Plans for major £1.6m investment for Whitby Abbey

Artist impression of new museum space
Artist impression of new museum space

Almost £1.6million will be invested into Whitby Abbey as proposed plans look to add a coffee shop and new museum space.

English Heritage has announced the plans to improve facilities at Whitby Abbey with work expected to begin in November.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

The proposed works will see improvements made to both entrances as well as the courtyard and visitor centre.

A coffee shop will also be added to the facility and will be built at The Lodge, at the north entrance at the top of the 199 steps.

A new museum space will also be added to provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the history of the abbey. The new exhibition draws on the atmosphere of the abbey to create a sense of drama.

Andrea Selley, historic properties director for the North at English Heritage, told the Gazette: “These are exciting plans for Whitby Abbey. Expanding the shop, addinga cafe and installing a new visitor entrance will vastly improve the welcome for our visitors.

Artist impression of new museum space

Artist impression of new museum space

“The new museum and better interpretation on site will allow us to tell the story of one of Yorkshire’s most iconic abbeys – an abbey steeped in rich history and which in the past has provided inspiration for many notable visual and literary figures including Tolkien, J.M.W Turner and Lewis Carroll.

“We are also pleased to be working in partnership with the YHA.”

As part of the work, the courtyard will be re-landscaped with a line of trees down the centre to frame the approach to the visitor centre, guiding visitors in.

The existing cobbles will be carefully lifted and re-laid. Contemporary seating benches will be added and spaces will be replanted with herbs inspired from medieval times – sage, dill and lavender will give off the scent of a medieval monastic infirmary and encourage visitors to pause and enjoy the views of the imposing ruins.

Throughout the open green spaces of the headland, cultural and historical information, which will appeal to all ages, will be placed to tell the alluring of Whitby Abbey throughout its diverse and fascinating history.

The visitor centre, once a grand banqueting hall and which currently houses the shop and ticket desks, will see the extension of the shop to cover the entire ground floor allowing a better flow – avoiding queues at peak times.

Ruth Haycock, interpretation manager at English Heritage, said: “We want visitors to understand the significance of the site, explored through the prism of the headland – a place of sanctity, spirituality and a great source of inspiration for visual and literary figures throughout history.”

The exhibition, in the new museum space, will include elements of surprise to engage audiences of all ages. It will span from the early Bronze Age through to occupation of the Cholmley family. The new display space (pictured, right) will house rare and internationally significant collection objects.

Work is set to begin on November 5 and will run into the spring of 2019.

The refurbishment has been designed by Mawson Kerr, a practice whose work was recently shortlisted in Channel 4’s Grand Designs ‘House of the Year’ and who designed the tea rooms at both Mount Grace Priory and Birdoswald Roman Fort.

Interior interpretation work will be undertaken by London based Drinkall Dean whose work has recently won a Heritage Award for Robots: The 500-year Quest to Make Machines human at the Science Museum, London. The agency has also just completed work on the new visitor centre at Lowther Castle in the Lake District as well as Holkham Estate in Norfolk.

As well as working on several temporary exhibitions at The National Media Museum in Bradford, current projects include work with The National Trust for Scotland, Science Museum London, London Transport Museum and The Royal Opera House.