Whitby History 
Bronze Age 
 
Report from 2007: 
 
Archaeologists Find Mysterious Carved Stone At Whitby Abbey 
 
 
 
Experts are studying a carved stone recently uncovered on Whitby Abbey Headland in North Yorkshire to see if it represents the first Bronze Age artefact from the site. 
 
St Hild founded an abbey on Whitby Headland in 657AD, which is now an important historical site. However, little was known about the site in the Anglo Saxon period in which it was founded until archaeologists carried out clifftop excavations in 2001 and 2002. 
 
They found signs of industrial activities like glass and lead-making from the Anglian period (7th-9th century), and the first evidence of an Iron Age domestic dwelling on the site, dating from 500BC-100AD. 
 
An archaeological team returned this autumn for a six-week dig, and found an even more intriguing object – a mysterious stone carved with linear markings. Measuring about 40cm by 50cm, it appears to be of the type of Bronze Age carved stone found on the North York Moors in 2003, dating from 2000BC-700BC. 
 
 
An archaeologist with the rare stone at the site at Whitby Abbey 
 
Iron Age 
 
Report from 2002: 
 
Archaeologists digging land adjoining Whitby Abbey have discovered a new and unexpected dimension to the site's colourful past. 
 
A part of the 150ft headland – on the brink of collapsing into the sea – has yielded evidence of a 2,000-year-old Iron Age domestic settlement, including the remains of a distinctive "round house", possibly dating from the first or second century BC. 
 
The remains of a substantial Dark Ages settlement were discovered there last year. 
 
Archaeologists have been racing against time to salvage its antiquities because of the threat posed by coastal erosion in Yorkshire, a danger demonstrated four years ago when a four-star hotel was sent crashing into the sea. They said yesterday that they had discovered a circular trench with holes on the headland – the remains of a wigwam-style, thatched Iron Age house. Supporting posts for the dwelling would have been lodged in the holes. 
 
The house, made of wood, straw and turf, had a diameter of 11 metres and its entrance faced east, a typical trait of Iron Age dwellings. This would have allowed early morning sunlight to filter into the interior – though if yesterday's bitter winds and rain were anything to go by, afternoons may have been a different proposition. 
 
Near the dwelling, English Heritage archaeologists have discovered rubbish pits containing large lumps of pottery, the remnants of Iron Age vessels. The priority for the nine-week investigation, involving up to 34 archaeologists, has been to find clues about the Anglo-Saxon period, during which the first abbey was founded by St Hilda. They have been surprised by the scale of industrial activity on the headland, having found iron slag, loom weights and even indications of glass making. 
 
Among other artefacts recovered are two ninth century copper alloy strap-ends, possibly used on a belt, featuring delicately carved animal motifs.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Whitby Museum hosts collections of local fossils, natural history, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes and social history. Many artefacts relating to the famous whaling family, the Scoresbys and also the explorer Captain Cook, are on display.
 
Whitby is steeped in history. It is a town of two sides divided by the river Esk. 
 
Whitby Abbey, on the top of the cliff at the East Side of Whitby dates back to 656 AD. 
 
On the headland near the Abbey there are indications of an earlier Roman lighthouse and small settlement, indeed the early Saxon name for Whitby was Streonshal meaning Lighthouse Bay, which leads onto Yorkshire’s famous Cleveland National Trail. 
 
At the bottom of the 199 steps that lead down from the Abbey is Church Street (formerly known as Kirkgate), whose cobbled streets and many cottages and houses date from the 15th century, when the numerous narrow alleyways and yards provided escape routes for smugglers and gangs of youths from the customs men and press gangs who were hot on their heels. Church Street's origins can be traced back even further however, with dwellings having been documented at the foot of the Abbey steps as early as 1370. 
 
The lively Market Place, which still attracts stallholders and visitors alike, dates back to 1640. Just off the Market Place is Sandgate (so called because it leads to and borders the east sands), a bustling high street where Whitby jet can still be purchased. Having been carved since the Bronze Age, the jewellery made from fossilized monkey puzzle trees was made fashionable by Queen Victoria, who wore it in mourning for her beloved Prince Albert following his death from typhoid fever in 1861. Following the discovery of a Victorian jet workshop, completely sealed up in the attic of a derelict property in central Whitby, the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre removed and rehoused the workshop to 123B Church Lane in order to allow visitors the chance to experience a unique piece of Whitby’s heritage. 
 
Whitby West Cliff top, which is today dominated by hotels, guest houses, holiday accommodation and tourist attractions once played host to a very famous visitor. Bram Stoker stayed at a guest house in Royal Crescent in the late 19h century, and drew inspiration for his famous novel ‘Dracula’ from Whitby Abbey and the surrounding area. Indeed, the novel depicts Dracula coming ashore in the form of a black dog shipwrecked off the coast of Whitby. The Dracula Society and a number of fans of the novel still travel to Whitby to commemorate the character for two weekends every year (in April and November). They dress in period costume as they wander the town and it seems almost as though Whitby has stepped back in time for these few days every year. 
 
At the top of Khyber Pass with its panoramic views over the North Sea, is the famous Whale Bone Arch which was originally erected in 1853 in homage to Whitby’s thriving whaling trade. The bones which currently form the arch are a lot more recent however, having been brought over from Alaska in 2003. 
 
Whitby’s famous son 
 
To the left of the Whale Bone Arch stands the bronze statue of Captain James Cook, the Yorkshireman famous for his exploration and cartography of Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. Whilst he would rise to the prestigious position of Captain in the Royal Navy, it was in Whitby that the eighteen year old Cook was first taken on as a merchant navy apprentice for the small fleet of vessels run by local ship-owners John and Henry Walker. It is fitting then perhaps that their old house on Grape Lane now houses the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Visitors to the town can also get a feel for Cook’s Whitby as a replica of his famous ship The Endeavour is a popular visitor centre in Whitby Harbour. 
 
Whitby’s natural geographic situation has shaped both its historical and commercial past and continues to influence its culture to the present day. 
 
 
 
 
 
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