Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A look at Whitby

Streanæshalc, (the bay of the lighthouse) Streneshalc, Streoneshalch, Streoneshalh, Streunes-Alae in Lindissi (vii-viii cent.); Prestebi (xi cent.); Hwitebi, Witebi (old Norse - the White bay)-xii cent.); Whitebi (xiii cent.); Qwiteby (xiv cent.).

A look at Whitby; the fact is we might be moving down here at some stage, so its history begins to entice, reading The Fury of the Northmen last night and the affect of the piratical raids of the vikings on the monastic houses, one might be forgiven for thinking that this tale of killing, rape and pillage was part of an invasion over the centuries, but probably not, more like a slow colonisation (Scandinavian Migration Age) that took hold in the north but was rebuffed in the south, though of course for a very short time we did have a Scandinavian king.

But by reading the many names this town has had over the centuries there is a feeling of an 'alien' culture. All the small villages around the town and up on the moors have a strange ring to a southern ear, for we are now in the land where Scandinavian victory coloured the landscape.


Narrow streets with small cottages show a medieval history. Fishing boats are tied up at the quay with a great backdrop of sailing and motorboats, the British so delight in; lobster pots line the edge of the quay, as does fish restaurants everywhere. This is definitely a fishing port from way back in history. The river Esk tumbles its way down to the sea here, and visitors must cross the modern 'opening' bridge from one side of the river to the other. When we were there, just by the throng of people that pass over the bridge all the time, 6 pretty donkeys were being led down to the beach, bells a-jingling as they passed by.

Just down from Flowergate there are three churches almost adjacent to each other in the road, someone also told us that there is a leyline through Whitby, but you have to believe in leylines to believe that! Such religious fervour though is strange and one does wonder about it; probably a Victorian development when such a lot was being explored, and different factions of the christian church stood in opposition to each other. Dissent from the later centuries of English history was rife!
One thing of interest, is that the monastic order that had developed during the 7th/8th centuries believed in the 'six ages of man', and according to Bede they were living through the sixth age, which had a doomsday element at the end of the millenium, so that when the Scandinavian raids happened this was all part of God's Plan. To quote Bede;

The sixth age is now in progress.
The number of its generation and years is uncertain,
but at the age of decrepitude it will end even in the
death of the whole world.

which is of course very similar to the 2012 doomsday scenario we have from certain people today...
Whitby Abbey devastation; the most noble monasteries along the sea-coast are said to have been destroyed....a monastery of nuns at Tynesmouth, another of monks at Jarrow and Wearmouth, another of monks at Strenaeshale (Whitby), founded by the most blessed abbess Hild, who gathered many virgins there. These relentess chiefs then passed through Yorkshire, burning churches, cities and villages, and utterly destroying the people of whatever sex or age, together with the spoil and the cattle. Symeon 12th Century

'From the fury of the northmen, O lord, deliver us'
was a litany without need of vellum,
It was graven on the hearts of men whenever
and for as long as that fury fell

Ruswarp N. Yorks. Risewarp c.1146. Possibly silted land overgrown with brushwood. OE hris + wearp

Sleights is Old Norse, sletta 'flat land' with an English plural, like the Norman place name Eslettes.

The parish comprised in 1831 the townships of Aislaby, Hawsker cum Stainsacre, Newholm cum Dunsley, Ruswarp, Ugglebarnby and Whitby and the chapelry of Eskdaleside. Of these Aislaby became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1865, Ruswarp in 1870 and Hawsker cum Stainsacre in 1878. A new township was separated from that of Hawsker cum Stainsacre in 1894 and named Helredal; it forms part of the Whitby Urban District. The parish of Aislaby includes the hamlet of Briggswath, that of Eskdaleside cum Ugglebarnby includes Grosmont, Iburndale, Little Beck and Sleights, that of Ruswarp Boghall, Ewe Cote, Fishburn Park, High Stakesby and West Cliff, that of Whitby Burtree Cragg and Haggerlythe. The entire area is 14,844 acres, including 228 acres of foreshore. The crops are wheat, barley and oats. An Inclosure Act was passed for the moors, commons and wastes of the manors of Eskdaleside and Ugglebarnby in 1760, another for Dunsley Moor in 1793. Jet has been worked from Saxon times. The local sandstone is excellent, and has been used in the great breakwaters at Whitby and for London Bridge, the Admiralty Pier at Dover and the facing of the old Houses of Parliament. The Whitby Stone Company was formed in 1834 to work quarries of basalt, grit, ironstone and cement stone. The Brick and Tile Company, founded in 1838, had works near the railway between Ruswarp and Sleights. Alum was worked from the 17th to the 19th century. The fact that Whitby Abbey in about 1200 agreed to send 2,000 herrings yearly to Thornton Dale suggests that the salting of herring was an early industry, and the 11th-century fish-tithe is significant.



sea fret = mist

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