Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

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Whitby had been a familiar name to me since the module I studied on Anglo-Saxon England when I was at university. It stuck in my mind as the location of the Synod of Whitby, which in 664 AD decided the future flavour of the Northumbrian church. Would they be Roman, or Celtic, in outlook. St Hild, as the abbess of the dual monastery and nunnery caught my imagination. Women did stuff in the past!

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The abbey stands on a headland, above the present day town on Whitby. In the seventh century, this was a separate settlement named Streaneshalc. What stands now, is an eleventh century rebuild inspired by the previous community that had dissipated under Viking attack. The original site would have been closer to what is the cliff edge today, behind picture of the abbey above.

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I really enjoyed seeing the footprint of the first church laid out in the grass. It really helped to imagine how churches, cathedrals and abbeys expand beyond their original limits. Every religious building is a process, but it’s great when you can physically make the comparison.

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But seriously, check out the vaulting! It’s pretty inspiring!

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How are you doing, H Wrine?

Recently the Abbey has suffered with illegal metal detecting which is particularly selfish on the part of those illegal detectorists. The past belongs to us all and by denying finds to experts, they deny everyone the right to knowledge of this particular places past.

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