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Landmark Whitby church safe from landslip

Whitby Photo: Press Association

A church overlooking historic Whitby harbour is not under threat despite parts of its graveyard continuing to disappear down the surrounding cliffs, officials have said.

A series of landslips over the last two months have dislodged banks of earth containing human remains from graves at St Mary's in Whitby, North Yorkshire - a church with connections to the Dracula story.

The debris has been tumbling down behind houses and businesses on the east side of the picture-postcard town.

Engineering work is under way to stabilise the cliff which has threatened buildings, including a 140-year-old kipper smokehouse.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of York, which is undertaking the emergency engineering work, stressed the church is not in danger of collapse.

She said the building is anchored to solid rock. She also stressed the graveyard was closed more than 100 years ago and the human remains which have come down the cliff are quite old.

The spokeswoman said engineers were still at the site above Henrietta Street.

A lot of the emergency engineering steps have already been taken.

What is happening now is mainly ensuring the stability of the slope.

– Diocese of York spokeswoman

The landslip was originally believed to have been caused by a damaged drainage pipe, which left rainwater pouring out of the ancient graveyard and down the cliff.

The church is a familiar sight on postcards as it sits next to Whitby's famous abbey, high above the harbour.

Thousands of tourists every year trek up the 199 steps which link the church and the abbey to the sea. The church is a magnet for Dracula fans as it is mentioned in Bram Stoker's famous gothic novel.