things to do

The Old Bakehouse

Visit St Stephen’s Church

This intriguing period piece of 1821-2, stands prominently on its hillside above Robin Hood’s Bay, looking out to sea and on a site where people have worshipped for many centuries.

Likened to an old mariner gazing out to sea, St Stephen’s stands majestically on the hillside between Whitby and Ravenscar, overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay. Built in 1821, its appearance can be severe but the church resonates with the history of a resilient North Sea fishing community.

Inside, painted box pews, a full-length gallery and a three-decker pulpit, designed for the preaching of the Word, have all survived. The sea is a recurring theme throughout and there are memorials to the shipwrecked in both the church and churchyard.

Successful lifeboat rescue missions are listed and there is also a touching display of rare maiden’s garlands’ – ‘crowns’ used in the funeral processions of young – and chaste – women.

Outside, windswpet gravestones huddle tightly round the church walls. Some recall tragedies: strangers who drowned on the coast or locals whose lives were cruelly claimed by the sea.

A Celtic cross in the churchyard of Old St Stephen’s Church by Spencer Means (CC BY-SA 2.0)