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Monuments, statues, and historical buildings in Whitby

Whitby is home to many monuments, statues, and historical buildings, from the iconic Whitby Abbey towering over the town to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. In this article, you will learn more about Whitby’s monuments, statues, and historical buildings.

Whether you are interested in learning about history, love architecture or want to discover the meaning behind your photos from your last Whitby trip. This article uncovers the fascinating stories behind Whitby’s most iconic landmarks.

Captain Cook Memorial Statue in Whitby

Captain Cook Memorial Statue

The Captain Cook Memorial Statue is an impressive 7ft 6inch bronze statue that pays tribute to the incredible men who built the four ships that Captain Cook relied on during his epic voyages. These ships – Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, and Discovery – are legendary, and this monument perfectly honours them. You’ll find the statue in People’s Park on the West Cliff, where it offers a breathtaking view of Whitby Harbour, East Cliff, and St Mary’s Church.

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The inscription on the south face of the statue reads:

For the lasting memory of a great Yorkshire seaman this bronze has been cast and is left in the keeping of Whitby; the birthplace of those good ships that bore him on his enterprises brought him to glory and left him at rest.

The bronze statue of Captain James Cook also has an inscription that reads:

Front: To Strive, to seek to find and not to yield. To commemorate the men who built, the Whitby Ships and the men who sailed with him.

North Side: In every situation he stood unrivalled and alone on him all eyes were turned.

Location: Whitby, YO21 3PZ

The Cædmon Memorial Cross in Whitby

The Cædmon Memorial Cross

A memorial can be found on the clifftop near the parish church in Whitby, which honours Caedmon, Abbess Hilda, and the monastery established during the reign of Northumbrian King Oswie from 642-670. This monument was revealed in 1898, and it was fitting that Poet Laureate Alfred Austin performed the ceremony, considering Caedmon’s credit as the first English poet whose name was known; he was a devoted Northumbrian who cared for the animals at the double monastery of Streonæshalch, now known as Whitby Abbey. Under the leadership of St. Hilda, Caedmon is believed to have honed his poetic skills one night through a dream. From then on, he dedicated himself to a life of spiritual devotion as a monk and an exceptional Christian poet who inspired many.

Caedmon’s Hymm

Now the words of the Father of Glory must honour the guardian of heaven, the might of the architect, and the minds of his purpose,
the work of the Father of Glory – as He is the
beginning of wonders (and He)
established, the eternal Lord,
He first created for the children of Earth
Heaven as a roof, the holy creator
Then the middle-earth, the guardian of mankind,
the eternal Lord, afterwards appointed,
for men among the Lands, the Lord Almighty.

Location: 3 Church Ln, Whitby, YO22 4DP

Whalebone Arch in Whitby

Whalebone Arch

This impressive archway on Whitby’s West Cliff is a testament to the town’s rich whaling history. Back in the day, successful boats would return to Whitby with the jawbones of their best catch hoisted on the lower spars and a garland at the mast. And today, those bones stand tall as a reminder of this fascinating past.

But did you know that the Whalebone Arch you see today is the third to have stood in this spot? The original bones had to be replaced in 1963 and again in 2003. After surviving decades of storms and gales, the arch was beginning to crumble in the 1990s – but thankfully, it was rebuilt in 2003 and still stands today.

So, what about the bones themselves? They come from a Bowhead whale killed legally by native Alaskan Inuits. And if you’re curious about the original bones, you can find them preserved at the Whitby Archive Heritage Centre. But in the meantime, take your chance to snap a photo beneath this iconic archway!

Location: North Terrace, Whitby, YO21 3HA

War Memorial, Dock End, Whitby
© Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Whitby Town War Memorial

Whitby lacked a War Memorial for a long time to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. But in 2013, thanks to public donations, a memorial was erected in the town’s dock area. The memorial is conveniently located near the railway station. Among the names etched on the monument is Corporal Damian Lawrence of the 2nd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment (the Green Howards), who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2008.

Location: Langborne Rd, Whitby, YO21 1YN

Whitby Abbey is one of Yorkshire's most famous historical buildings

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey has been a popular destination for almost 1500 years, and it’s not hard to see why! This impressive Abbey is one of the most remarkable examples in North Yorkshire, boasting soaring Gothic ruins and breathtaking sea views. This incredible landmark is a perfect spot to take in the stunning views of Whitby Harbour and town, and events are happening throughout the year. Take advantage of the interactive Visitor Centre with an audio-visual exhibition featuring talking heads and fascinating finds from the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods. For more information, visit their website.

Location: Abbey Ln, Whitby, YO22 4JT

St Mary's Church in Whitby

St Mary’s Church

Perched high on the East Cliff overlooking the town and harbour, this stunning example of Gothic architecture was founded in 1110 and has a rich history dating back to at least the 7th century AD. It has maintained its original charm and character despite being modified and extended over the centuries. While the exterior may have a fortress-like appearance, the interior is a beautiful example of pre-Victorian furnishing. The contrast between the two is striking and adds to the Church’s unique appeal. St. Mary’s Church is conveniently located near the historic Whitby Abbey, and both attractions receive many visitors each year. Whether you’re exploring the Church’s fascinating history or attending a service, St. Mary’s is well worth a visit.

Location: Abbey Plain, Whitby, YO22 4JR

St Hilda's Catholic Church in Whitby
St Hilda’s Catholic Church in Whitby | Photo © Mike Kirby (cc-by-sa/2.0)

St Hilda’s Catholic Church

If you’re visiting Whitby, check out St Hilda’s Church – a must-see landmark with a fascinating history. Built in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style, this beautiful Church boasts a distinctive tower that can be seen from all over town. It’s hard not to be impressed by the stunning architecture as you step inside and feel the warm, welcoming atmosphere. St Hilda’s Church is more than just a tourist attraction; it’s an active part of the local community, hosting various events and services throughout the year. From worship services to Messy Church for families and a monthly Coffee Morning, there’s always something happening at this special place.

Location: 1 Walker St, Whitby, YO21 1QT

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

If you’re looking for a hidden gem in the heart of Grape Lane, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum is a must-visit spot. Housed in the very same building where Cook learned the ropes of seafaring, this museum is a true treasure trove of discovery. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the fascinating story of Cook’s famous voyages of discovery, all while admiring an impressive collection of artefacts, paintings, and models.

Location: Grape Lane, Whitby, YO22 4BA

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe sculpture on the  Whitby Heritage Trail
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe sculpture on the Whitby Heritage Trail

Follow the Whitby Heritage Trail

Discover the fascinating history of Whitby through the Whitby Heritage Trail! This trail boasts nine stunning life-size sculptures, all lovingly crafted by local sculptor Emma Stothard. These sculptures represent some of Whitby’s most iconic figures with a deep connection to the sea. And the best part? You can find these works of art scattered throughout the east and West Cliff areas of town to explore them at your own pace. Each sculpture is meticulously handwoven from steel wire, and hot-dip galvanized, making them durable and long-lasting. Take advantage of this unique trail and learn more about the trail here.

Whitby is a town full of history, and the numerous monuments, statues, and historical buildings that can be found here are a testament to this. Whether you are interested in exploring the ruins of Whitby Abbey, taking a selfie at the Captain Cook Monument, or just enjoying a stroll along the picturesque streets lined with stunning architecture, we hope this article has been helpful and given you something to look out for on your next trip.

Header image credit: Tim Hill from Pixabay

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