Whitby Abbey Visitor Centre

Stanton Williams, North Yorkshire, 2001


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The bridge link from the first floor to the ruins takes the modern interventions of the building’s interior out into the grounds 

Martine Hamilton Knight (website)     Download Original

  • The bridge link from the first floor to the ruins takes the modern interventions of the building’s interior out into the grounds    
  • Stanton Williams’ visitor centre, commissioned by English Heritage, is part of a major reworking of the Whitby Abbey site    
  • The southern entrance to the site is marked by a bold stand-alone structure    
  • The new structure extends over the partly demolished south elevation to provide a framework from which an enclosing curtain of glass and cedar is hung    
  • The ticket office and WCs for visitors who arrive by car    
  • The north facade. Previously infilled windows were fitted with a single sheet of glass. Historical reconstruction was the chosen approach for the courtyards    
  • View of Whitby Abbey headland showing Abbey House to the left with Stanton Williams’ visitor centre tucked into the adjacent banqueting hall    
  • The abbey and parish church are set on a windswept headland, overlooking the harbour    
  • First floor exhibition with views west    
  • The southern screen and plinth cantilever beyond the historic fabric    
  • The first floor balcony provides full-height gallery views    
  • Ground floor exhibition space    
  • First floor gallery space: the centre was conceived as a steel ‘cage’ dropped into a ruin    
  • Display cases, benches and other furnishings were designed by Stanton William    
  • Site plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Isometric    
  • Whitby headland before works began    
  • Detail    
  • Detail    

A contemporary two-storey visitor centre housing information, toilets and a cafe as part of a major reworking of the Whitby Abbey ruins

Commissioned by English Heritage, the new visitor centre/museum is very close to the ruins, connected to an accessible visitor route across the whole site.

At the eastern end of the banqueting house, the ground falls away sharply, with ditches and terracing marking the site of gardens and formal walks laid out in the 17th century. The blocked doorway had presumably once been connected to a bridge or timber walkway providing access to the gardens and the ruins beyond. Stanton Williams therefore reinstated this connection.

The unblocking of the great majority of the banqueting house windows was fundamental to the scheme. Metal gauze curtains provide an element of black-out, obscuring what goes in inside the building from the courtyard but admitting a degree of natural light.

The work, using timber, steel and glass contrasts the exposed brick and stone of the old house. The new steel structure, carrying a lightweight, zinc-clad roof, sits on a new concrete floor slab, with minimal piling below.


  • Begun: Jun 2000
  • Completed: Sep 2001
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £2.8M
  • Tender date: Dec 1999
  • Procurement: GC/Works/1
  • Address: Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4JT, United Kingdom

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