An Honorable Occupation – Whitby Sorcery

Whitby, 1816. In making up the census for 1816 no account was taken of the employment of females, except in a few instances. There were probably about 200 mantua-makers (dressmakers) and milliners, including apprentices. I heard of no less than seven who follow the honourable occupation of sorceress or fortune-teller: and it seems they are so well employed, that another worthy matron has recently commenced business in the same line.

Young. A History of Whitby And Streoneshalh Abbey, etc. By the Rev. George Young. 2 vols. Whitby 1817.

Whitby Bus Shelters

Could we stop here please?

Why?

I’d like to take some photos of those two iron bus shelters.

Bus shelters?

Yeh, technically I suppose they’re called passenger shelters, there’s not many of the old iron ones left. Every time we pass them I worry that one day we’ll come along here and they’ll be gone.

You worry about bus shelters?

Yeh…I know!

St Mary’s Whitby

The Abbey at Whitby was one of the earliest Romanesque buildings to be erected in the North of England but my focus today was on the neighbouring church of St Mary. A while ago my friend Chris Corner posted a picture of a head carved on a capital within the church, so on a whim, I headed over the storm-battered moor road to see what I could find.

I’ve visited this church many times in the past but this was prior to my explorations of Early Medieval stonework, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The south door with its arch and carved spiral capitals lifted my spirits.

Inside the church I made my way between the beautiful box pews to the chancel arch. The arch is mostly hidden behind the upper level, the lord of the manor’s pew. There is a second arch over the entrance to the tower but this has been completely hidden behind the organ.

On the capital of the left hand arch is a carving of a head emitting unfurling foliage. This bears a striking resemblance to the ‘Green Man’ carving in Marske Church.

Marske

There are other foliate heads to be found locally at Easington, Liverton and Lythe .

One of the capitals on the right hand side of the arch has a carved head with a star on either side. The star is not an uncommon motif on Northern English Early Medieval stonework.

There are other elements of early stone work to be found in and around this lovely church, coupled with the Abbey next door, it is a wonderful place to visit. For me, with the failing light and the howling gale of Storm Barra blowing across the clifftop, it was time to head for home.

Sluttish Whitby, the Devil & the Old Witch

John Ray (1627-1705) was one of the pioneers of modern botany. A parson naturalist, he was the first to classify plants by species. He undertook a number of tours of Britain and Europe where he collected and described the local flora and topography.

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The following passage, describing his visit to North East Yorkshire, is taken from Selected Remains of the Learned John Ray with his life. By William Derham published 1760.

We ascended the top of that noted hill, called Roseberry or Ounsberry Topping, the top whereof is like a sugar loaf and serves for a sea-mark. It may be seen at a great distance, viz. from Stanmore, which is in a right line above 20 Miles off. From hence we had a prospect of that pleasant and fruitful vale, part whereof is called Cleveland a country noted for a good breed of horses.

The ways here in winter time are very bad, and almost impassable, according to that proverbial Rhyme,

Cleveland in the Clay

Bring in two Soles, carry one away.

Near this hill we went to see a well celebrated for the cure of sore or dim eyes, and other diseases. Every one that washes in it, or receives benefit by it, ties a rag of linen or woollen on a shrub or bush near it, as an offering or acknowledgement.

The People of Gisburgh are civil, cleanly, and well-bred, contrary to the temper of the inhabitants of Whitby who, to us, seemed rude in behavior and sluttish.

In the way from Whitby to Gisburgh we passed by Freeburgh Hill which they told us was cast up by the Devil, at the entreaty of an old Witch, who desired it, that from thence she might espy her cow in the moor.

Image – National Portrait Gallery / Public domain

 

Two Whitby Stones

?Whitby circa 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Battering Stone

A large mass of blue whinstone by the road side near the east end of Whitby abbey, which the boys were won’t to batter or pelt with stones on Holy Thursday, after the usual perambulation of the parochial boundaries, the fortunate breakers, it was said, being entitled to a guinea from the parish. The custom seems almost forgotten with the cessation of the perambulation, and the stone reposes from year to year in its wonted solidity, though bearing the marks on its surface, of the juvenile assaults of former days.

The Needle

Holy stones are those artificial formations connected with the oracular ceremonies of past ages; and it is recorded that one of these uprights, called the needle stood in the vicinity of the west pier at Whitby, through the eye of which rickety children were drawn in order to strengthen them; a custom practiced in some parts to this day. Lovers also pledged themselves by joining hands through the hole, especially in the case of young mariners bound on their voyage.

Sources

A Glossary of Yorkshire word and phrases: Collected in Whitby and the neighbourhood. 1885

A Glossary of words used in Swaledale, Yorkshire 1873

Image –  ?Whitby JMW Turner c,1827 Tate Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

The Unblinking Eye

55 Years of Space Operations on Fylingdales Moor.

Michael Mulvihill

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The Whitby Museum at Pannett Park is one of my favourite places to spend a couple of  hours so when I saw a flyer for this exhibition I headed over the moors at the first opportunity.

The two nice ladies at the desk said to me ‘it’s probably not what you were expecting, it’s an artists response to the Fylingdales site.’

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The exhibition is the result of Michael Mulvihill’s three years of exploring the objects in the sites archive and the history of RAF Fylingdales.  I enjoyed the exhibition, if you go I would recommend that you read the accompanying booklet, which is excellent.

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The exhibition runs from the 3rd of August to the 3rd of November. There is also a public program of events which can be found here 

Two Minutes to Midnight – Richard Clay explores why we are no longer afraid of nuclear annihilation, and whether we should be.

On reflection, the objects on display will have a different meaning depending on your own personal experience. I was born in the 1960s, there was a civil defence siren located on the perimeter of my primary school playground, the four minute warning and the Doomsday Clock were ever-present in our lives. The threat of a nuclear attack was a very real one, the RAF Fylingdales early warning station was a constant reminder of this.

https://teessidepsychogeography.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/a-postcard-from-the-cold-war/

Pannett

Cursus by Cursus

This wonderful album by Chris Whitehead is my favourite album of 2019 so far. It has been released by TQ Zine.

You can get the download by ordering the latest copy of TQ or you can buy the album directly from the TQ Bandcamp page. Any income is being donated to TQN-aut by the artist to help fund other releases by artists who need financial support to do so