• LOCATION 43 | Essential Whitby: A Guide to the Town’s Legends, Treasures and Main Sites

    St Mary's Churchyard

    Stop and take a look over to the West Side where you have walked from.

    St Mary's Churchyard is perhaps most famous because Simply Red's Holding Back The Years music video was filmed here in 1985.

    Scoresby Snr is buried here and contrary to what is widely believed - Dracula is not. One grave that people seek out is the 'pirates grave', named as such because there is a skull and crossbones on the headstone. Its not a pirate - but historically the skull and crossbones were also associated more widely with death.

    You should be able to see the more square steeple of St Hilda's Church.

    Here in Whitby we are very proud of St Hilda, so much so that many locals refer to her as Aunt Hilda. When the Abbey was founded she was much more than a figurehead - she was an astute and well-respected adviser who was at all times virtuous and kind.

    The area where the abbey was built, close to where you're now stood, we are told, was infested with snakes and totally unsuitable for the construction of a religious building. Hilda however was able to say a prayer and the snakes jumped off the side of the cliff and turned to stone.

    This legend seemed true because the cliffs around Whitby boast an abundance of serpent-shaped rocks. We now know, of course, that these are in fact ammonites. Fossilised creatures that lived 400-660 million years ago.

    One genus of ammonite, dating from the Jurassic era, is called the Hildoceras after Hilda of Whitby. There'll be many beneath your feet right now.

    Hilda was venerated as a Saint in the eighth century and is today a patron saint of learning and culture. If you see a painting or statue of her she will usually be stood on ammonites.

    Keep heading around St Mary's Church - following the path around.

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Essential Whitby: A Guide to the Town’s Legends, Treasures and Main Sites