) and St Michael's Hospital, Whitby. Scheduled listed and in guardianship. (8-9)

The site was investigated in 1920-5 (NMR635252, 635268), 1958 (NMR635251, 635270), and 1993-2001, including geophysical survey (NMR662490). Excavation of 3.5% of the area of a proposed extension to the visitor's car park in 1993 (NMR1063338) confirmed the geophysical evidence for ridge-and-furrow and old field boundaries but found little else. The trench nearest the present abbey contained evidence for lead working, and pre-dated the ridge-and-furrow. Trial excavation on the route of a proposed path linking the abbey and town in 1994 (NMR1063343) suggested that the visible bank running E-W down the field with a wall on top was the precinct boundary to the 13th-century abbey. On the S side of the bank there was ridge-and-furrow and few finds, to the N, in garden soils, the number of finds increased notably. It was decided to run the path to the S of the bank. An earthwork survey in 1997 identified gardens, fields and possible house platforms (NMR1330833). (10)

The first of the geophysical surveys mentioned above found in 1992 possible evidence for an early cloister to the south of the church, and a road or monastic boundary. The area of the old 1920s excavation was also established. (11)

The 1993 season of geophysical survey found no futher evidence for buildings but noted some medieval ridge and furrow cultivation. (12)

The 1994 season of geophysical survey found further evidence for the buried remains of a claustral range to the south of the church, along with other masonry or stone features; with more ridge and furrow established at Almshouse Close. (13)

A review of the re-working of the site by English Heritage, especially of the visitor centre designed by Stanton Williams, which the author of the article, Kenneth Powell, describes as one of Yorkshire's best comtemporary buildings. (14)

The re-written English Heritage Guidebook published in 2010 includes an outline of the Abbey's history from the 7th century and includes a "tour" of the site with detailed descrpitions of the main surviving features of the site. There are phase plans and a location plan, as well as historical images and reconstruction artwork. (15)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1928
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Source Number : 2
Source : Medieval religious houses in England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 80,485
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Source Number : 11
Source : Geophysical and topographical surveys of Whitby Abbey; a programme of research carried out on behalf of English Heritage and Scarborough Borough Castle
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Source Number : 12
Source : Geophysical and topographical surveys at Whitby 1993
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Source Number : 13
Source : Geophysical and topographical surveys at Whitby Abbey 1994: a programme of research carried out on behalf of English Heritage and Scarborough Borough Council
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Source Number : 14
Source : Architects' journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 26-39
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Vol(s) : 115, ISSUE 16, 2002
Source Number : 15
Source : Whitby Abbey [Guide]
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Source Number : 3
Source : Monastic sites from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 18
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ECW 07-MAR-67
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Source Number : 5
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1977
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Source Number : 6
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Whitby Urban District, Yorkshire, North Riding, 04-DEC-1972
Page(s) : 1
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Vol(s) : 665
Source Number : 7
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 09-Jun-92
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Figs. : 418
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Source Number : 8
Source : Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire
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Source Number : 9
Source : Whitby Abbey
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Source Number : 10
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Gazetteer Reference WH27, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Refounded by 1077; abandoned before 1109
Monument End Date : 1109
Monument Start Date : 1077
Monument Type : Benedictine Monastery, Priory
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Use 1109 to 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1109
Monument Type : Benedictine Monastery, Abbey, Inhumation Cemetery
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Constructed 1220
Monument End Date : 1220
Monument Start Date : 1220
Monument Type : Church, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered in 14 century
Monument End Date : 1400
Monument Start Date : 1301
Monument Type : Church, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered C15
Monument End Date : 1600
Monument Start Date : 1501
Monument Type : Abbey, Church
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13284
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 25
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 326506
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 393
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1316347
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1017941
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NZ 91 SW 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 27046
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29823
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29826
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29833
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 65801
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29827
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29840
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29841
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29845
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1302352
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1311426
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 29827
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1920-01-01
End Date : 1925-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1920-01-01
End Date : 1920-12-31
Associated Activities : 500M SE OF WHITBY ABBEY (SITE 2)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1958-01-01
End Date : 1958-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 91 SW 10
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1967-03-07
End Date : 1967-03-07
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY HEADLAND PROJECT
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY HEADLAND
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY HEADLAND
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1995-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY & ENVIRONS
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : ABBEY LAND FARM (WHITBY HEADLAND PROJECT)
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND OFF GREEN LANE
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY PIPELINE, STAINSACRE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31
Associated Activities : CAEDMON HOUSE, ABBEY PLAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : NEW VISTOR ACCESS, WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : ALMSHOUSE CLOSE, WHITBY ABBEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY LODGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : WHITBY ABBEY: WEST PRECINCT WALL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31