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Dracula link could help

18 January 2013


THE historic church of St Mary's (right), which overlooks Whitby harbour, faces a repair bill approaching £40,000, after heavy rain caused a landslip in its cliff-top graveyard.

But, thanks to Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, which contains a scene set in the churchyard, the story brought offers of help from around the world. "The story got blown out of all proportion," the Team Rector, Canon David Smith, said. "The line 'Dracula's graveyard' sent it viral.

"I had a call from Singapore, from someone offering to raise money because they thought the church was going over the edge. We'll hang on to that one, just in case. But the church is built on rock; so it will always survive - although we might have to end up using bridges to get to it. The tower is the closest to the slip; it's now about 30 yard from the edge."

Funds that had been earmarked for the restoration of the Grade I listed church, which dates from the 12th century, will now have to be diverted towards remedial work on the cliff edge. "We are waiting to hear from our insurers, Ecclesiastical," Canon Smith said; "but we won't get it all from them."

The cliff, which also supports the ruins of Whitby Abbey, is unstable. Ten years ago, 200,000 tonnes slipped on the seaward side. "This time it was not as bad, but it threatened houses," Canon Smith said.

He blamed the slip on a broken drainage pipe. "There has been so much water over the last six or seven months, everything just got saturated, and it's moved some of the earth. We are trying to stabilise the top . . . We are also netting the cliff."

The slip exposed a small quantity of bones from the graveyard, which was closed in 1865. They will be reburied close to the church.

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