There is documentary evidence that there was an inn on the site of The Black Horse in the early seventeenth century however there is also evidence to suggest that there was an inn on the site long before that.

There are few buildings within canon range of Whitby's outer harbour that pre-date the Unification of the Crown in 1603. Prior to this, no self-respecting Scots Merchant ship would return to dock in Leith, Dundee or Aberdeen with more than a single load of shot and powder for each gun. For in doing so it would have neglected its duty to sail close into Whitby, Hartlepool or Berwick and use up the excess in the most worthy cause of "harrying the English". One Whitby building which does pre-date 1603 is the Abbey.

Whitby AbbeyFounded by Hyld (a.k.a. St. Hilda), the Princess Royal of the mighty Northumbrian Kingdom, when she came to Whitby in 657. Her double monastery of men and women rapidly achieved a great reputation for piety and ecclesiastical training. It was here, at the Synod of Whitby in 664, convened to settle a number of differences between the Roman and Celtic elements of the English Church, that the method by which the date for Easter is still calculated each year was determined.

Hyld died in 680 and her abbey was destroyed during a Viking raid in 867 however it was revived shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 by a Benedictine monk called Reinfrid. We believe that at this time there were plans to promote St. Hilda's Abbey as a place of pilgrimage, but that these plans were never fully carried out:

St. Mary's church, which stands at the top of the 199 steps close to the abbey, is essentially Norman however there are many pieces of Saxon stonework incorporated into it. This is particularly so of the chancel which is the oldest part of the building having been built towards the end of the eleventh century.

The Black Horse and several other buildings in close proximity have several courses of what is known as Abbey Stone in the cellars. This is a premium quality material, not something that would be used just for the foundations of a building. A number of features of this stonework suggest that it was more likely the beginnings of buildings that were never completed, and upon which later structures were built, rather than being the remains of former buildings which were partially demolished.

It is also interesting to note that in 1078 Abbot Steven of Whitby Abbey re-founded the monastery at Lastingham, a little over 20 miles away, and built the crypt as a shrine for over the remains of St. Cedd, thus developing the site as a centre for pilgrimage.

One possible interpretation of all this is that in the same way that modern cities compete to host events such as the Olympic Games, often building new sports facilities and improving their infrastructure as a demonstration of their commitment, so it could be that towards the end of the eleventh century, Whitby was competing for church funding to promote the Abbey as a centre for pilgrimage. Could it be that what is now St. Mary's Parish Church was intended to be the new pilgrimage centre with accommodation and other facilities on what is now the site of The Black Horse Inn?

It is interesting to note that the development at Lastingham is entirely Norman. The only remains of the earlier Saxon monastery being just a few stone fragments in the crypt. Perhaps the work that had begun in Whitby incorporated a little too much of Hyld's Saxon stonework to meet with Norman approval and get the funding needed to complete the project?

Tradition has it that the monks permitted the building of an inn upon the unfinished foundations of what was to be the accommodation facilities i.e. upon what is now the site of The Black Horse. It would not however have been know as The Black Horse as prior to an enforced name change in the nineteenth century, our inn was known as The White Horse.