Whitby church under threat from landslips

Saint Mary's Church, Whitby. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Saint Mary’s Church, Whitby. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“If anything more comes down we are going to have to shut the shop because it will be too dangerous.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Whitby church under threat from landslips” was written by Martin Wainwright, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th January 2013 18.30 UTC

Human bones in a graveyard made famous by Bram Stoker’s story of Dracula have been uncovered by the second landslip to hit a picturesque Yorkshire fishing port.

Blocked and broken drainage is being blamed for increasingly serious problems on the cliff below St Mary’s church in Whitby where the legendary vampire makes landfall in the classic Victorian horror story.

Soil and crumbling rock started peeling away in November after torrential rain added to the problems and caused a row of five terraced cottages in Aelfleda Street to become potentially unstable. Left teetering above a steep slope after their gardens fell away in November, they were demolished shortly before Christmas.

Now warning signs have been posted along a well-used pathway to the graveyard which features in Stoker’s novel. Debris slipping from the area has included the bones and raised concern about worsening collapse. Water can be seen seeping from part of the cliff which belongs to the church and fresh cracks have appeared in the face.

Shopkeeper Barry Brown, whose Fortune’s Kippers fishmongery and smokehouse stands on Henrietta Street below the cliff, said: “If anything more comes down we are going to have to shut the shop because it will be too dangerous.” The business was founded 139 years ago and is the last traditional fish-smoking house in Whitby.

Rev Canon David Smith, the rector of St Mary’s which is a grade one listed building, said that repairs drainage pipe were due to start by the weekend.

He said: “The church has been trying to muck in to try and get things done and we have had a civil engineer and people working to sort it out. They’ve been trying to find where the water was coming from and making the cliff edge more secure.

“The cemetery has been closed since 1865, so if any graves are exposed it’s only bones. If they are exposed we collect and reinter them in the away from the edge.”

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