The earliest record of a permanent settlement is in 656, when as Streanœhealh it was the place where Oswy, the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey, under the abbess Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held there in 664. In 867, the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders, and was re-founded in 1078. It was in this period that the town gained its current name, Whitby, (from "white settlement" in Old Norse). In the following centuries Whitby functioned as a fishing settlement until, in the 18th century, it developed as a port and centre for shipbuilding and whaling, the trade in locally mined alum and the manufacture of Whitby jet jewellery.
The abbey ruin at the top of the East Cliff is the town's oldest and most prominent landmark. Other significant features include the swing bridge, which crosses the River Esk and the harbour, which is sheltered by the grade II listed East and West piers. The town's maritime heritage is commemorated by statues of Captain Cook and William Scoresby, as well as the whalebone arch that sits at the top of the West Cliff. The town also has a strong literary tradition and has featured in literary works, television and cinema, perhaps most famously in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.
While Whitby's cultural