We all have places that we regard as special. St. Mary’s Church at Whitby holds that special quality for me. During the Summer I was there, proudly showing my Polish neice, Basia, our English Heritage. A lovely elderly gentleman was holding court, comfortably seated, with coffee in hand. He explained that he was waiting for his wife to finish walking the dog, a task he was no longer up to. Whilst he did so, he was more than happy to entertain all comers, with tales of the church and it’s history.
Reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away. My own elderly gentleman (dad) was waiting in the car, not able to walk too far himself, and we still had awe-inspiring Whitby Abbey to see. Before we did so, we were urged to come back again in December, when the church would be alight with dozens of Christmas trees. On Monday I returned, and this is what I found.
Just to complete the occasion I was treated to a carol service from one of the local schools, busy rehearsing for the real thing. They sounded wonderful.
St. Mary’s is a delightful church. The tower and basic structure date from Norman times, around 1110. A hodge podge of styles have been added since, but it is the box pews that draw the eye, each carpeted and upholstered with cushions. Overhead galleries are rarely used today, but the large charcoal stove is an essential element with our coastal chill.
Whitby is probably best known for its association with Bram Stoker. He lived there from 1890 to 1896, and set an important scene from Dracula at the church. I imagine that the graveyard on a dark Winter’s night is a scarey place indeed, but the church interior is a joyous space. It was described by Simon Jenkins in “England’s Thousand Best Churches” as “part folly, part museum, part large parlour”. You should see it for yourself, and I can think of no better time than when the Christmas trees are in residence. (10.00- 15.00 daily until 3rd Jan., excepting Christmas and Boxing Day)
It is a bit of a climb up to St. Mary’s and the Abbey, but it’s also possible to get there by road if you can’t manage the steps.
Do you have a special place to share? Please do.