CRUMBLING cliffs above ancient Whitby are causing grave concern after landslips uncovered human bones in an old cemetery.

Torrential rain has caused ongoing problems in the town with a block of five houses already dismantled  after land gave way.

The cliffs below St Mary’s Church are being constantly monitored after a broken drainage pipe caused mudslides.

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The Northern Echo:

These uncovered the remains in the old cemetery to the front of the historic church, which was founded around 1110AD and the graveyard renowned as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel Dracula.

Reverend David Smith of St Mary’s said: "The cemetery has been a closed cemetery for over a century, so if any graves are exposed it's only bones.

"If anything is exposed we collect and reinter them in the same churchyard away from the edge.”

The church authorities have brought in engineers and contractors to assess the situation and it is hoped the pipeline can be repaired by the weekend to prevent  further damage.

"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."

Warning signs have been installed along the pathway but residents and nearby businesses are worried there’ll be further landslides.

Barry Brown, owner of Fortune's Kippers, which has operated on the site at Henrietta Street for over 140 years said: "There is still debris coming down. I’m worried the cliff is going to come down, and I don’t know what sort of damage it’s going to do.

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

The cottages at Aelfleda Terrace were dismantled by Scarborough Borough Council after land slipped away under them, with work completed just after Christmas.

But a council spokesman said the church authorities are responsible for the site as it is private land.