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Whitby in North Yorkshire maintains its ancient charm neatly divided into two by the River Esk and connected by a Whitby swing bridge which was built by Heenan and Froude of Manchester in 1909, the same company that built Blackpool Tower, with the bridge costing at the time £22,582.14 shillings and 4d.
On the East side of Whitby you have on the skyline Whitby Abbey and St Marys Church located at the very top with the famous 199 steps that lead from the end of Church Street, where it becomes Henrietta Street.
Whitby Abbey is probably the towns most prominent tourist attraction with the building originating in 1657, there is now a museum at the entrance run by English Heritage. The History of Whitby Abbey
St Marys Church just in front of the Abbey is also well worth a visit originating approximately 1110 and it is very probable that the church was in the same place during Saxon times. The History of St Marys Church Whitby
In November 2012 Whitby had more than its fair share of bad news for the locals due to landslips, with the first one being at the end of Henrietta Street when part of the graveyard of St Marys Church came tumbling down hitting the back wall of Fortunes kipper smoking house., which has been in the same building since 1872. The land-slip revealed gruesome relics of the past in the shape of skeleton bones.
Landslips are not new to Henrietta Street, in A.D. 1270 the street then called Haggerlythe named after Henrietta who was the wife of Nathanial Cholmley, was a very sought-after part of Whitby to have property, with over 130 houses being built. Unfortunately, the largest percentages of these were demolished during a landslide in 1787, which made many of the families homeless. There was a second landslide in 1787 when a chapel and a further 12 houses were demolished. There wasnt another landslide until 1923 in this area of Whitby. Thankfully the 2012 land slip was only a minor in comparison to the previous ones.
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But this wasnt the end of Whitby’s problems during the end of November 2012, there was an even worse land-slip high up on the east side of the town in the residential area known as The Ropery on Aelfleda Terrace when four of the terraced properties lost their rear patios. The four houses had to be demolished quickly by the council and it was broadcast on national TV. The council charged each householder £40,000 for the privilege of demolishing their property, but residents have since put forward the claim that the land-slip was due to faulty drainage by the water board in the hillside. What financial help the owners of the properties will get nobody knows at this stage. In 2012 before the land-slip one of those properties was for sale by a local estate agent for well over £200,000 partly at this high price because of the excellent views over Whitby from patio areas at the rear of each house. Now there is just a space on the skyline were the four houses used to be!
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On this east side of Whitby there is a warren of little alleyways that run-off all the main streets like Church Street which often are named with the word yard at the end of their names. Whitby is famous for its numerous yards and it is in these little alleyways and yards that give tourists a good idea of what Whitby was like in olden days. Most of the yards were built during the Georgian and early Victorian era when Whitby was spreading out quickly to house the local fishermen and their families. Each yard being its own little community of families, living in very harsh conditions. Whitby folk in these yards had very little privacy, with neighbours having to go into each others property to help the sick and old in these very cold and damp properties. These yards cottages on the outside have changed little in essence and do give a feeling of the past but the properties on the inside have completely changed, now mostly luxury holiday cottages and a complete contrast to their past.
Many of the yards were unfortunately demolished in the late 1960s with local artist called Albert T Pile drawing many of them just before they were demolished and gone forever. On this link you can read my article about the local fishermen living in Whitby yards.
Walking down Church Street you can wander past the marketplace and gaze into the numerous little shops that sell jet jewellery, Whitby lucky ducks and many other trinkets. There are also a number of fine galleries of paintings by local artists. It’s lovely just to sit outside one of the little cafeterias and watch the world go by which can be during the summer quite a busy world when tourists flocking to the town.
One of the tourist attractions not to miss on the east side is the Captain James Cook Museum down a little street called Grape Street, which was originally in olden days given the nickname Grope Street, because this was the place where the prostitutes would hang out trying to attract clientele. The museum itself is housed in a property built in 1688 and is the actual place that Cook lodged in during his apprenticeship before he became known as the Great Circumnavigator. Cook is commemorated on the West Cliff just in front of the Royal Hotel with his statuette looking over the town. Captain James Cook
To the right of Cook statuette there is also another well-known attraction that dominates the skyline of the west side and that is the enormous whale jaw bone that forms an arc to which tourists walk through on the path down towards the Khyber Pass and the harbour. The jawbone was given by the people of Anchorage in Alaska, replacing an original and indeed this Alaskan port is one of the only 10 places to be twinned with Whitby. Two others are Whitbys Ontario and New Zealand. During its period as a whaling port Whitby had over 50 ships working from the harbour which brought back whales and seals which ended up in a large bowl houses to be rendered down into blubber.
Also one of the mainstays of Whitby in the past was shipbuilding and indeed all of Captain Cook ships being Whitby colliers and the seamen had their own hospital on Church Street, founded in 1675.
It is here on the west side of the town where you can find the main hotels and the Whitby Spa Pavilion Theatre which has a healthy calendar of events during the year to draw in tourists and locals.
It was while staying on the Royal Crescent and also at the Royal Hotel that the famous author Bram Stoker was inspired by the town to write his classic book Dracula. It is because of this Dracula association with Whitby that over the last couple of decades Whitby has become extremely popular with Goths who now have two major Whitby Goth weekends each year, one in spring and one at the end of the summer, when literally thousands of Goths of all ages take over the town dressed in their finest black and elaborate outfits. Famous people of Whitby
At the bottom of the Khyber Pass you come to the West Pier which extends from the fishing quay out towards the lighthouse and in the opposite direction from the bandstand heading back into town past the moorings for the pleasure boats which take holiday makers on sea trips of between thirty minutes and three hours. It is usually around the bandstand area where you can also take the Whitby tour bus of the town or take the famous steam bus called Elizabeth for a more sedate and stylish tour of the town.
A nice pastime on a sunny day is to wander from the West Cliff Pier along the beach towards Sandsend, where you will passthe colourful beach huts, public toilets and then a cafeteria with outside seating.
Another fine attraction on the west side is Pannett Park which enjoys well-manicured gardens and flowers, where tourists and locals can sit in one of the benches and take in the panoramic view of the town.
Whitby park also contains a museum which is administered by the literary and philosophical Society. Alderman Pannett gifted both the museum and part of the town in 1935.
The museum houses a wonderful collection of exhibits dating back to the dinosaur coast, with one of them being the ichthyosaurus exhibited on one of the walls. There is also a crocodile which measures 3 meters in length which was dug up in 1824. The museum boasts the finest collection of fossils and amenities, with one of these actually been featured in the coat of arms of Whitby. The museum also celebrates some of the towns most influential people with artefacts relating to Captain James Cook and William Scoresby who invented the crows nest which many boats adopted as their primary form of look out from high up on the sails of the ship. Scoresby is recorded as bringing back a record tonnage on one trip to the Antarctic. The first famous name associated with Whitby was Caedmon, a lay member of St Hildas Abbey in 656 A.D
So if youre thinking of visiting Whitby to delve in some of its historical past or just simply because the town provides probably the best UK holiday experience in North Yorkshire I’m sure youll find something to do and you will thoroughly enjoy your time.
You can find the actual Whitby tourist information centre at the following address
Whitby Tourist Information
YO21 1YN Telephone: 01723 383636
Fax: 01723 383604