Whitby is well known today as a seaside resort and a picturesque
place to visit, with its piers, boats, fine sands and, overlooking
its tangle of red-roofed houses, the ruins of its Abbey in one of
the most splendid settings in Britain for such romantic remains.
But few of its many visitors would guess the long history of the
town or its significance, from time to time, in national affairs.
Its fine natural harbour, one of the few on the east coast, gave it
early importance as a place of refuge and a fishing port. By the
mid-7th century a royal monastery was established on the east
cliff. Ruled for many years by the famous Abbess Hilda, it was
destroyed by the Vikings, then rebuilt by the Norman, Reinfrid. The
Middle Ages saw quiet growth but the 17th century brought great
prosperity, with shipbuilding on a scale out of all proportion to
its size, serving the coal trade between the Tyne and the Thames,
with many of the sturdy 'colliers' built and owned here; and the
rapid growth of whaling, with similar implications. Indeed, Captain
Cook's four ships, used on his great voyages of exploration, were
all built here. Long isolated, except by sea, Whitby developed a
very distinctive set of traditions and folklore. Not until a
horse-drawn railway was built in the 1830s did Whitby's inland
communications improve, bringing visitors for whom hotels and
boarding houses were built on the west cliff. Queen Victoria made
Whitby jet fashionable, while the town's geology brought trade in
alum and in superbly preserved fossils. Largely derived from its
unusual past, the town's unique character draws thousands of
visitors each year; and the first edition of this book, in 1993,
was as much welcomed by them as by the locals. The only
comprehensive history of Whitby, it rapidly sold out and Dr White,
its author, of ancient Whitby stock, has now fully revised and
updated his book, with some new illustrations and interpretations.
This new edition will continue as the definitive work on
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