St Whyte

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This early British saint gave her name to, and is buried at Whitechurch Canonicorum, in Dorset. Her modest shrine, together with that of Edward the Confessor, are the only two pre-Norman Conquest tombs to survive intact in England to this day.

Very little is known about her. She is sometimes also called St Candida. Some historians think she was a West Saxon, others say she may have been the Welsh saint Gwen, whose relics were given by St Athelstan to this church.

William Worcestre and John Gerard both mention her relics. St Thomas More referred to the custom of offering cakes or cheese on her feast day.

In 1990 her leaden coffin was opened. It was inscribed: Hic requiescunt reliquie Sancte Wite, and contained the bones of a small woman about 40 years old.

One local tradition identifies St Whyte as a Saxon holy woman who lived as a hermit on the cliffs, possibly lighting beacons to guide sailors. She may have been killed by Danish pirates during a raid. St Whyte's well, probably her fresh water supply, is still there and the water has always been claimed to have healing properties, especially for eyes.