Windy Day At Whitby

John Hall

Leeds, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Borough of Scarborough and English county of North Yorkshire. Before local government reorganisations in the late 1960s, it was part of the North Riding of Yorkshire. Situated on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk, Whitby has an established maritime, mineral and tourist heritage. Its East Cliff is home to the ruins of Whitby Abbey, where Cædmon, the earliest recognised English poet, lived. The fishing port developed during the Middle Ages, supporting important herring and whaling fleets, and was (along with the nearby fishing village of Staithes) where Captain Cook learned seamanship.
Tourism started in Whitby during the Georgian period and developed further on the arrival of the railway in 1839. Its attraction as a tourist destination is enhanced by its proximity to the high ground of the North York Moors National Park, its Heritage Coastline and by its association with the horror novel Dracula. Jet and alum were mined locally. Whitby Jet, which was mined by the Romans and Victorians, became fashionable during the 19th century.
The earliest record of a permanent settlement is in 656, when as Streanœhealh it was the place where Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey, under the abbess Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held there in 664. In 867, the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders. Another monastery was founded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby (from “white settlement” in Old Norse). In the following centuries Whitby functioned as a fishing settlement until, in the 18th century, it developed as a port and centre for shipbuilding and whaling, the trade in locally mined alum, and the manufacture of Whitby jet jewellery.
The abbey ruin at the top of the East Cliff is the town’s oldest and most prominent landmark. Other significant features include the swing bridge, which crosses the River Esk and the harbour, which is sheltered by the grade II listed East and West piers. The town’s maritime heritage is commemorated by statues of Captain Cook and William Scoresby, as well as the whalebone arch that sits at the top of the West Cliff. The town also has a strong literary tradition and has featured in literary works, television and cinema, most famously in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
While Whitby’s cultural and historical heritage contribute to the local economy, the town does suffer from the economic constraints of its remote location, ongoing changes in the fishing industry, relatively underdeveloped transport infrastructure, and limitations on available land and property. As a result, tourism and some forms of fishing remain the mainstay of its economy. It is the closest port to a proposed wind farm development in the North Sea, 47 miles (76 km) from York and 22 miles (35 km) from Middlesbrough. There are transport links to the rest of North Yorkshire and North East England, primarily through national rail links to Middlesbrough and road links to Teesside, via both the A171 and A174, and Scarborough by the former.
According to the 2011 UK census, the town had a population of 13,213, a decrease on the 2001 UK census figure of 13,594.

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