17 April 2019, The Tablet

The attack on undefended civilian settlements was regarded as an act of terror

The attack on undefended civilian settlements was regarded as an act of terror

I had a lovely time in Whitby last week, where the wind keenly chopped through the cloying smell of Cornish pasties on the quayside opposite the abbey high on its cliff. The theme of my excursion was Easterish, but, since in my last column I had critical words for the quality of the ruins of Cartagena Cathedral, which I’d just inspected, I think I should say something first about Whitby’s own ruins.

Immediately below the 199 steps leading up the cliff to them, the ruins are hidden. From surprising viewpoints above the rooftops on the other side of the River Esk hover the 13th-century remains of a Benedictine monastery – the ends of the abbey church with columns and arches in between. I complained that the bombardment of Cartagena Cathedral by Franco’s navy had produced a poor kind of ruins. The funniest thing about Whitby’s is that some of them were rebuilt in 1920 as ruins.

This followed the bombardment on 16 December 1914 by two German battle-cruisers. That day 137 people died, mostly in Hartlepool, although the incident was memorialised by the slogan, “Remember Scarborough”, used on recruiting posters. The attack on undefended civilian settlements was regarded, reasonably enough, as an act of terror.

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