ENGLISH HERITAGE PRESS RELEASE - SATURDAY 30th MARCH 2002
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CLASS VISITOR CENTRE FOR ANCIENT RUIN AT WHITBY
The Archbishop of York opens innovative modern visitor centre built in a
17th century ruined mansion
The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, today, (Easter Saturday 30 March)
opened English Heritage's new visitor centre in Cholmley's House, which
nestles in the shadows of the ruins of medieval Whitby Abbey in North
Yorkshire. Designed by world famous architects, Stanton Williams, the
pioneering new centre is built to the highest of contemporary standards and
has been placed within the walls of Cholmley's House.
The opening marks the completion of the £5.7million Whitby Abbey Headland
Project which has also restored the rare 17th century cobbled garden courts
in front of the house.
Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said: "Whitby's headland is
one of the most beautiful places in England, full of historic character and
"Although enjoyed by almost a million visitors each year, its potential has
been blighted by unsightly facilities, inadequate interpretation and
"The Whitby Abbey Headland Project has now transformed this dramatic corner
of North Yorkshire. The site has been cleared of 20th century clutter, the
natural landscape has been re-instated and a new visitor centre of world
class standards has been provided.
"Cholmley's House ruinous appearance has been a significant part of the
headland's history. Stanton Williams' innovative design has placed an
elegant modern visitor centre in this roofless ruin, preserving its mystery
and setting new standards of architectural excellence, demonstrating how
good modern architecture can enhance the historic environment."
Dr David Hope, The Archbishop of York, said: "Whitby is a place of great
history and tradition within the life of the Church, focussing on the
witness of St. Hild. We pray for God's blessing on all that has taken place
and for future pilgrims and visitors to this most sacred place. For Whitby
is about faith in the future as well as faith in the past."
James Wright, Trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: "The new visitor
centre and the restoration of the garden courts at Whitby Abbey will make a
dramatic difference for visitors to the headland. The Heritage Lottery Fund
are pleased to have contributed £3.4 million. This sort of investment by the
Heritage Lottery Fund is crucial to ensuring a sustainable future for the
nation's most important heritage."
Councillor David Jeffels, Deputy Leader of Scarborough Borough Council,
said: "The creation of the fine new visitor centre is an example of what can
be achieved in overcoming obstacles when partners are committed to working
together to realise a dream.
"We can all celebrate the Whitby Abbey scheme as it finally comes to
fruition and indeed the visitor centre is a vital part in its completion.
"The spiritual and religious history of Whitby lives on and now the abbey's
history will be better understood by everyone.
"The abbey site stands as a living testament to Whitby's long and eventful
past, exposed to the vicissitude of nature and watching through the
centuries the comings and goings of men and events. The partners can surely
feel that they have played their part in the nurturing of that heritage."
Sir Fred Strickland-Constable, a descendant of the Cholmley family, said:
"It is wonderful to see the façade of Sir Hugh Cholmley's house brought back
to life and to see the original cobbled courtyard revealed. Whitby can be
proud of the visitor centre with its dramatic views over the town and the
The Whitby Abbey Headland Project, is a partnership between English
Heritage, Scarborough Borough Council and The Strickland Estate with funding
contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional
Development Fund as part of its Regional Challenge. The L.J and Mary Skaggs
Foundation has contributed to the interpretation in Cholmley's House.
The four-year project has:
*removed the piecemeal, short term and inappropriate development and parking
on the headland and re-landscaped Abbey Plain;
* provided an architecturally unique new visitor centre for Whitby Abbey;
* revealed and restored the rare 17th century cobbled garden courts;
* extended access to the entire abbey grounds from the south and the north;
* improved parking, visitor facilities and disabled access;
* provided an incentive to encourage more people to visit this part of North
Yorkshire and bring benefits to the local economy and enhances public
understanding and enjoyment of the headland.
Project funding has come from:
Heritage Lottery Fund £3,463,000
European Regional Development Fund £1,291,000
English Heritage £807,000
Scarborough Borough Council £140,000
The Skaggs Foundation have contributed to the interpretation in Cholmley's
The new visitor centre opens at 2pm on Saturday 30th March 2002 and then
daily from 10am - 6pm until 30 September 2002, 10am - 5pm October 2002 and
10am - 4pm November 2002 - 31 March 2003.
Closed 24, 25, 26 December 2002 and 1 January 2003.
Admission: adults £3.60, concessions £2.70 children £ 1.80, family £9.00 (2
adults and up to 4 children).
The Cholmley family acquired Whitby Abbey and its land after the Dissolution
of the monasteries in 1539 and they lived in the abbey's lodgings (Abbey
House) and the gatehouse until they built their new house. Costing the then
vast sum of £232,000, the money to fund the 'new' house came from the
fortune they amassed from the local alum industry and Hugh Cholmley's
involvement in building, 'The Mole', a fortified harbour wall in Tangiers.
The roof was lost in a storm in the 1790's.
The unblocked windows are one of the most noticeable visible alterations to
the appearance of Cholmley's House. Blocked in the 19th century, they will
now give visitors views over the town and headland and to the abbey. However
to retain the ruinous appearance of Cholmley's House, fine gauze window
blinds have been installed so most of the interior's 21st century activity
will not be seen from the outside.
THE 17TH CENTURY GARDEN COURTS
Rare and nearly completely intact, the 17th century cobbled garden courts
were discovered beneath a lawn in front of Cholmley's House during
archaeological excavations in 1997.
When Hugh Cholmley II travelled across Europe to Tangiers, he visited the
latest gardens en route and these are thought to have inspired the creation
of the courts. Made of cobbles, pebbles and stones collected from the
seashore, they were laid out in a decorative pattern to complement
Cholmley's new house which was completed in 1672.
Covered up for protection during construction of the visitor centre in
Cholmley's House, the courts were revealed again in autumn 2001. Today 2002,
visitors arriving at Whitby Abbey via the "199 steps" from Whitby town can
enter Cholmley's House following the route around the courts which would
have been taken in the 17th century.
Press Images are available on the Press Association's Picselect site on
www.papicselect.com in the English Heritage folder under Whitby 2002.