Count Dracula in Whitby
Posted on 20th January 2020 at 07:51
Raise your hand if you watched the recent BBC adaptation of Dracula, shown by the British Broadcasting Corporation over New Year?
We watched it and loved it!
As with all adaptations, there will be those who won’t be as keen … however it was a refreshing take on this gothic horror classic.
Of course, here at the Riviera, we’ve got a vested interest in Bram Stoker’s famous vampire.
The author himself stayed just around the corner from us in Royal Crescent during 1890, and his most famous novel was published seven years later.
We are also very proud to say that Bram Stoker’s grandnephew has stayed with us here at the Riviera when he travels to Whitby to deliver talks about his famous relative. He was happy to pose for a photo when he was in our fabulous town to carry out some research.
Therefore, we are very lucky to have 21st century links to a 19th century novel!
So, let’s turn back the clock to the 1890s.
Famous actor of the time, Henry Irving, suggested that Stoker enjoy a holiday here in Whitby following a tiring theatrical tour of Scotland that both of them undertook.
Stoker enjoyed Whitby’s sea air, the bustling harbour and was known to have spent time in Whitby Library for research purposes.
Hidden away amongst the bookshelves, Stoker developed his idea of a character that was originally going to be called Count Wampyr.
Through numerous turnings of dusty pages and scribblings of his pen, Stoker learned about the infamous ruler, Vlad the Impaler, who was otherwise known as Vlad Dracula. Vlad was born around 1428, died around 1477 and was one of Romania’s most important figures.
Back in Vlad’s day, Romania was known as Wallachia and this region is referred to in Stoker’s book.
As Stoker’s Whitby holiday continued, he gathered lots of details to use in Dracula: take a wander around St Mary’s churchyard and you’ll see a tombstone for a man names Swales. In the novel, Swales is Dracula’s first victim when the Count left the doomed ship 'Demeter' after stepping onto Tate Hill Sands.
The other famous landmark is the 199-steps. While these always provide great exercise and a test of breathless numerical counting skills, Dracula transformed into a black dog that bounded effortlessly towards the Abbey, ascending the often-uneven stone stairway.
The novel also refers to the Abbey and the town’s famous red roofs.
Stoker describes his passion for Whitby through his characters in his novel, including Mina who wrote about our picturesque town in her letters.
The book, which is still in print today, inspired numerous film adaptations, including the famous ones starring the late Sir Christopher Lee.
The most recent filmic outing was the one we’ve just watched over the New Year.
The star in the title role was Claes Bang, born in Denmark and star of the 2017 film 'The Square', for which he won the European Film Award for Best Actor.
What we loved about Claes’ interpretation was the elements of humour and the realism he brought to the role.
The new adaptation was the result of another collaboration between Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who also worked together on Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
We know the writers wanted to retain some elements of the original 1897 book, yet there are many new twists, such as throwing the story forwards to the modern day, helicopters and all (we won’t say too much in case you’ve still to watch the series).
Episode Two in particular includes some new material and new characters, set on board the Demeter. There are other big changes, particularly with Van Helsing’s character … again, we won’t reveal too much …
Of course, we were eagle-eyed when it came to the Whitby scenes. Those who know the town well will spot one of two shops, the silhouette of the Abbey and the steps.
We see outline of the Abbey on several occasions, ensuring we know we’re in our hometown at significant points in the plot.
Whitby will always be connected to this timeless novel of bloodsucking vampire action and drama.
There are numerous books written about the connection, you can take a walking tour and visit the town’s Dracula Experience.
You might find a coffin-shaped chocolate here and there; enjoy several annual events that are based on gothic themes; and you can let your imagination run wild as the North Sea breeze revives your creative streak.
We can imagine the author, inspired by our lovely town, walking the narrow streets, seeing the iconic ruin of Whitby Abbey and scaling the 199-steps to St Mary’s Church.
We are always happy to have a new film version of Dracula to watch. The book is very atmospheric, is totally worth a read and we can completely understand why Stoker found inspiration to write one of the most famous horror novels of all time.
Tagged as: Count Dracula in Whitby
Share this post: