Not only is Whitby haunted by ghosts and doomed with beasts but it’s also home to quite a few tales of folklore and fables; from the demise of Humpty Dumpty to the mermaids who washed up on Staithes beach. For centuries sailors and fishermen have swapped stories to either scare or entertain their listeners whilst they drank up all the liquor Whitby had to offer. Here at The Whitby Guide, we have compiled a list of five Whitby folklore tales. Enjoy…
Humpty Dumpty’s Grave
Standing out in St Mary’s Churchyard is an odd shaped gravestone, oval and faced down it has caused much questioning over the years. Like many of the other tombstones, the sandstone has faded over the years taking the inscriptions with it, it’s secrets are buried deep in the ground. Speculation over the years has caused people to believe that this could be the grave of Humpty Dumpty, not the humanoid egg as we are expected to believe as children, but a war cannon that was on top of a defensive wall. No one knows where the nursery rhyme originated that described this great cannon falling from the wall and breaking upon impact, but there is no reason for it not to be in Whitby.
The Submerged Bells
Unfortunately, Whitby Abbey was a victim of Henry VIII’s destroying of England’s finest Abbeys, which is why it now stands in ruins, but two objects are said to have managed to survive Henry’s reign of destruction and this is where we come to the submerged bells. The famous Whitby Abbey bells were in the King’s sights, he wanted them transported to London so they could be sold for scrap. He ordered his men to take the bells and sail them to London on a calm June day where there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the boat was set on due course. All of a sudden, when the boat set off, a storm began and sank the ship, taking the bells with it. It is now believed that on a clear night you can still hear the bells ringing under the sea.
In the North York Moors, you will come across a large stone that stands tall, this is said to be the tombstone of Giant Wade, a giant that used to live in the area. It is believed that Wade also lived with his wife, another giant named Bell, and they both ruled the land and area around Whitby together. It is believed that the two giants were very kind souls and are the origin to many landscapes and buildings we now have, such as Roseberry Topping and Mulgrave Castle.
Nestled deep in the woods of Glaisdale, a village famous for being featured in Heartbeat many times, lives a bridge that is lovingly referred to as ‘Begger’s Bridge’. Legend has it that the bridge was built by a young man who fell for the daughter of a nobleman, the river was the only thing that separated the two and often the boy would brave the freezing cold water to reach his sweetheart. Once the family of the daughter found out about the affair they strongly disapproved and forbade the relationship unless the young lad got money, and so he did. The night before he was due to leave to set sail to find his fortune a huge storm had hit the village, making it impossible to see his lover one last time before he left, who knew if he would come back alive? Luckily, he did make it back and was reunited with his lady and had the money to finally be able to marry her. With his money, he built a bridge over the river so that no other lovers ever had to be parted.
The Mermaids of Staithes
When Staithes was yet a fishing town and just populated by a very small number of people, two mermaids washed up on the beach after a dreadful storm. Beautiful as they were they also horrified the townsfolk who captured them and tied them in nets to put them on show. They lived in the nets for a year having rocks thrown at them by scared passers-by. Over time though the villagers began to warm to them, they were both very friendly and never meant any harm, they were even given presents from those who sympathised with them. One day, though, the mermaids talked a fisherman into letting them out of their nets for a moment, he agreed and the mermaids made their escape. Never to be seen again.
Do you know of any more Whitby folklore tales? Please share them in the comments below.