Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

The Whitby Abbey Collection

The objects forming this collection were found in the last 200 years in and around Whitby Abbey on the East Cliff. Some are casual finds but most were recovered during two major archaeological digs in the 1920s and in 1958. The collection from the 1920s excavation came to the Museum as a donation early in the 2000s and most are now displayed for the first time.

The Exhibition

The current display was installed in 2020. This was made possible after the objects were catalogued fully for the first time, the display cases had been refurbished with improved environmental conditions, and extensive research was conducted into many categories of the finds, such as the pins, strap ends, and coins.

The aim of the exhibition is to let the activities of people in the past be imagined, be they visitors or residents on the East Cliff. They lost knives, pins and money from pre-historic flints and Anglo-Saxon adornments to Victorian coins. The displays concentrate on the Anglo-Saxon monastery, approximately 650 – 850 AD, because the majority of the finds in our collection are from that period. Although fewer in number, there is much of interest to look for in the objects of the last 1000 years.

The selection of items and their arrangement allowed for many choices but also had a number of constraints. Foremost, was the choice of what we wanted to exhibit and which objects could be loaned to English Heritage for their display at Whitby Abbey and to the Yorkshire Museum, York. Our intention was to extend the object intensive nature of the museum to this collection and allow us to come closer to individuals who wore or used these items. An example is the great number of pins, each one different and probably worn in a variety of ways. The arrangement of the objects lets us see that some pieces are timeless, such as tweezers, combs and hook fasteners, and others become fashionable and disappear again, such as 9th-century strap ends. The constraints centred mostly on space and exhibition cases available thus retaining the character of the Museum while still telling the story of the monasteries on the East Cliff.  

For more information to the history and archaeology of the East Cliff download the information sheet.

For more information on St Hilda download the information sheet.

For specific requests for information, contact the curator, Christiane Kroebel via the Museum