In this series I’ll be looking at places I’ve visited and what meaning they have had for me or my stories, what inspiration I’ve drawn from them or what strange link I have in my head between these places and some of my characters. I’ll be looking at Paris, Corfu, France (including the Pyrenees), Scotland, Lanzarote, Lapland and more! So keep reading for some entertaining rambling and some lovely pictures! (And if you’re here from my Youtube video say Hi in the comments below.)
This week I’m going to talk about Whitby.
What I knew about the place?
Dracula. Yep, my whole knowledge of Whitby before going there came from that book. We were staying just outside Whitby in Robin Hoods cove which was a bit of a shame becaue there wasn’t really anything there (thought there were a few chocolate shops and a cute little beach to wonder along), oh no, tell a lie there were a lot of cows! Still it was very close so we could just wander down so I did get to go to Whitby just not as much as I would have liked.
Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Borough of Scarborough and English county of North Yorkshire. It has an established maritime, mineral and tourist heritage although is possibly most famous for it’s appearance in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Its East Cliff is home to the ruins of Whitby Abbey, and it is the town’s oldest and most prominent landmark. It’s there that Cædmon, the earliest recognised English poet, lived.
The earliest record of a permanent settlement in Whitby is in 656. It was called Streanæshealh and was where Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey. The abbey was a ‘double monastery’ (for men and women) under the abbess Hilda who later became venerated as a saint. The Synod of Whitby was held there in 664 (to determine the date of Easter) but in 867 it was destroyed by Viking raiders. In 1078 another monastery was founded and it was during this time that the town got the name Whitby (= “white settlement” in Old Norse).
Whitby functioned as a fishing settlement and later it became a centre for shipbuilding. It traded in herring and whaling and reminders of this history can be seen in the statues of Captain Cook, William Scoresby and the whalebone arch on the top of the West Cliff. It also traded in locally mined alum as well as jewellery manufactured from the distinctive Whitby jet which was mined as far back as the Bronze Age to make beads but was also used by the Romans and became fashionable during the 19th century due to queen Victoria wearing it after her husband died.
What I thought when I was there?
I thought it was really cool to see the locations from a book that i read as a kid (i.e. Dracula) and made it easier to imagine/re-imagine some of the scenes (especially when the boat comes into the harbour because I could NOT picture that at all because I’d never seen a harbour with that sort of layout). It would have been cool to stay in Whitby itself and get to make the most of the odd shops (all the Gothic/spooky shops as well as food shops/cafes) but the people i was with weren’t really interested in Gothic, spooky, vampire stuff, they just wanted us to stay in Robin Hood’s Bay so that ended that.
I loved visiting the abbey the most I think, it was such an interesting location to wander around and imagine what would once have been there.
What impact did it leave on me/my characters? Did it inspire anything?
Nothing Vampire-related that’s for sure my biggest inspiration and most memorable impression actually came from the ruins of the Abbey. I really, really loved the Abbey and it’s architecture (yeah shocker!) and it really helped to start me thinking about interesting layouts for the Cathedral in my books so that was probably the most lasting influence. And beyond that I unfortunately can’t tell you anything else about the place as I was going through some serious stuff at the time meaning I hardly slept but the people I was with (family) were really hostile to acknowledging it so that put a bit of a damper on the tip but hey ho!
What do you think of Whitby? Would you go? Where are you the most inspired, at peace or motivated? Let me know in the comments below.