In 657 King Osway of Northumbria founded the first monastery at Sreanaeshealth (Whitby), appointing Lady Hilda as abbess. It was at the monastery in 664 the "Synod of Whitby" took place. The monastery was a double monastery of Celtic monks and nuns and home to the Northumbrian poet Caedmon. Between 867 and 870 the monastery was destroyed by Viking raiders and the site remained desolate for more than 200 years.
In 1078 William de Percy granted the monastery and land to the monk Reinfred, a former soldier of William the Conqueror to build a new Benedictine monastery. The new Benedictine Abbey continued to thrive for centuries until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540 and allowed to fall into ruin.