The ruins of Whitby Abbey in northern England are getting an unwanted visitor at night, as metal detectors are sneaking onto the site looking for buried treasures.
Since March, 14 holes have been dug across the site while the property is closed at night. English Heritage warns that this activity is illegal and is causing damage to one of Yorkshire’s most important historic sites. Whitby Abbey has been the subject of numerous archaeological digs over the years and there is nothing to suggest there are further remains to be discovered on the site.
Clea Warner, English Heritage Area Manager for Yorkshire, said: “This illegal activity is deeply disheartening. Whitby Abbey is a precious historic place and people who choose to damage it are robbing everyone of our collective heritage. While it is extremely unlikely anything significant remains in the ground, if these people have found something and not declared it they are denying us all further knowledge of Whitby.”
Illicit metal detecting, also known as “nighthawking” is considered theft by the British government. Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage added, “The practice of illegal metal detecting and stealing artefacts from the ground is an issue that English Heritage takes very seriously. These are not people enjoying a hobby, nor professionals carrying out a careful study. Any objects removed belong to the landowner, and the history that is being stolen belongs to all of us. English Heritage will continue to work closely with North Yorkshire Police and the community to prevent heritage crime and to bring offenders to justice.”
A monastery was first established on the site was established on the Whitby Abbey in 657 AD. Viking raids between 867 and 870 destroyed the monastery and left it desolate for two hundred years. A second monastery during the Anglo-Norman period, which lasted until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Source: English Heritage