History

Whitby’s great and powerful St Hilda

Regarding the article, ‘A tribute to Whitby’s great and powerful’.

Having not as yet read Margaret Storm Jameson’s book, the review in Friday’s May 26 edition has me not only disappointed, but surprised, ashamed, astounded. The author cannot possibly have omitted to mention the most great and powerful of all Whitby’s greats.

It surely must be the reporter of the Whitby Gazette. Was it you reporter, or was it the author? Or perhaps it’s just my opinion, that the most great and powerful of all was the most humble, desiring no fame or fortune, one whose motto must have been ‘If you look for honour and glory in this world, don’t expect to receive it in the next’, hence The Lady Hild.

She came here when the only approach to White-Bay was the sea. She came by boat from Hartlepool and brought Christianity to White-Bay.

Later at the reformation, the dividing of the Easter dates, White-Bay was renamed Whitby. Changed once again to Strenshall, then back to be named Whitby.

Had it not been for Hild there would be no abbey to visit or enjoy in views, no Caedmon to write and sing songets. For she too made Caedmon famous. She is also the silent instigator to the fame of Bram Stoker, for had it not been for Lady Hild, ‘The Princess from York’ there would have been no steps for the mythical dog devised by Bram Stoker to climb up. They were wooden steps then, in her time, and were devised to assist the monks and nuns who, when leaving the abbey to come down to Whitby, came across the dangerous path no known as monk’s walk.

The path was very steep and they were assisted by the rope. Everyone used to descend from the abbey grounds, hence ‘The Ropery’. Hild commissioned the wooden steps to be made and erected.

Bram Stoker did not make Whitby famolus. Whitby made Bram Stoker famous. Still, most visitors enquiring about Dracula and where is he buried etc. Oh it does amuse me. They seem to really believe it, not thinking that it is all mythical.

They really get caught up in the myth of Dracula. Still I suppose a story iis as good as the author. It’s they who made stories realistic.

I suppose reluctantly I must give him credit for being a good writer even though I dislike his fantasy. He was very luck to descend on Whitby to write his mythical tale. I if it would have been so popular had it been say Middlesbrough docks as a background.

No, Bram Stoker has a lot to thank Whitby for, not the other way around.

When I do read this book, ‘Whitby’s Great and Powerful’, I hope to find a chapter on Lord Cholmley, for he insisted, and had built, the first school in Whitby - Cholmley School - built opposite the John Wesley Chapel (now a store selling various sea faring items).

Also, I hope to read of his wife Henrietta who gave her name to the street that Lord Cholmley had built for the gentry, the upper class.

Through the years it changed, as Whitby did, and the upper class had their houses built in Bagdale making Whitby a larger dwelling place.

So Henrietta Street became the street of the lower class. It seems to have changed full circle now as houses up there are privately owned and Squeek Wilson is no longer around. Originally the street consisted of 133 houses.

Unfortunately rough seas, plus the bombardment of Whitby during the First World War reduced the size of the street and houses disappeared into the sea below.

Oh dear I’ve gone way off the beaten track. Now back on track.

The Princess Hild from York who moved to Hartlepool then came here to Whitby where she stayed reforming many and quietly doing good works, particularly to help the poor and needy. Her father expressed the wish for her to return to York. She refused and added A to her name Hild - hence St Hilda.

Many churches carry her name. She died here after working hard and long for the town she loved.

I am proud and privileged to have been born and bred and lived by 80 years in this - The Town of St Hilda Whitby.