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Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK
Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Scarborough borough of North Yorkshire, England. Situated on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk, Whitby has a 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 emerged during the Middle Ages, supporting important herring and whaling fleets, and was where Captain Cook learned seamanship. Tourism started in Whitby during the Georgian period and developed with the arrival of the railway in 1839. Its attraction as a tourist destination is enhanced by the proximity of the high ground of the North York Moors national park and the heritage coastline and by association with the horror novel Dracula. Jet and alum were mined locally, and 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 Streanæshealh 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 towns 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 gives a nod to 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. As at 2011, the town had a population of 13,213.
The ruins of Whitby Abbey are reflected in the abbey pond
A monastery was founded at Streanæshealh in AD 657 by King Oswiu or Oswy of Northumbria, as an act of thanksgiving, after defeating Penda, the pagan king of Mercia. At its foundation, the abbey was an Anglo-Saxon 'double monastery' for men and women. Its first abbess, the royal princess Hild, was later venerated as a saint. The abbey became a centre of learning, and here Cædmon the cowherd was "miraculously" transformed into an inspired poet whose poetry is an example of Anglo-Saxon literature. The abbey became the leading royal nunnery of the kingdom of Deira, and the burial-place of its royal family. The Synod of Whitby, in 664, established the Roman date of Easter in Northumbria at the expense of the Celtic one.
The monastery was destroyed between 867 and 870 in a series of raids by Vikings from Denmark under their leaders Ingwar and Ubba. Its site remained desolate for more than 200 years until after the Norman Conquest of 1066. After the Conquest, the area was granted to William de Percy who, in 1078 donated land to found a Benedictine monastery dedicated to St Peter and St Hilda. William de Percy's gift included land for the monastery, the town and port of Whitby and St Mary's Church and dependent chapels at Fyling, Hawsker, Sneaton, Ugglebarnby, Dunsley, and Aislaby, five mills including Ruswarp, Hackness with two mills and two churches. In about 1128 Henry I granted the abbey burgage in Whitby and permission to hold a fair at the feast of St Hilda on 25 August. A second fair was held close to St Hilda's winter feast at Martinmas. Market rights were granted to the abbey and descended with the liberty. Whitby Abbey surrendered in December 1539 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.
Tourism supported by fishing is the mainstay of Whitby's economy in an isolated community with poor transport infrastructure and restricted by building constraints in the surrounding North York Moors National Park. The economy is governed by the changing fortunes of fishing, tourism and to some extent, manufacturing. Structural changes have led to concentrations of deprivation, unemployment and benefit dependence. A narrowing employment base and dependence on low wage and low skill sectors has resulted in younger age groups leaving the area. There are few business start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. Older people who make increasing demands on the area's health and social care capacity have moved into the area. Demographic changes, Whitby's relative isolation from the region's main growth areas and decline in traditional employment sectors pose an economic challenge.
The town has a variety of self-catering accommodation, holiday cottages, caravans and campsites, and guest houses, inns, bed & breakfast establishments and hotels. The jet industry declined at the end of the 19th century, but eight shops sell jet jewellery, mainly as souvenirs to tourists. In 1996, Whitby West Cliff qualified for a 'Tidy Britain Group Seaside Award'. The town was awarded "Best Seaside Resort 2006", by Which? Holiday magazine.
The harbour has a total area of about 80 acres (32 ha) and is used by commercial, fishing and pleasure craft. Inshore fishing, particularly for crustaceans and line fish, takes place along the coast. Lobsters, brown and velvet crabs are important to the local fishery. From May to August, salmon is found in the Esk, and small open boats are licensed to net these off the harbour entrance. There are around 40 licensed angling party boats. The commercial catch is no longer herring but has been replaced by cod, haddock, and other fish caught within 12 miles (19 km) of the coast. A fish market on the quayside operates as need arises. The ready supply of fresh fish has resulted in an abundance of "chippies" in the town, including the Magpie Cafe which Rick Stein has described as the best fish and chip shop in Britain.
Whitby Marina was built to develop and diversify the local economy. The Whitby Marina project, jointly funded by Scarborough Borough Council, Yorkshire Forward and the European Regional Development Fund, was developed to diversify the local economy. The remaining shipbuilding firm, Parkol Marine, is a family-run business on the east side of the river. Founded in 1988, the boatyard has two berths for new build and a dry dock for repairs. St Hilda's Business Centre provides office space for a range of businesses. Whitby Business Park is a 49-acre (20 ha) site located by the A171 road, 2 miles (3 km) from the harbour on the southern outskirts of the town. Companies on the park include Supreme Plastics, Whitby Seafoods and Botham's of Whitby alongside major retailers, Homebase and Sainsbury's. The east coast has limited conventional energy generation capacity, but Whitby is the closest port to a proposed development on Dogger Bank, ideally placed to provide the offshore wind power industry with support vessel operations and logistics. The Dogger Bank wind farm could include up to 2,600 giant 400-foot (120 m) turbines covering more than 3,300 square miles.