Parish – History

Brief History of the Parish

657 Our patroness St Hild comes to Whitby to found a monastery (now Whitby Abbey)

664 Great Synod held at the monastery which brought together the Celtic and Roman factions to debate Christian practice and agree on the timing of Easter

1539 Abbey dissolved by Henry VIII as part of the Reformation

1774 Around 15 Catholics meeting in private houses around Whitby

1805 Small chapel opens in Walker Street for communal worship

1867 St Hilda’s Catholic Church opens on the current site in Whitby

1884 Sisters of Mercy move to Whitby

1886 St Patrick’s school established by the Sisters of Mercy in Church Street and mass said there every Sunday

1893 Sisters of Mercy move to larger convent building in Chubb Hill Road

1925 St Hilda’s church finally consecrated once all building debts were cleared

1930 St Patrick’s Church opened next to the school in Church Street

1947 First Madonna House Apostolate opens in Ontario, Canada

1950 Small brick church with corrugated roof in Sleights

1974 Sisters of Mercy relocate to smaller St Joseph’s convent building on West Cliff

1985 Madonna House Apostolate Centre opens in Robin Hoods Bay

1998 Foundations laid for current English Martyrs Church in Sleights

1999 English Marytrs Church served from St Hilda’s following retirement of parish priest

2003 St Patrick’s Church closed and amalgamated with St Hilda’s

2005 English Martyrs amalgamated with St Hilda’s parish

A history of “St Hilda’s Catholic Church & Parish” was compiled by Mark T Edwards and published in 2007. The booklet is available for purchase from the church bookstall and we only include a summary of the content below.

Hilda became ill in 673, and spent the last years of her life bedridden, although still in charge of her monastery and offering advice and counsel to all who sought it. She eventually died in 680, but left a rich legacy to the town of Whitby.

Hilda (or Hild) was born in 614, the second daughter of Heretic, nephew of King Edwin of Northumbria. It appears she never knew her father, and was brought up by her mother. She was baptised at York in 627 and decided in about 647 to enter religious life with time at monasteries in East Anglia, Wearside and Hartlepool.

At the request of King Owsy of Northumbria, she came to Streonshalh (now Whitby) to found a double-monastery with community of men and women. In 664 the great Synod was held in her abbey, which brought together the Celtic and Roman factions to debate Christian practice, especially the timing of Easter.

St Hilda’s Catholic Church, Whitby

Before the opening of the Church, the Catholic community in Whitby had worshipped in their small chapel, opened in April 1805 in Walker Street, behind the new presbytery, which was built at the same time. From 1840 we can trace the move towards a new church through mentions in contemporary writings, with plans for an “elegant Gothic structure”.

Following fund raising through various sources, tenders for the building were issued in 1866, and the opening of the church was announced in the Whitby Gazette for 11am on Wednesday, November 20th, 1867. There was a Pontifical High Mass on that day with the Bishop of Beverley and Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle both in attendance.

Under Canon Law a church cannot be consecrated if it has any debts against its building, which is why the church was not consecrated until 1925, after some Herculean fund-raising. The Consecration ceremony was carried out on Thursday 24th September 1925 by the Bishop of Lamus and coadjutor-bishop of Middlesbrough.

Since the Second World War, there has been a number of major renovations to the church. These include the ceiling and windows around 1958, new wiring, plumbing and heating systems in 1978, a new Parish Centre in 1995, new roof in 1999 and features added in 2005 to adhere to building regulations.

St Hilda, Our Patroness

The photos shown here show the beauty of the High Altar, chapels, stone statue of St Hilda, decorative windows and other internal features. More photos and a detailed description of these features are included in the booklet mentioned above.

Statues of the six saints above the main altar: (L to R) St Bede St Hilda St John of Beverley St Wilfrid of York St Bega and St Hedda.