“Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of “Marmion,” where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows… This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby…”
-Mina Harker’s diary, Chapter 6, Dracula by Bram Stoker
In ruins since the days of Henry VIII, Whitby Abbey has been known more as the romantically gloomy ruins than as the monastery it once was.
The first religious buildings on the site were built around 657, and were destroyed by Danish invaders between 867 and 870. The restored Gothic structure that took its place ultimately met its end in 1540 during the anti-Catholic rampages (known officially as the Dissolution of the Monasteries) which followed Henry VIII’s separation from the Catholic Church. Additional damage was done by German battleships in WWI, aiming for a nearby signal station.
The resulting ruins are atmospheric, beautiful and have inspired many writers and artists, including Bram Stoker, who used Whitby as the location for the first landing of Dracula in England. It is fitting, as it’s said that it was here where the author himself first discovered the real Vlad Dracul in 1890, in the pages of a book he checked out from the local library.
Whitby Abbey has become something of a Goth pilgrimage site, and touristy Dracula-related locations of dubious literary or historical significance have followed in their wake.
Whitby is also home to the Whitby Museum, Library and Archive containing many varied and strange items from Tempest Prognosticators to an alleged Glory Hand.
Elsewhere, Stoker found additional inspiration at Eastern European and Scottish castles, and closer to home at St. Michan’s Church crypts in Dublin, where you can still visit the mummies today. The original manuscript for Dracula is held in the United States, at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. he is buried at Golders Green Crematorium in London.
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