Built on the site of an Anglo Saxon “double” monastery, the atmospheric ruin is the remains of the Benedictine abbey founded by Reinfrid, a soldier of William the Conqueror, building in stone beginning around 1220 in the Early English Gothic Style.
The Anglo Saxon double monastery that preceeded it was founded by the Northumbrian King Oswy in 657 who placed Lady Hild – later to become Saint Hild – as the first Abbess. In later years the abbey was however a vunerable target for Viking raiders and was repeatedly sacked, which eventually led to its abandonment around 870.
Reinfrid, an ex soldier who had become a monk, was given the ruined Saxon monastery by William de Percy, presumably around 1075, to found a Benedictine monastery, and this included the town which was then known as Prestebi.
The town of Whitby and its abbey achieved world wide fame in later times as the place where ( the fictional character ) Dracula came ashore after being shipwrecked. The stark ruins of the abbey high up on the cliff above the town were part of Bram Stokers inspiration for the novel. This is another example of fictional writings bringing an ancient monument into public focus – Conisbrough Castle and Ivanhoe being another.