I have two tea towels associated with Whitby, a town I have fond memories of. In 1998, I went to a three day conference in Whitby, actually at a hotel on the outskirts of Whitby; I used the opportunity of being there to look around and do some sightseeing. I’d never been to Whitby before; I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was my sort of place. I didn’t think (a) Whitby would be so attractive (b) Whitby would be so quaint (c) Whitby would be so full of history or have links with literature and finally I didn’t think it would be so hilly. I really loved Whitby, all the small shops, the harbour and the fish and chips. I took a trip on a boat around the harbour which was lovely but definitely breezy. I remember eating fish and chips out of newspaper (must have been before Food Hygiene Regulations) leaning on the harbour wall. Best of all, I went to Whitby Abbey. My first tea towel depicts Abbess Hilda.
You can look up from the harbour and see the ruins of Whitby Abbey on the East Cliff above the busy town. It is an iconic view. If you are energetic you can climb the 199 steps from the town (which I did). It is these steps that Bram Stoker’s mysterious animal bounded up after it leapt ashore from the deserted ship. At this point I had no idea that Dracula was linked with Whitby. After the conference I remember going to a bookshop to buy a copy of the book and read it.
Whitby Abbey was first established in AD657, headed by Abbess Hilda who ruled two monasteries – a male and female one. Whitby Abbey became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world. The Abbey fell into ruin by the time of the Norman Conquest. The headland is now dominated by the ruins of the 13th century Benedictine Abbey which was destroyed as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The ruins remained unchanged until the first World War when it was bombarded from the sea. It is now in the care of English Heritage. The tea towel is always a reminder of that walk up to the abbey and the amazing views from the abbey over the sea.
The second tea towel comes from Elizabeth Botham’s Tea Rooms. As a tea room lover I was well aware of Elizabeth Botham’s, and its history, (being founded in 1865) but trying to find it on my visit in 2008 wasn’t easy. I walked up and down the hill, thinking I know it must be along this road. Of course, it would have been easier to ask someone. Downstairs is the bakery with some amazing breads and cakes. Upstairs is a very traditional, but elegant, tea room decorated in a regency fashion. I remember having Welsh Rarebit with bacon and a pot of loose leaf tea (Kwazulu as I recall). I remember the very friendly staff and thinking that all that searching for Elizabeth Bothams was worth it. It was the sort of place you could just sit and not feel hassled.
Whitby is certainly one of those places I would always want to go back to, for a day trip, a long weekend or even a week. It is an understated seaside town and every time I use this tea towel I think of that elegant lounge.
This tea towel blog is dedicated to Kat’s mum; you know who you are.
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