Major investment for Whitby Abbey

An investment of £1.6 million at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire will pave the way for a new museum, improvements to the courtyard and visitor centre as well as a new coffee shop.

Artist's impression of how the new museum at Whitby Abbey will look
Artist's impression of how the new museum at Whitby Abbey will look

Whitby Abbey, which attracts over 150,000 visitors a year, will see improvements to three key areas and benefit from a newly designed museum and interpretation located at key points around the site.

The proposed works will see improvements to both entrances as well as to the courtyard, visitor centre and the addition of a small coffee shop. The courtyard will be re-landscaped with a line of trees down the centre to frame the approach to the visitor centre, guiding visitors in.

The existing cobbles will be carefully lifted and re-laid. Contemporary seating benches will be added and the spaces will be replanted with herbs inspired by medieval times. Sage, dill and lavender will give off the scent of a medieval monastic infirmary and encourage visitors to pause and enjoy the views of the imposing ruins. 

Throughout the open green spaces of the headland, cultural and historical information - which will appeal to all ages - will be strategically placed to tell the story of Whitby Abbey's diverse and fascinating history.

The shop in the visitor centre, which was a grand banqueting hall in the 17th century, will be extended to cover the ground floor allowing a better flow of people and helping to prevent queues at peak times. 

The Lodge at the north entrance at the top of the 199 steps - currently used as an admissions point - will become a coffee shop in partnership with the YHA, selling tea, coffee, traybakes, sandwiches and icecreams.

Visitors to Whitby Abbey

Creating a "prism" of discovery

A new museum space will provide an opportunity to learn more about the rich history of the abbey. The exhibition will draw on the atmosphere of the abbey to create a sense of drama. It will include things to discover and explore for all ages, spanning the period from the early Bronze Age through to the occupation of the Cholmley family in the late 1600s. Beautifully lit displays will house rare and internationally significant collection objects.

Ruth Haycock, Interpretation Manager at English Heritage commented:

'We want visitors to understand the significance of the site, explored through the prism of the headland - a place of sanctity, spirituality and a great source of inspiration for visual and literary figures throughout history.'

Andrea Selley, Historic Properties Director for the North at English Heritage added:

'These are exciting plans for Whitby Abbey. Expanding the shop, adding in a café and installing a new visitor entrance will vastly improve the welcome for our visitors. The new museum and better interpretation on site will allow us to tell the story of one of Yorkshire's most iconic abbeys - an abbey steeped in rich history and which in the past has provided inspiration for many notable visual and literary figures including John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, J.M.W. Turner and Lewis Carroll. We are also pleased to be working in partnership with the YHA.'

A woman enjoys the view from Whitby Abbey

The refurbishment has been designed by Mawson Kerr, a practice whose work was recently shortlisted in Channel 4's Grand Designs 'House of the Year'. Mawson Kerr also designed the tea rooms at both Mount Grace Priory and Birdoswald Roman Fort - two major English Heritage sites in the north.

Interior interpretation work will be undertaken by London based agency Drinkall Dean whose work has recently won them a Heritage Award for Robots: The 500-year Quest to Make Machines Human at the Science Museum in London.

Work is due to start on 5 November 2018 and runs until the spring of 2019. 

For more from English Heritage, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

More recent news

'step into englands story