St Mary the Virgin

No visit to Whitby is complete until you have visited the old church on the East Cliff.

About this church

No matter from which angle you approach it you will not be prepared for what awaits you inside. Enter into a small low ceiling area, and then open the double doors to a building that takes your breath away. 

If you take a look at the east side of the tower you will see signs that indicate the pitch of the first church. That building was a long narrow building that stretched the full length of the building you now see. That makes the building much older than the adjacent abbey ruins.

To give more seating the building is full of galleries and it now has provision to seat over two thousand people. To make extra space the staircases to some of the galleries are on the outside of the building. It is recorded that at one memorial service the congregation exceeded three thousand.

No matter where you sit in the building you can be seen by the person using the top level of the three decker pulpit. At the back of the pulpit parts of an ear trumpet device are fitted so that the wife of the Rector, who we are informed was partly deaf, could hear the sermon given by her husband.

On your left of the aisle can be seen a small cupboard in which were placed loaves of bread to be given to the poor attending services. The walls are covered by an assortment of memorials to past members of Whitby. One of the memorials differs as it uses two different methods of keeping dates. Two boards placed in the roof space of the chancel due to lack of wall space are often missed by visitors. The building contains some interesting monuments which are self explanatory. There are also lots of pen knife graffiti but you would need permission to start to look for them and plenty of spare time.

The building has some stained glass, mostly by Kemp. The oldest glass is the window in the south transept.

Outside many of the grave stones have names of ships, trades or professions and also name the place where people died or are buried, if different to Whitby.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Social heritage stories
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches


St Mary

There has been a place of worship in Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors, for at least eight centuries and the present building, which was completed in 1896.

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