Specialist scans reveal presence of more than meets the eye at Whitby Abbey

Scans taking place at Whitby Abbey by the Friends of Whitby Abbey.
Picture Sam Jones.
Scans taking place at Whitby Abbey by the Friends of Whitby Abbey. Picture Sam Jones.

Buried pathways and the study rooms once used by monks are the subject of new discoveries found during a survey at Whitby Abbey, it has been revealed.

A specialist set of scans has seen expert equipment brought in to examine the cloister area, revealing the presence of a whole host of hidden foundations where buildings once stood.

The scans are believed to show the presence of more lying beneath the surface.

The scans are believed to show the presence of more lying beneath the surface.

Early assessments have shown the presence of paths and the possible existence of carrels - rooms once used for study and contemplation.

Stuart Tonnar, secretary of the Friends of Whitby Abbey, who have been carrying out the survey, said: “We were invited by English Heritage to do some scans and we have found some rather interesting things.

“Our scans have revealed paths that the monks used at their leisure and carrels where they would have studied.

“Last week we shot a beam of electricity to see what was there and now we are going over it again using a ground penetration radar to give a better resolution.”

Specialist equipment has been brought in to conduct the survey. Picture: Sam Jones.

Specialist equipment has been brought in to conduct the survey. Picture: Sam Jones.

He added: “This whole area was surveyed in the 1990s but our findings are now better because we have got better technology.

“We are pleased that English Heritage asked us to do this survey. It’s exciting to know that more lies beneath the surface. It took six hours but we got some brilliant results.”

The non-invasive geophysical survey has been taking place in the grassed area between the visitor centre and the abbey. The next stage is to interpret the data to give a more accurate picture of the ruins, with a report due on the back of this.

Expert help and equipment was brought in from Leeds University to find out more.

More than meets the eye?

More than meets the eye?

Mr Tonnar added that while the group would love to establish dig pits in the future, that would be subject to approval from English Heritage.

Excavations during the last 20 years or so have revealed a large burial ground just South West of the abbey buildings and a large civil settlement on the cliff edge with evidence of metal and glass working. The burial ground pre-dates the abbey.

The Friends of Whitby Abbey was set-up in 1989 with the intention of educating more people about the famous ruin.

The group was set-up by Rosalind Barker who sadly passed away at the end of last year. They presently have around 60 members.

Members of the Friends gain free entry during normal opening hours on production of their membership card.

Find out more at: www.whitbyabbeyfriends.org.uk.