It was Phil’s 60th birthday back in March, and one of his presents was a night in Dunsley Hall, Whitby.
Built as a holiday home in 1900 by Frederick Haigh Pyman. Born into a well to do seafaring dynasty, Frederick along with his brother Francis, set up Pyman Brothers in London in 1882 and later the London & Northern Steamship Company. Being a busy man in London, he wanted a holiday home, and so built Dunsley Hall. The architect is unknown but it is likely that the original property was smaller than appears today. The modest house was built of stone with two stories and an attic in Y-shaped fashion. The rear of the property stood higher while the unassuming main entrance was at the side of the property where a date stone is still visible above the door. Without doubt the masterpiece of the house would have been its unsymmetrical north prospect with then unobstructed views of the sea. Its three bays, containing the family rooms, led onto a small terrace with descending steps into the formal gardens.
It was a lovely day with blue skies, and we got there about 4pm, so went to visit Whitby Abbey in the evening sun. The Abbey is a ruined Benedictine monastery, ruined of course by Henry VIII during his Dissolution of the Monasteries phase, what a twat.
Back in the day, around 657 AD (when England wasn’t really England but several Kingdoms like Wessex, Mercia and the like), the Anglo-Saxon King at the time, Oswy, founded the first monastery on the site. He called it Streoneshalh which is thought to signify Fort Bay or Tower Bay in reference to a supposed Roman settlement that previously existed on the site, but proof is scant. He appointed Lady Hilda, abbess of Hartlepool Abbey and grand-niece of Edwin the first Christian king of Northumbria, as founding abbess.
In 867 and 870 the pesky Danes came along and laid waste to it, and so it stayed desolate for the next 200 years.
Then along came Reinfrid, a soldier of William the Conqueror, who became a monk and travelled to Streoneshalh, which was then known as Prestebi or Hwitebi (the “white settlement” in Old Norse). He approached William de Percy who gave him the ruined monastery of St. Peter with two carucates (a medieval unit of land area approximating the land a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season, ) of land, to found a new monastery. Serlo de Percy, the founder’s brother, joined Reinfrid at the new monastery which followed the Benedictine rule. Reinfrid, ruled for many years before being killed in an accident. He was buried at St Peter at Hackness. He was succeeded as prior by Serlo de Percy
how it was..
Anyways, after Henry had it demolished in 1590, though the abbey fell into ruin, it remained a prominent landmark for sailors and helped inspire Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The ruins are now owned and maintained by English Heritage. As if bloody Henry and the pesky Danes weren’t enough in December 1914 Whitby Abbey was shelled by German battlecruisers Von der Tann and Derfflinger who were aiming for the Coastguard Station on the end of the headland. 🙄 Couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo. Fools. The Abbey sustained considerable damage during the ten-minute attack.
In spite of it all, it’s still magnificent, and beautiful.