North York Moors CAM
Saturday 4th November 2000
( Weather: cool and very still )
'The houses of the old town . . . are all red-roofed, and seemed piled up one over the other . . .'
. . . so wrote Bram Stoker ( 1847-1912 ) in his famous horror novel 'Dracula'
This late afternoon
and evening, as the daylight faded by the minute, we visited
Whitby simply intent
on having a quiet stroll around the streets and harbour and maybe to enjoy a meal of fish and chips
But there was
something different about the place today, the gulls were silent,
the stillness of the air, the dim twilight
- it immediately brought to my mind that perhaps the reason why, on a summer vacation to the town in 1890,
Bram Stoker chose Whitby to figure quite centrally in a significant section of his novel
Maybe, through some of these images, you will agree with me . . .
We parked the car near Whitby Abbey . . .
. . . the ruins silhouetted majestically against the early evening sky
As Stoker wrote, ' It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits '
As we enter the grounds of St Mary's Church . . .
. . . Stoker's
words continue, ' Between it and the town there is another
church, the parish one,
round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones'
There are hundreds
of them, mostly of sandstone, and in their exposed position on
they've been weathered over hundreds of years by fierce storms blowing in from the North Sea,
so much so that most of the wording carved into their faces is no longer legible
The darkened, paved path leads us on to . . .
. . . Caedmon's Cross
Caedmon lived in
the 7th century - he began adult life as an illiterate labourer,
but later became a monk at Whitby monastery ( Whitby Abbey ) and is the earliest known English poet
From the position
of Caedmon's Cross we get a good view across the harbour to the
hotels on West Cliff
and below, the harbourside lights, with Sandsend Ness on the distant horizon
It was the view
from a bench, now the Bram Stoker Memorial Seat, perched high
over there on West Cliff,
that inspired the author's Whitby scenes. From that spot he could see the cliffs near where
the Russian ship, 'Demeter', comes ashore, the location of the first encounters between Dracula and Lucy
From the top of East Cliff we begin the descent of the 199 steps down to Church Street
. . .
The streets of Whitby old town are narrow and cobbled and many small, dimly-lit alleyways lead off them
It's on evenings
like this that you can feel yourself 'transported' back in time
over 100 years to the Victorian era - little seems to have changed . . .
. . . it's an eerie feeling you have to experience to believe
. . .
On the opposite
side of the 'swing-bridge', which spans the harbour, we begin
to get back to some sort of reality as we reach the brightly-lit pubs . . .
. . . and Whitby's most famous eating place - The Magpie Cafe
But on an evening like this even these places . . .
. . . the quayside . .
. . . the lobster pots . . .
. . . and the small
fishing boats, moored motionless in the still, dark, silent
waters of the harbour
emanate a strange aura I find hard to describe
Whether it be morning, afternoon or night, I love Whitby . . .
. . . and I suspect this chap did too - especially at night . . . !
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