Voice work for Whitby Abbey

Whitby’s windswept headland is home to the ruins of an Abbey visible for miles across the moor – and a wealth of stories. As legend has it, the first abbess, St Hild, cleared dangerous snakes from the site by turning them to stone.
Next door is the church and graveyard that inspired a character in Bram Stoker’s tale Dracula, a book whose legacy brings goths to Whitby every year at Halloween. Down below, beyond the town’s pretty streets, is a sandy beach that Lewis Carroll once walked as he composed the lines of his poem The Walrus and the Carpenter in Through the Looking-Glass.







English Heritage asked me to retell these fabulous stories, and then read the scripts for visitors to enjoy in the new museum that’s now open at Whitby Abbey. You can hear the recordings here.

The miracle of the snakestone uses Psalm 91 to explore the legend of St Hild. She founded the monastery in 657, and is meant to have turned dangerous snakes in the area into ammonites – snakestones – that you can still find today.

Singing in the stable is a charming true tale from the abbey’s earliest years, about Caedmon the cowhand. Unable to read or write, he nonetheless awoke one morning with a supernatural gift for putting scripture to music and singing it – becoming the first named English poet, and earning himself a place among the brotherhood of monks.

The lost bells of Whitby Abbey tells of when Henry VIII’s men came to silence the Abbey’s bells and ship them to London. It’s all part of the king’s plan to dissolve the monasteries and consolidate his wealth. But how did the boat sink, taking the bells to the ocean floor? And is it true that on dark nights you can still hear them ringing?

The Walrus and the Carpenter is about the experiences of Lewis Carroll who spent time in Whitby to give mathematics lectures. He also wrote poetry about the 199 steps that rise to the abbey from the town – and penned the famous verses about a walrus and a carpenter that appear in Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice Found There.

In Dracula Diary, I imagine Bram Stoker’s real-life family holiday in Whitby, and how it inspired his most famous book. He, his wife Florence and son Irving, visited Whitby in 1890 as a break from Stoker’s busy theatre job in London. They explored the ruined abbey, and the churchyard – Stoker called a character Swales after a name he found on a gravestone. He also wove in local stories about a ghostly dog called the barghest, and a tragic Russian shipwreck of 1885. But it was at the library that he read the East European folklore which would lead to Dracula.




I also voiced the scripts for a new audio guide by GuideID that helps visitors explore the whole Abbey site. You can pick up a free GuideID device at the ticket desk, and activate its stories at any of the beacons around the ruins. These script are written by English Heritage curators.

What’s more, you can hear the music provided by my museum colleague and fellow musician Scott Billings. His band Flood Plain had released a wonderful track called At Whitby Lighthouse, which was perfect to introduce the audio guide. Listen to the whole of Flood Plain’s new album, A Kind of Harbour, on Spotify or Bandcamp.

You can see a slightly blustery clip of me trying out the audioguide, including Scott’s music, below. I spent a very happy half term holiday in Whitby with my family in October 2022.

Explore my other script-writing and voice work here.